Becoming green in Ecotopia

This post summarises the work Jon Anderson from the School of City and Regional Planning at Cardiff University presented at the Identities in Transition seminar in October 2011

The individual has been cast as both the source of and solution to many contemporary environmental problems. Although some individuals may display concern for the environment, actions are undertaken within a societal context that is often ambivalent to environmental issues. To ‘become green’, therefore, individuals have to negotiate a range of trade-offs between their environmental aspirations and the realities of life in a developed, consumer-based society. This paper draws on extensive field work at one site at which individuals have explicitly sought to manage these trade-offs – the Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales, UK.

It argues that two distinct strategies are adopted to manage the tensions involved in becoming green:

  • a ‘strategy of segregation’ – where professional practices are separated from personal actions to establish balance, if not consistency, in everyday life; and
  • a ‘strategy of alignment’ – where (unsuccessful) attempts are made to unify personal and professional practices in line with environmental ideals.

This paper outlines how the inability of these strategies to fully reconcile the tensions involved in becoming green has led to a ‘politics of pragmatism’ within environmental practice. It argues that this politics offers a way forward for contemporary environmentalism, both within ‘ecotopian’ spaces such as the Centre for Alternative Technology, but also in more mainstream spaces where the majority live their lives.

Jon’s paper can be downloaded here: becoming green in ecotopia

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