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Environmental communication and the cultural politics of environmental citizenship

Authors
Disciplines
  • Communication
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Political Science

Abstract

This paper presents a comparative analysis of how representatives from the public, private, and voluntary sectors of two cities [Nottingham (United Kingdom) and Eindhoven (The Netherlands)] responded to the challenge of communicating more effectively with citizens about issues of sustainability. The analysis is set in the context of literature about the need to widen participation in the determination of Local Agenda 21 policies, and the drive for more inclusionary forms of communication in planning and politics. Workshop members discussed the results of surveys and in-depth discussion groups with local residents which had revealed considerable scepticism and mistrust of environmental communications and environmental expertise. Three themes are explored. First, there is consensus in attributing responsibility for public alienation and resistance to environmental communications to the content and styles of media reporting. Second, there are contrasting discursive constructions of the 'public', which reflect different political cultures -- with the Nottingham workshop supporting a strategy to share power and knowledge more widely than hitherto, whereas the Eindhoven strategy proposed greater rigour, clarity, and authority from the local state. Third, responding to evidence of public resistance to calls for more sustainable practices, workshop participants in both cities focused on what institutions themselves can and should do to progress environmental goals. Workshop participants in both countries acknowledged the urgent need for public, private, and voluntary sector organisations to match their own practices to their environmental rhetoric.

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