ClairCity – Society vs the Individual

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Thursday 15th June, 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Room 3AF013, Arnolfini, Bristol, BS1 4QA

Society vs the Individual: What really needs to change if we are to sort out air pollution and climate change?

Tim Chatterton, Air Quality Management Resource Centre, UWE Bristol.

Laura Fogg-Rogers and Corra Boushel, Science Communication Unit, UWE Bristol.

Spaces are limited for this event – get your free ticket here.

In order to prevent potential climate change catastrophe we need many countries and cultures to work together towards a shared aim. However, political, geographical and even administrative barriers mean this gargantuan task is often neglected by policymakers. Despite ratifying treaties for change such as the Paris Agreement, action is slow to transpire at a societal level and may even be reversed by political changes. Instead, environmental communication efforts focus on individuals – imploring us to change our personal behaviours to benefit the environment (Chatterton, 2016).

Conversely, psychological and social research indicates that asking individuals to change their behaviour against the norms of society is at best ineffective, and at worst harmful to the individual. Social Cognitive Theory indicates that parts of an individual’s learning can be directly related to observing others within the context of social interactions and outside media influences (Bandura, 1977, 2001; Fogg-Rogers, Sardo, & Boushel, n.d.). Similarly, the COM-B model of behaviour change (Michie, van Stralen, & West, 2011), drawing on the Theory of Planned Behaviour, recognises that an individual’s behaviour is part of an interacting system of their capability, opportunity, motivation and behaviours. However, many determinants of behaviour lie outside the individual, and to this end Chatterton and Wilson (2014) developed the “Four Dimensions of Behaviour” framework in order to highlight how diverse ‘behaviours’ can be, and how they can range from ones dominated by internal cognitive processes, to ones which are massively constrained by physical and social systems and structures.

In this talk, we argue that environmental communications, therefore, need to focus on creating societal change in order to enable individual behaviour change. In other words, people need to be given opportunities to change, they need to see others doing the same and they need to be supported in doing so.