In addressing environmental challenges like climate change, governments, charities and business tend to focus either on changing policy or business practice, or on urging individuals to adopt different behaviour. The role of human identity is largely absent from the debate. And yet, our identities -- who we see ourselves as being -- have a profound impact in shaping the responses we make to environmental challenges. This provocative book will rattle the cages of many environmentalists, 'green-minded' business-people and policy makers. In it, Crompton and Kasser suggest that many current approaches to addressing problems like climate change may actually inadvertently serve to reinforce those aspects of identity that drive us towards unsustainable behaviour in first place. They suggest that it will only be by re-shaping political debate and social institutions in order to promote more helpful aspects of identity that we can have any hope of meeting environmental challenges. The book closes by highlighting the opportunities that this perspective presents for building new alliances between people working not just on environmental issues, but also on a range of social and developmental concerns: Many of those aspects of human identity that frustrate progress on the environmental agenda also frustrate progress on meeting other challenges.
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Tom Crompton is Change Strategist at WWF-UK, Godalming, Surrey, UK, where he has developed WWF's Strategies for Change Project. He is author of the WWFUK report Weathercocks and Signposts: The Environment Movement at a Crossroads and coauthor of Simple and Painless? The Limitations of Spillover in Environmental Campaigning. He holds a PhD in evolutionary biology from the University of Leicester, and a BA in natural sciences from the University of Cambridge, UK. Tim Kasser is Professor of Psychology at Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois, USA, where he teaches classes on personality, clinical and abnormal psychology, and alternatives to consumerism. He has published dozens of scientific articles and book chapters on how people's values and goals relate to their quality of life and their social and environmental behaviour. Kasser is also the author of The High Price of Materialism (MIT Press, 2002) and co-editor of Psychology and Consumer Culture (APA, 2004). He holds a PhD in psychology from the University of Rochester, New york, and a BA in psychology from Vanderbilt University, Tennessee.Review:
Never have environmental problems appeared so insuperable. Whatever the past victories of the environment movement, we need a new and deeper approach -- one that begins to engage the human values and identities that lie at the heart of environmental challenges. Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity does not flinch in insisting on both the possibility and the absolute necessity of working in this way. As such, it makes a clear and important contribution to a realistic response to today's environmental crisis.' James Gustave Speth - Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, 'Tom Crompton and Tim Kasser's new study is a sorely-needed and hopeful resource in a time of environmental and climate dangers. Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity mines a rich vein of recent psychological and social research to address one of the core challenges of social change -- how to mobilize private and unconcerned citizens to alter not only their own behaviors but those of businesses and governments as well.' Robert Cox, Board member and former president (2007-8) of the Sierra Club and Professor of Communica 'It would be the easiest thing in the world to neglect the demons in the human soul and place all our faith in angels. But Pollyanna politics won't solve the enormous environmental and social challenges that face us. Tom Crompton and Tim Kasser have done a huge service to sustainability by shining a critical light on the unsustainable aspects of the human psyche and at the same time reminding us of our underlying humanity, and of the common values that seek to protect and preserve the common good.' Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of RESOLVE, University of Surrey, UK.
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