What do citizens and world leaders think of when they hear the term “ecological citizenship”? Can the value of “ecological citizenship” be the pathway towards more effective environmental policy in the 21st century?
Andrew Revkin of The New York Times reported after the Rio+20 conference that this value may have more success in galvanizing citizens and leaders to solve climate change issues that are a part of the 21st century.
Revkin spoke with Ilan Safit, a professor at Pace University who teaches philosophy and religious studies with a focus on the environment. Safit noted that he sees the focus of Rio and related discussions as “too mechanistic.”
The focus of the United Nations Rio+20 conference was, in a non-derogatory sense, largely technical — on a “green economy” and the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development. It seems that the U.N. has given up on the role it can play in shaping a global community along the lines of ideas, identity, and identification…I am talking about the ideas that deal with the reshaping of our identities, as both individuals and communities…I am talking about a new notion of citizenship that is called for by the demands of the ecological crisis, an “ecological citizenship” of a global scope, that can best be promoted by, well, the one global body of nations we have.
Safit is right in attaching a value to the work being done on this front – especially if the value inspires collective responsibility and action.
Revkin writes that the ecological citizenship value can help overcome the “absurdity” of the more common “individual responsibility” value on this issue.
Ecological citizenship is the framework in which we can see both the need for individual responsibility and the absurdity in laying the onus of responsibility on the individual, both the ecology that sustains communities and the sustainability demanded from communities in order to maintain a balanced ecology.
FrameWorks has found in our work on climate change that successful reframing of this issue involves enabling citizens to see themselves as part of a collective. This involves using the value of interdependence so that citizens see themselves as part of the ecosystem (for causes and effects of climate change) and part of a public (for moving towards solutions). We know that the values of responsible management, stewardship, and innovation/ingenuity also work well to orient citizens in this way.
Telling a story of ecological citizenship that weaves in values of interdependence, responsible management, stewardship, and innovation is the right way forward.
To find out more about how to frame climate change in the wake of Rio+20, see our research and recommendations on Climate Change Issue Page.