Where now for the environment movement?

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Tom Crompton asks this question in a new essay from the Common Cause Foundation.  You can read it here.  It sets out five key opportunities for creating a step-change in the environmental movement: ways in which it could work more effectively to inspire the broad-based and durable movements that will create pressure for proportionate action on environmental problems.
In this post, I set out the 5 opportunities followed by a quick comment from me.  Morgan Phillips then adds a more nuanced perspective (indented text).
1 – TRUST AND EMPOWER PEOPLE – this is hard to disagree with, especially the point about conversations.
An interesting thing to explore here is our hang ups about people not talking to each other face to face. A mountain of interaction is happening in the online / digital space, facilitated by technology, arguably we are spending too much time idly chatting to each other and not taking enough time to quietly contemplate the bigger picture. Tom advises 'invest effort in facilitating conversations between supporters, rather than conveying information to supporters.' Do we need to think about the content of the conversations we are facilitating?
2 – ROOT CAMPAIGNS AND COMMUNICATIONS IN ‘COMPASSIONATE’ VALUES – up to a point.  The point being the need to engage those who don’t get compassion.
This relates to the next point too, in labeling all intrinsic values 'compassionate' values (and all extrinsic values 'self-interest' values) Tom is trying to simplify the language, but it is problematic in that it immediately narrows our thinking. Compassion is just one value among many other intrinsic values that cluster around it. The research shows that the large majority of people value intrinsic values more than extrinsic values, and that even those who are extrinsically orientated do in fact also hold intrinsic values that can be activated, nurtured and reinforced. And vice versa of course. I think the key thing with this is that the research is showing that 'appealing to both ‘compassionate’ and ‘self-interest’ [simultaneously] is as ineffective as appealing to ‘self-interest’ alone' (see p. 10). One tiny appeal to extrinsic values can undo all the hard work that has been put in to appeals to intrinsic values.
3 – AVOID APPEALING TO ‘SELF-INTEREST’ VALUES – The trouble surely is that not all self-interest is bad.  Isn’t taking an interest in your children’s welfare (eg the food they eat, the books they read, and the air they breathe) a self-interested value?
It is, in an 'enlightened self-interest' sort of way, but what is happening is an activation of our benevolence values, which are a subset of our intrinsic values. If we activate benevolence values, this has a bleed over effect, activating other intrinsic values. Again this is problem with simplifying the language. 
4 – DEVELOP COLLABORATIONS BEYOND THE ENVIRONMENTAL SECTOR – this has to make sense, and the SDGs provide the need to do this.
Agreed, this is absolutely key. But do the SDGs provide the way too? I have been wondering whether it would be worth doing an analysis of the impact that the SDGs is having on building relationships between, for example, the environment and development sectors? 

5 – CALL-OUT PUBLIC POLICIES AND INSTITUTIONS THAT EMBED ‘SELF- INTEREST’ VALUES – seems like a call for simpler times: the 1950s spring to mind.

My interpretation of this is that bodies and institutions whose purpose it is to work in the public interest are not fulfilling that purpose if they are complicit in reinforcing extrinsic values. It applies to Government bodies as well as many NGOs.   And does 'simplicity' have to be understood as a regressive thing, something we return to? I think we can progress towards simplicity, or to be more philosophical about this, we can progress towards a situtation where things are not too simple, but not too complex - both have their virtues. This aligns a lot with concepts of sustainability and steady states I think.

Of course, we all have self-interested values to some degree: family / children / locality.  Sometimes self-interest is community interest which is a good thing sometimes.

Agreed, this is 'enlightened self-interest' and benevolence again. 

I did wonder where ‘engage with the political process is in all this.  
I think it is there, see section 3. 'We are too ready to settle for what is politically feasible today' he says this:  
Although we may not choose to frame it in these terms, many of us have given up on helping to deepen public appetite for ambitious political change. Our focus has turned to working with what’s possible within the constraints of today’s political opportunities. As a result, our perception of the role of members and supporters has subtly changed: we have increasingly come to view supporters as a source of financial revenue, rather than a means of applying collective political pressure. 
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  • Hi Bill, Morgan,

    Thanks for these thoughtful reflections, which I found really helpful to read.

    I completely agree that the content of the conversations (1 above) is very important if these conversations are to reveal shared values, and I don’t think I’ve made that clear enough. In our work at Manchester Museum, for example, we framed these conversations in terms of what matters to us in life, what we appreciate about our fellow citizens, or discussion about random acts of kindness.

    Your second point is well-made, too. We have been all around the houses and back again mulling which terms it’s best to use. ‘Compassionate’ values are certainly not just about compassion – they include many other items, as you point out. But we found that people were just getting confused by the intrinsic/extrinsic terminology, and self-enhancement/self-transcendence seems even less accessible. We’d love any ideas on the terms we should be using!

    Spot on, on point 3, I think, too!

    I share Morgan’s uncertainty about whether the SDGs provide a good vehicle here – perhaps they do – I don’t feel close enough to that debate to know. But our conviction is that we can definitely work with a very diverse range of organisations which appear to have no formal connection to development or environmental change at all. We started with a museum – but any organisation with a communication footprint can contribute here (libraries, football clubs, large employers, local papers….).

    On point 4, I agree with Morgan that, in our usage, concern for family and friends, and one’s immediate community are Benevolence values (in the Schwartz model) and would fall in the ‘compassionate’ group as we have defined this. I guess that it is possible that one may want to take care of one’s kids and give them a good education in expectation that they will then be more likely to offer financial support to you as a parent in old age. This would be a ‘self-interest’ motivation, as we use the term. But most people, I’d suggest, care for their kids or wider communities because they love them.

    I’m not sure that any of this implies a ‘return’ to 1950s living. I think today’s more connected and international world offers amazing opportunities to discover and explore values that are shared across diverse communities. But it’s clearly not inevitable that this more connected world leads in that direction – which is why I think it’s very important to be mindful of those aspects of the social surround that model and engage self-interest values.

    And where are the politics in this? Truly transformational politics requires an active and engaged citizenry. That, I believe, is where values are of crucial importance!