Local climate emergency declarations, innovative approaches to public art and the collective experience of loss during the COVID-19 pandemic can transform attitudes towards the climate crisis, according to new research published in the open-access Journal of the British Academy.
Contributors to the latest special issue of the Journal – on climate activism – draw on multi-disciplinary research from across the humanities and social sciences to explore four different aspects of climate action:
- Dr Ed Wall’s interview with Mary Miss, the Founder of City as Living Laboratory, analyses new approaches to public art and urban landscapes that heighten public perceptions of – and connect the public to – the condition of the local environment.
- Dr Lisa Jones et al. examine the prospects of behavioural and attitudinal change towards climate action in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors argue new leadership groups could emerge from among those who have experienced the greatest sense of loss, such as young and Indigenous peoples.
- Dr Anthony Kythreotis et al. argue that trends in the geography of climate activism call for a change in the aims of global governance forums like COP26, to reflect the increasing reliance on local and urban climate activism for holding governments to account.
- Dr Paula Serafini focuses on the marginalised groups devastated by climate-intensive industries and the extraction of resources, based on years of fieldwork in Argentina. Serafini argues that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionately severe impact on these groups, creates fresh avenues of enquiry into the future of climate activism.
It concludes with an “Afterword” by Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern FBA, Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, who argues that climate activism can fulfil a range of purposes, helping society to increase the overall scale and ambition of climate action.
Professor Simon Goldhill FBA, Foreign Secretary of the British Academy, said:
“Questions of action and inaction on the climate crisis are particularly salient as we approach the COP26 summit. By exploring these questions in detail, this special issue of the Journal of the British Academy shows that climate activism is a vital subject for research and funding. It forms part of the British Academy’s wider research and policy activity highlighting the important contributions of the SHAPE disciplines (Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts) to the body of knowledge relating to the climate crisis. This Journal issue is the first of a series of special thematic editions related to COP26.
“Our understanding of the complex human and social dimensions to environmental challenges is vastly improved by this multi-disciplinary research. It provides access to new perspectives, particularly those of Indigenous groups and other sources outside of the non-English speaking world.”