Over half the population (53%) of the UK believe everyone has a responsibility to improve the environment around them, according to new research funded by environmental charity Groundwork.
The research, ‘Pride of Place – Land, community and a popular environmentalism’, published today by policy think tank The Fabian Society, also found that nearly three-quarters of people (71%) believe that community action is the best way of achieving this.
Pride of Place investigates how people’s sense of identity, shaped by their attachment to a local environment, can sit at the heart of a new politics of the environment. It makes a number of recommendations and calls for a change in the culture of environmentalism, putting a greater focus on rebuilding democratic capacity rather than focusing on securing legislative change at a national and supranational level.
Creating better places
The findings in the report support the aims of Groundwork’s ‘My Treasured Space’ campaign. The campaign, which highlights the positive impact that green spaces have on people’s lives and warns that up to 20 million people in the UK are not able to enjoy their benefits, will encourage more people to celebrate and protect green spaces by volunteering, fundraising or spreading the word about their ‘treasured spaces.’
The charity points to over 30 years of experience in helping millions of people across the UK take action to improve the environment around them as evidence that communities do care about where they live and can create better places, if given the right support.
Irene Lewington worked with Groundwork to create a community garden in a housing estate in Hackney. An active member of her community, she attends her Resident Liaison Group to help manage local issues and monitor estate cleaning and services.
She said: “Sandford Courts is worth a million to me. It was empty. In a big building you don't even know who lives above or below you. But if you have a space people can talk to you...it's bringing people together.”
Joint environmental action
Natan Doron, Senior Researcher at The Fabian Society and co-author of the report, said, “In order to get people to care about the global environment, we need to show that we care about the local environment. People’s sense of shared ownership of our natural world is shaped in the streets of Britain, not the corridors of Brussels.
“Dog fouling and littering may not seem as important as the melting of the ice caps, but it is vital if people are to reclaim a sense of pride in their communities and drive the kind of collective action that we need to make a difference to our planet.”
Groundwork chief executive, Graham Duxbury, added, “Groundwork was established to look at new ways of facilitating joint environmental action, and the Fabian report illustrates that communities still see this as being the best approach to maintaining our treasured spaces over 30 years later.
"Our My Treasured Space campaign is an opportunity for people to come together to do exactly that - to celebrate and protect these spaces by volunteering, fundraising or spreading the word about their treasured spaces.”
For further information about the Pride of Place report or The Fabian Society, contact Richard Speight, Media and Communications Manager on 0207 227 4906 / 07794 307840
For further information about My Treasured Space or Groundwork, contact Garry Campbell, Communications Manager on 0121 2368565
Notes to Editors:
- About The Fabian Society:
- The Fabian Society is Britain’s oldest political think tank. Founded in 1884, the Society is at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left. The society is alone among think tanks in being a democratically-constituted membership organisation, with almost 7,000 members. It is constitutionally affiliated to the Labour Party.
- About Pride of Place:
- The report was also funded by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Woodland Trust.
- The report identifies four key lessons:
- Place is people – people do have a strong attachment to the places they live – but it is as much to do about human relationships as it is about the natural or built environment.
- Environmentalism starts at home – people need to be able to feel they effect change in their own backyard before they can change the world.
- The ecology of the environment – Lack of time erodes people’s capabilities; greater transience erodes solidarity. Environmentalism needs to engage more directly with the way in which the economy functions.
- The chemistry of community – People feel a strong sense of loss, believe that community spirit has declined over time. Addressing this requires a different approach to environmental campaigning and policy making.
- The report makes the following recommendations:
- Environmental campaigning groups should ‘switch’ a proportion of the campaigning resources they use for lobbying UK and EU legislators to support community organising to improve local environments.
- Local and central government must reverse the trend towards the increasing privatisation of public space and use it to create more parks, woodland and other free open spaces.
- Central government should let go of more funding and allocate it towards allowing communities greater power to shape their environments and support community action.
- Local authorities should use participatory budgeting to allow local people to engage directly with the ‘tough choices’ politicians constantly talk about, giving people a stake in what happens in the place they live.
- A new bank holiday should be held in the middle of the week to focus national attention on community action – providing a focal point for campaigners to highlight local environmental projects on a large scale and generate widespread media attention, as well as an opportunity to reach out beyond the ‘usual suspects’.
- About My Treasured Space
- Groundwork is a national charity working to create better places across the UK. Every day, we see the huge and life-changing impact green spaces have on people’s lives. We know that people everywhere and of every age need places and times to treasure – whether it’s a bench for reflection, a place to grow veg or somewhere to kick a football. But with an estimated 20 million people in the UK not able to enjoy the benefits of green space we also know that some communities are missing out. My Treasured Space is a campaign to encourage the public to celebrate and protect treasured spaces nationwide by volunteering, fundraising or spreading the word about their treasured spaces.
- Extrapolated from Natural England MENE research:
- 9% of the population (4 million people) haven’t ‘experienced nature’ in the last 12 months and 36% (16 million) only did so infrequently. This means that 20 million people aren’t getting the full benefit of green space.