Moving to a new climate of opinion
This paper considers the ways in which people’s sense of global environmental climate change and damage is located within a range of discourses that trade upon notions of personal opinion, sense of responsibility and behavioural change. In effect this turns such matters into lifestyle choices and preferences based upon appeals to people in terms of attitude change and normative pressure and influence. The psychologising of behaviour associated with climate change treats the individual as a lone agent that is receptive to understanding and making sense of the seriousness of the issues and then changing behaviour accordingly. However, the paper argues that the more we turn these environmental concerns into matters of opinions and perceptions of environmental damage, the more we detract from the problematic conceptualisation of how people relate to the environment. The environment is placed as as an entity beyond the person, something that is external to them rather than a constructed category related to a range of discourses that are bound up with political, social and economic concerns. By refraining from adopting a stance that presupposes neither the reality of the environment as an essence, nor opinionative and attitudinal processes, it becomes possible to critique approaches that turn global environmentally damaging behaviours into mattes that simply require the right lifestyle choices to be made. It is argued that what is required is the problematisation of the constructed relationship between self and environment if climate change is to be tackled as a global politicoeconomic matter rather than located in local psychological discourses.