Call for 'environmental bank holiday' to focus on local problems

The Fabian Society says campaigners should switch focus from global issues like climate change and address concerns about litter and dog-fouling

POLITICAL EDITOR

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Environmental campaigners spend too much time targeting global conferences on the issue of "melting ice caps" and not enough on encouraging people to become activists in their own neighbourhood, a report will claim tomorrow.

The Fabian Society is calling for a new "Community Environment bank holiday" to revive interest in local environmentalism after its research showed that just as many people are concerned about litter and dog-fouling as they are about climate change.

Green activism should switch to community organising, with awareness-raising of the local environment to renew public interest in climate change, the report says. Natan Doron, co-author of the report, said there was a "catastrophic lack of popular consent" on the global issue of climate change because campaigners were "ignoring real people and focusing on faceless institutions".

The report, Pride of Place: Land, Community and a Popular Environmentalism, argues that, by engaging more with their own local environment, individuals would be more likely to change their behaviour to help halt global climate change. Because people lack the time to engage with their local communities, there should be a new bank holiday – which could take place in the middle of the week to prevent it being used as part of yet another long weekend – providing a focus for picking up litter, community gardening and street parties.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the Fabian Society found that 26 per cent of people rated climate change as something of concern, the same proportion of those who said they were worried about littering and dog fouling. Antisocial behaviour was the top concern, with 53 per cent of people worried about this issue, while 29 per cent were concerned about extreme weather. Some 68 per cent felt that community spirit in Britain had declined in their lifetime.

Do people still care? Do people still care?  

The authors will debate the report with Jon Cruddas, Labour's policy chief, and Ruth Davis of Greenpeace in Westminster tomorrow. Greenpeace has staged high-profile campaigns against nuclear power and oil drilling in the Arctic and protests outside major global climate conferences. They have also launched a campaign against fracking, which is both a global issue yet has also raised local environmental concerns.

Mr Doron said: "For years now, environmental campaigners have been getting it wrong. There is a potentially catastrophic lack of popular consent towards tackling the big global climate issues that comes, in part, from campaigners and lobbyists ignoring real people and focusing on faceless institutions.

"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.

"A new bank holiday will be the first and most visible step in rebuilding faith in our ability to change the world for the better."

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