Where now for the environment movement? weathercocks and signposts ten years on

January 2018
Common Cause Foundation

This essay updates the arguments developed in Weathercocks and Signposts: The Environment Movement at a Crossroads, highlighting some of the ways in which these have strengthened since 2008.

It explores how the arguments developed in Weathercocks and Signposts are as pertinent today as they were when that report was first published, and shows how the evidence base underpinning these arguments is now even more compelling. On the one hand, the scale and urgency of environmental challenges is now known on many counts to be even greater than previously thought; on the other, the inextricable links between the environmental crisis and wider political change have become ever more obvious.

this if...

  • You feel that there’s a disconnect between the scale of environmental challenge that we collectively confront, and the level of ambition that most mainstream environmental organisations bring to these challenges.
  • You feel a disquiet that some environmental communications and campaigns may actually prove counterproductive in supporting the systemic change that’s needed.
  • You read Weathercocks and Signposts and want to learn about more recent social science research relevant to the arguments developed in that report.

Key Takeaways

The report culminates in a call to foreground five principles in all environmental campaigns and communications:

  1. The best hope for systemic and durable change is to engage people as though they are interested and committed to helping make things better. This is a powerful strategy for the simple reason that it is true.
  2. Root environmental campaigns and communications in “compassionate” (or “intrinsic”) values.
  3. Avoid appealing to “self-interest” (or “extrinsic”) values
  4. Develop new collaborations, beyond the environmental sector, to promote “intrinsic” values in other spheres of life
  5. Campaign against public policies and institutions that serve to embed “extrinsic” values – even where these may not seem to connect superficially with issues of material environmental concern.

Toolkit resources

Why fundraise?

Is there a way to fundraise without being in direct competition with other charities?

Do you feel like a fraud?

Are your communications engaging people as citizens or consumers?

Free gifts and supporter journeys

Exploring some of the challenges posed by the pressures of short-term fundraising

Reasons to volunteer

Reflecting on intrinsic motivations to volunteer

Value surveys and maps

More information on the two values surveys that Common Cause draws on in its work

Material tested in our experiments

Further information on the texts used in the study with WWF and Scope

Summary of published research

A summary of results from research into priming values

Other resources
you might like

Weathercocks and signposts: the environment movement at a crossroads

Simple and Painless: the limitations of spillover in environmental campaigning

No cause is an island: How People are Influenced by Values Regardless of the Cause

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