Simple & Painless: The limitations of spillover in environmental campaigning

Simple & Painless: The limitations of spillover in environmental campaigning

Category: Reports

Source: WWF-UK

Author(s): Tom Crompton, John Thøgersen

Year: 2009


The comfortable perception that global environmental challenges can be met through marginal lifestyle changes no longer bears scrutiny. The cumulative impact of large numbers of individuals making marginal improvements in their environmental impact will be a marginal collective improvement in environmental impact. Yet we live at a time when we need urgent and ambitious changes.

If those in government, business or the third sector persist in advocating ‘simple and painless’ behavioural changes as a meaningful response to today’s most pressing environmental challenges, this must be because they are persuaded that such changes will encourage the adoption of other, and particularly other more ambitious, behaviours.

Among these other more ambitious behaviours, engagement with political process will be of particular importance. Whatever the steps that can be taken to mitigate a problem such as climate change through private-sphere behavioural changes, ambitious new government intervention is urgently needed. This in turn requires the development of greater public activism (e.g. participation in direct action), active citizenship (e.g. writing letters to political decision-makers) and passive acceptance of government intervention.

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