The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development makes climate change and responsible consumption key priorities for both industrialized and emerging economies. Moving beyond the Global North, this book uses innovative cross-national and cross-generational research with urban residents in China and Uganda, as well as the UK, to illuminate international debates about building sustainable societies and to examine how different cultures think about past, present and future responsibility for climate change.
The authors explore to what extent different nations see climate change as a domestic issue, whilst looking at local explanatory and blame narratives to consider profound questions of justice between those nations that are more and less responsible for, and vulnerable to, climate change.
Taking ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ as a starting point, this chapter outlines how climate change is commonly framed as an issue of intergenerational injustice, and how this intersects with arguments for sustainable development. It introduces the INTERSECTION project, its empirical focus on the human sense of climate and social change in Jinja, Nanjing and Sheffield, the rationale for focussing on these cities and world regions, and the fieldwork undertaken to inform this book. It also critically reflects on methodological issues in cross-cultural and cross-national research, and how the research team addressed issues of cross-cultural comparability in the design, collection and analysis of data.
This chapter situates the INTERSECTION programme of research within wider international debates regarding the relationship between consumption and climate change. It explores how this relationship is addressed in arguments for environmental justice and sustainable development, and how it is reflected in international policy-making. This discussion highlights how climate change is typically cast as both an international and intergenerational injustice, or the convergence of a ‘global storm’ and an ‘intergenerational storm’. This chapter also situates the original contribution of the book within recent social science scholarship that explores how people live with a changing climate, advocating a ‘human sense’ of climate and social change, and outlines the main themes of the subsequent empirical chapters.
When asking people across diverse geographical and cultural contexts about the impact of climate change on their lives, it is important to take into account how the idea of climate – and thus of climate change – may be differently conceptualised. This chapter explores urban residents’ perceptions of living with a changing climate, the cultural construction of climate change, and how it is conflated with local weather and high-visibility environmental problems such as air pollution, tree felling, industrial waste and changing land use. It discusses how local explanatory narratives differ in their treatment of climate change as remote in space and time or immediate and locally-rooted; and how this affects the extent to which people feel it has a direct impact on their lives. It argues that residents across Jinja, Nanjing and Sheffield were more or less anxious about climate change not only as a consequence of different levels of regional exposure, but also as a result of socioeconomic vulnerability to climate shocks, and the perceived physical deterioration or improvement of their immediate environment as a consequence of urban infrastructural change.
This chapter explores how local perceptions of climate change intersect with considerations of environmental justice, contrasting moral readings of climate change that differently emphasise ‘universal’, ‘industrial’ and ‘local’ blame. It contrasts Jinja residents’ narratives of self-blame for recent droughts, which linked (local) climate change with local causality, with Nanjing and Sheffield residents’ focus on the global scale of climate change and ‘meta-emitters’ in government and industry. This chapter argues that these moral geographies of climate change affect the extent to which people are willing to assume responsibility for environmental stewardship; much more so than their relative carbon footprint. In posing the question ‘Who is responsible for what?’, it explores divergent moral framings of climate change as a problem for them, there and thenor us, here and now and the possibilities of caring at a distance. This includes attention to the intergenerational challenges of climate change vis-à-vis urban residents’ perspectives on caring for the future and historical responsibility.
This chapter considers how arguments that cast climate change as an intergenerational injustice are complicated by a prevailing belief that younger generations consume more resources and live less sustainably than their elders. It explores urban residents’ narratives of socioeconomic transitions and their perceived impact on contemporary consumption practices, and finds that younger generations are typically blamed for unsustainable consumption. It considers the valorisation of resource conservation through narratives of scarcity and frugality, the influence of social conservative moralising discourses such as “make do and mend” and “qinjian jieyue” (‘being diligent and thrifty’), and the totemic role of waste in making unsustainable consumption visible. These ideas reflect concerns about both environmental and social degradation, attributing climate change to a more general moral decline.
This chapter considers how intergenerational community-based research and creative practice can support public engagement, foster intergenerational dialogue and inspire sustainable action on climate change. It outlines three collaborations that were part of the INTERSECTION programme: a Write About Time workshop led by Sheffield poet Helen Mort; intergenerational participatory research to support creative environmental knowledge sharing in Jinja; and a Sustainability Dancersculpture created by Sheffield artist Anthony Bennett. This work offers a lens to reflect on key findings from across the programme, suggesting creative possibilities for engaging with climate change and informing pathways to just sustainability.