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  • Author or Editor: Kristina Diprose x
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Lived Experiences in China, Uganda and the UK

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the dedicated urban goal SDG 11 and New Urban Agenda (NUA), represent a landmark acknowledgement by the international community of the critical role of cities and other sub-national entities in achieving sustainability. Both the SDGs and NUA will require the engagement of local governments and citizens to be successful. Mistra Urban Futures has been engaged in these processes since 2014 and in 2015 undertook a highly innovative three-month pilot project to test the then draft targets and indicators of what became SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities. This pilot proved instrumental in deepening several LIPs’ partnerships with their respective local authorities, in generating awareness in the city administrations of what would be required in terms of implementation of SDG 11 for the period 2016–30, and also fed directly into modifications to the final versions of several targets and indicators (Simon et al, 2016; Arfvidsson et al, 2017; Patel et al, 2017; Hansson et al, 2019).

The comparative project discussed here commenced in mid-2017 and was a longer sequel to the pilot, designed to follow and support the understanding, engagement and implementation of these two global agendas at the city level. It included seven cities of small to medium size, including all of Mistra Urban Futures’ LIPs (Cape Town, Gothenburg, Kisumu, Malmö and Sheffield), plus Shimla in India and Buenos Aires in Argentina through new partnerships with the social enterprise Nagrika and the New School’s Observatory on Latin America, respectively.

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