ACTION THREE: Collaboratively defining a “low carbon culture” and creating an implementation plan by Dec 31st 2014
Goal Two of the Action Plan calls for ““To engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city. To create a ‘low carbon culture’ we need to build a common understanding of the causes and implications of climate change, and to develop programmes of ‘carbon literacy’ and ‘carbon accounting’ so that new culture can become part of the daily lives of all individuals and organisations. Every one of the actions in our plan will contribute in some way to the development of ‘carbon literacy’ in the city. However, achieving a new low carbon culture – where thinking about counting carbon is embedded and routine – can only be delivered as a result of all the actions together, in an overall co-ordinated manner. Enabling a low carbon culture in the city will be particularly important if the challenge of meeting even more demanding carbon reduction targets between 2020 and 2050 is to be met.”
Currently in Council documents and speeches this second “particularly important” goal is either ignored, elided or reduced to the technocratic language of “embed low-carbon cultural change.” [“Embed” implies that somebody already knows what it is, can inject it as if with a hypodermic needle. Such hubris! It’s almost touching. Almost.]
Leverage the undoubted and world-class knowledge and commitment of Manchester’s academics, students, activists and residents to create both usable “metrics” and a concrete implementation plan of how to achieve a “low-carbon culture” by December 31st 2014, with that plan being open for consultation and comment from November 17th (the 5th anniversary of the City Council’s Executive signing off the MACF document.)
Take action. Then start making a plan (see below for some ideas).
Make a public statement to the effect that you understand that even if a) all people who live/work/study in Manchester were offered a day’s carbon literacy training and if by some miracle b) they all took it up, this would still not add up to a “low carbon culture.”
Manage (downwards) all expectations of the “Low Carbon Culture Target and Monitoring Group.”
Monthly progress reports, written in plain English, and open to comments, on the MCC website, with a continuous call for ideas from citizens.
Ask an anthropology professor or two (or three) to set their undergrads this as an essay topic; “What does a low carbon culture look like, and how do we get it?” Have an incentive (£100?) for the best essay, with the Exec Member for the Environment handing over the dosh. Publish the top five on the Council’s website and on the ever-expanding manchesterclimate.com
Manchester Climate Monthly got the ball rolling a bit recently by asking Dr Hannah Knox a few questions on this topic – https://manchesterclimatemonthly.net/2014/02/05/culture-behaviour-climate-change-an-anthropologist-speaks-manchester-mcrclimateplan/
Hold a broader essay contest on this topic open to all people who live, work or study in Manchester.
Publish and publicise the winning entries.
Command & Control/unanswered questions
Has anyone ever managed to ‘create’ a low carbon culture? If so, what can we learn from them? I suspect you don’t “plan” cultural change unless you are a church or a multi-national with very deep pockets. But I could be wrong.
Getting interested and interesting minds focusing on the problem won’t actually be that hard or expensive, if the lead comes not from feral activists but rather from the Executive Member for the Environment and the Chair of the Steering Group. No need for big newspaper campaigns, or funding charities that did little of note with previous sums of money.
Potential multiplier effects
Get this right and the world really would sit up and take notice.
Consequences of non-delivery of this action
Nothing much, since we are toast already.
Next short-term action(s)
Commit to some essay contests and so on.
Pick up the phone to some of the big “cultural” outfits and get them committing to some things as soon as their schedules allow. The longer you leave those phone calls, the later it will be…
Medium-to-long term actions
Get started before you have the implementation plan (I know, crazy isn’t it!) Ask the Cornerhouse/Home/Whatever to put on films and public events about climate change. Ask the Royal Exchange to stage Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” with sponsorship from Manchester Airports Group. Commit to annual short-story, essay and film contests. Get a regular column in the MEN. Etc etc etc. There are loads of feasible ideas. If you wait until some Big Plan has been written to deal with something as slippery as cultural change, you will be a laughing stock.