From place-based to problem-based campaigns, we are seeing a rise in initiatives aiming to foster collective environmental stewardship among concerned citizens across the globe. These international communities have arisen to meet new environmental challenges and seize the opportunities presented by our increasingly connected world.
Traditional approaches to community engagement have tended to focus only on the involvement of local people. However, the recently launched Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef initiative highlights the changing nature of community engagement aimed at fostering environmental stewardship.
In a globalised world, maintaining treasures like the Great Barrier Reef and other ecosystems affected by global-scale threats demands new approaches that involve participation not only of people living locally, but also those in distant places.
A connected world
Today’s environmental problems tend to be characterised by social and environmental connections with distant places.
In terms of environmental connections, places such as the Great Barrier Reef are increasingly affected by global threats. These include: poor water quality associated with port dredging driven by international mining; reef fisheries influenced by national and international markets; and, most importantly, coral bleaching caused by climate change. Social and political action beyond the local is need to combat these threats.
Social connections are increasing through both ease of travel and social media and other forms of virtual communication. This provides opportunities to engage more people across the globe to take meaningful action than ever before. People are able to form and maintain attachments to special places no matter where they are in the world.
Our recent research, involving more than 5,000 people from over 40 countries, shows that people living far from the Great Barrier Reef can have strong emotional bonds comparable to locals’ attachments. These bonds can be strong enough to motivate them to take action.
Harnessing social media
Increasing social connections across the globe don’t only allow people in distant locations to maintain their attachments to a place. They also provide a vehicle to leverage those attachments into taking meaningful actions to protect these places.
Such strategies can now be used even in the most remote of locations – such as 60 metres above the forest floor in a remote part of Tasmania.During her 451-day tree sit, activist Miranda Gibson co-ordinated an online action campaign. She was able to engage a global audience through blogging, live streaming and posting videos and photos.
Social media provide a new way to foster a sense of community among people far and wide. In this sense, “community” doesn’t have to be local; individuals with common interests and identities can share a sense of community globally. Indeed, this is a key ingredient for collective action.
Employing images and language targeted to appeal to people’s shared attachments to a place can help increase collective stewardship of that place.
Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.