Environmental Organisations

Values and Climate Change Behaviours Conference

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Schwartz’s Value Circumplex

The Scottish Government’s conference on values and behaviours focused on the ways psychology could inform work to address climate change.  Prof Tim Kasser, Knox College, Illinois; Dr Anat Bardi, Royal Holloway, University of London and Prof Greg Maio, University of Cardiff, introduced current thinking in psychology of values.  For those interested in this approach, check out www.valuesandframes.org and in particular the Common Cause Handbook.

The argument being made in the offices of the Scottish Government last week was fundamentally against neo-liberal capitalism.  Saving the planet requires engaging (in Tim Kasser’s language) people’s ‘intrinsic’ values such as universalism and benevolence, as opposed to their ‘extrinsic’ values such as power and achievement.  Interesting suggestions were made such as banning advertising from public space and banning advertising aimed at children, given that we are apparently on average subjected to 1600 ‘adverts’ per day.

The panel sessions were more diverse and included papers on ‘Collapse’ in a North Atlantic Context, Andrew Dugmore, University of Edinburgh; and Faith Traditions and Sustainability: ‘Moving Mountains’?, Ian Christie, University of Surrey.  Dugmore’s analysis of Viking society and resilience to environmental change across the North Atlantic was fascinating, as was Christie’s work on engaging religious groups with issues of sustainability.

Across the day, whilst the psychological analysis portrays itself as having all the answers, it does offer some important insights, such as the way that values are connected.  Often different ’causes’ are seen to be in competition with each other, but from a psychological perspective, what is important is whether they are addressing a common set of values.  This suggested that environmental organisations could usefully form alliances with organisations in other sectors and focus on emphasising common values.

But the link between values and behaviours is not simple.  Although cognitive dissonance was not specifically mentioned, there was considerable discussion, and both Christie’s and Dugmore’s presentations offered nuanced readings.  Christie was at pains to emphasise that engaging faith groups, although potentially very effective, was not without risks.  Dugmore’s analysis of the collapse of Viking society in Greenland indicated that they had successfully adapted to one environmental change (the mini ice age), but the adaptations had infact trapped them (in tighter hierarchies and patterns of behaviour), reducing their ability to address a second phase of change.  Christie also highlighted the importance of ‘wilful’ individuals, saying that faith groups that engage with issues of sustainability usually do so through the leadership of specific individuals, rather than group decisions.

In the plenary some discussion focused on the relationship between the current economic crisis and broader environmental change issues.  It was suggested that, whilst economic crisis often results in greater concentration on extrinsic values, reflection on the crisis actually promotes longer term thinking and focus on intrinsic values.  It would have been interesting to hear more about mindfulness.

Finally the theologian in the room asked whether the language of ‘intrinsic’ values actually had a root in Aristotelian virtues: virtuous behaviour is our best bet to address climate change.  There’s a thought!


ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge Research, Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

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Back to the future….

This post comes to you from the EcoMuseum

Identity: yours mine ours is well on the way to an April launch, but it’s not just the multicultural community who have a keen interest in the exhibition. The project team’s open-minded approach to innovation has cultural and environmental organisations eager to investigate the exhibition’s environmentally sustainable build and finish.

One of the more experimental and highly successful decisions the project team made was to use a signwriter instead of traditional large format printing. Identity has been designed by graphic designer Gina Batsakis to be visually stunning, with a contemporary, highly artistic style. One thing visitors will immediately notice is the unique linework throughout the exhibition. The linework which is an original creation of Gina’s exclusively for Identity, is designed to express faces and features without the stereotypical ethnic identifiers we commonly recognise.

Gallery 3 is where the Identity linework truly comes into its own. Each wall is covered with many layers of line-faces and the design calls for a crisp, well defined finish. To produce this graphic treatment in the traditional method, scores of huge strips of self-adhesive paper would need be printed off and wrapped around 3mm MDF. The MDF graphic would then be laminated to take increased wear and tear. This method involves the depletion of a number of natural resources, like land degradation from MDF production and the coal extraction for the making of electricity used to power the printers and laminator. In addition the negative effects from toxic inks and ink off-gassing, and the excrement from coal-fired power stations are well known.

Graphics produced in this way suffer from heavy traffic – in the Immigration Museum’s case up to 1.3 million people will pass through Identity. The slightest scratch to even a single panel necessitates the entire panel’s replacement – meaning more electricity and materials. In 10 years time, when Identity completes its run to the public, those graphics would be consigned to landfill, where they would take hundreds of years to degrade, leeching their contents into the earth.

Using Bec (pictured in the gallery), our signwriter from Synthesis Design and Display, there is no printing, laminating, MDF substrates or inks involved. Bec is using water based low VOC paint, human energy and a brush. The only electricity she is using is to power a light projector onto the wall, where she traces the linework with chalk. The project team, and especially Gina, are thrilled at the high quality of the blossoming design on the gallery walls. The Immigration Museum is also thrilled because any scratch large or small can be easily touched up with only a brush and a lick of paint – barely any cost or effort at all to the museum. In fact the project team was surprised to find that using a signwriter cost no more than using the traditional print method, and this is what finally won them over and convinced them to experiment with Bec’s amazing skills.

We hope that this encourages the re-emergence of artistic signwriters, which are hard to find — in fact Bec is one of a kind, and herself is re-learning the skills she perfected a long time ago before signwriters became victims to large format printing. Hopefully the resource-hungry complexity of large format printing will be used with more discretion within the cultural organisations of Australia after they see the success of the Identity graphics, and signwriters from the old days will be brushing up their skills just as Bec has done.

the EcoMuseum, is a project of Carole Hammond, Exhibition Manager and museum professional: combining the complex ideologies of aesthetics, culture, objects, entertainment…and environment.

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