Green Identities

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  • 1. Sustainability in Practice:Green IdentitiesDr Jon Anderson [email_address]

2. Lecture Outline

  • Green Identity & Action
  • Theory: Identity, Individualisation
  • Practice: CAT
    • Ecotopia & Green Identities

3. intriguing problem 4. How do you be ecological in an industrial society? 5. Identity

  • Identity as:
    • coherent, essentialised, unified, consistent, authentic?
    • modern society created a life-script...within the context of certain structuring parameters (Hetherington 1998:22)
    • e.g. class; sexuality; political affiliation, religion; nationality
  • Or - Identity as:
    • random, inconsistent, fractured, antagonistic, hypocritical?


  • Identity is becoming a contact zone, an arena in which, disparate [entities/processes] meet, clash, and grapple with each other (Pratt, 1992:4)
  • Our identities are to a greater or lesser extent malleable, we change according to whom and sometimes what we are with. move B to another environment and his [identity] will subtly shift in relation to a new interlocuter (de Botton, 2002:147).

7. Becks Individualisation thesis (1994)

  • individualization occurs as the contours of industrial society begin to dissolve under the dynamism of its rapid success
  • individuals begin to dis-embed themselves from conventional identity positions of class, employment and family, and produce, stage and cobble together new identities through the course of turbulent and risky practices (1994:13).


  • Founded 1973 by Gerard Morgan-Grenville
  • head[] off to the hills in search of arcadia, safety and the Good Life (CAT 1995 6).
  • dedicated to eco-friendly principles and a test bed for new ideas and technologies (CAT 2007: no page)

Centre for Alternative Technology 9.

  • An ecotopia?
    • homeplace (hooks, 1991)
    • oikos , or Eco (home)
    • topos , or topia (place)
    • ecotopia are ecologically and environmentally idealised alternatives to the mainstream.

Centre for Alternative Technology 10.

  • To those trapped in the stress and ugliness of modern cities, musing about [ecotopia]... pressed all sorts of buttons; visions of nature, nostalgia for a golden past, the simple life, release from the banality of consumer culture. Just the bare idea had a delicious ring to it. (CAT 1995: 6).

Centre for Alternative Technology 11.

  • For me the CAT thing is about the simplicity side of things really, I know the technology side is fantastic but I like the simplicity and its the stripping down to the bare bones in the simplest, greenest way possible way you can it is doing everything with the smallest impact possible on everything that is around you really for me.Only doing what you have to do and not what you can do (Verity, CAT Staff Interview).

Centre for Alternative Technology 12.

  • It is much easier if you live here.When I think about the first year and I was living in town there are several things that you dont have control over.Like if you are renting a place you dont have control over how the house is heated or how you source your energy.Living here is much easier because in winter the electricity comes from wind turbines and water comes from solar panels and so we are a bit spoilt and I havent had to set that up in anyway (Joanne, CAT Staff Interview).

Eco-living in Ecotopia? 13. CATs new green architecture

  • ...multiple materialities, times and spaces which call forth green practices (Horton, 2003:75)
  • materials, times and spaces which afford the performance of a green identity (ibid).

14. Cause Communities

  • I suppose I probably didnt think about it as much.I would recycle and do some environmental things and not think about it that much before I came here.It definitely helps having a cause community (Rob, CAT Staff Interview).

15. Crazy Idealists?

  • There was always a tension between those who wanted to raise a drawbridge to the outside world and those who believed that what they were doing was primarily to serve others (Richard St George)

16. Diary

  • Initial impressions:
    • Inspiring and frustrating at the same time, even alienating?
    • All good sense, but how do you get the urban housewife in a semi to follow it?

17. my God,it's just a bunch of hippies!"

  • Working prototype or education?
  • Does it work?
    • "pathetic, incoherent, scruffy.My nine year old son could have done better.And coffee was revolting!"
    • Brilliant!Well thought out and excellently presented.Love the coffee."

18. what an interesting place so many of us know what we should do but we are selfish and lazy

  • inspired me to go home and reevaluate my whole lifestyle. We do grow our own fruit and veggies but i now see how much more i can do

19. I cant see how you can work here and not live, or at least try to live, in a particular way

  • We did joke about it [not flying on vacation] but I said I am not stopping going on my holidays! (Cal, CAT Staff Interview).
  • I flew to Australia and Thailand, but now I would think about it and if I could go differently I would. Last year I did get the train from here to Paris instead of flying... But this year I have flown twice, once to go skiing and once to Spain... (Holly, CAT Staff Interview).

20. Your impressions of CAT...

  • Location
  • Style and presentation
  • Installations and devices
    • Inspiring?
    • Frustrating?
    • Alienating?
  • Alternatives?


  • Anderson, J. (2007) Elusive Escapes: Everyday Life and Ecotopias. Ecopolitics Online. 1. 1. 64 82
  • Anderson, J. forthcoming. From Zombies to Coyotes: Environmentalism where we are. Environmental Politics.


  • Anderson, J. 2004 The Ties that Bind? Self- and Place-Identity in Environmental Direct Action. Ethics, Place & Environment.Forthcoming.
  • Bauman, Z. 2001 On mass, individuals, and peg communities. In Lee, N. Munro, R. eds. The Consumption of Mass. Blackwell: Oxford. 102-113
  • Beck, U. 1994 The Reinvention of Politics: Towards a Theory of Reflexive Modernization. In Beck, U. Giddens, A. Lash, S. Reflexive modernization: politics, tradition and aesthetics in the modern social order. Polity Press: London. 1-55.
  • Beck, U. Beck-Gernsheim, E. 2002 Individualization. Sage: London.
  • Featherstone, M. 1995 Undoing Culture. London: Sage.


  • Grove-White, R. Szerszynski, B.(1992), Getting Behind Environmental Ethics, Environmental Values, 1 28596
  • Hetherington, K. 1998 Expressions of Identity. Space, Performance, Politics. Sage: London.
  • Hickman, L. 2005 A Life Stripped Bare. Tiptoeing through the Ethical Minefield. Eden Project Books / The Guardian: London.
  • Hobson, K. 2001 Sustainable Lifestyles: Rethinking Barriers and Behavioural Change. In Cohen, M. Murphy, J. eds. Exploring Sustainable Consumption. Environmental Policy and the Social Sciences. Pergamon: London. 191-209
  • Horton, D. Green distinctions: the performance of identity among environmental activists. In Szersynski, B. Heim, W. Waterton, C. eds. 2003 Nature Performed. Environment, Culture and Performance. Blackwell: Oxford. 63-77