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From ordinary environmentalism to the public environment: theoretical reflections based on French and European empirical research

Nathalie Blanc, UMR 7533 CNRS LADYSS


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Ecological transformations involve citizen mobilization and the cultural transformation of relationships with the environment. Rather than social movements, we need to see them more as social–environmental communities. They are formed through joint action on the material environment, underpinned by solidarity and conflicts of territoriality in which human collectives associate with living matter and the environment to battle other uses of space. The environment as a collective work then becomes a self-sustaining basis for action that boosts the competence and legitimacy of the actors (citizens, formal and informal collectives, etc.) and their role in social–ecological transition. We thus witness the emergence of a new type of environmental citizenship that deviates from political activism and testifies to a civic engagement in ordinary practices, a collective environmentalism that calls for public action and democracy. Our hypothesis is that ordinary environmentalism initiatives contribute to the production of a public environment, i.e., an environment that we may qualify as public insofar as urban citizen environmentalism contributes to the public space both in terms of debates and in a concrete manner. What we call ordinary environmentalism factors in environmental practices that have hitherto been considered negligible and emphasizes their usefulness in democratizing the coproduction of everyday and ordinary environments. We need to view the emergence of ordinary environmentalism in relation to distributions and inequalities in territories from an environmental and physical, as well as from a social, point of view or from the perspective of political commitment.

Key words

commons; ordinary environmentalism; public environment; urban ecology

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087