Academic journal article Social Alternatives

A See-Change Movement as a Vehicle for Cultural Change and Local Action on Climate Change

Academic journal article Social Alternatives

A See-Change Movement as a Vehicle for Cultural Change and Local Action on Climate Change

Article excerpt


Radical change in the structure of global society, the world economy and in social responses to environmental degradation will be required to underwrite a tolerable future for future human generations. The impetus for cultural transformation of the kind required is unlikely to begin with political leaders, but is more likely to start with an informed, empowered and activated electorate.

A new movement has commenced in the suburbs of the Australian Capital Territory called 'SEE-Change'. SEE stands for Society, Environment and Economy. SEE-Change seeks to empower Australians to make informed choices for the future and to strengthen community and build resilience into the local social fabric. The movement is developing from the activities of The Nature and Society Forum, a non-government organisation whose mission is to be a 'catalyst for social change to bring about bio-sensitive societies which satisfy the needs of humankind and the Earth's ecosystems of which we are a part'. The origins, evolving theory and practices of the ACT SEE-Change movement in its inaugural eight months are described in this article.


Faced with an array of environmental and geo-political concerns, many citizens in Australia are becoming disengaged from the political process and cynical and pessimistic about the future (Eckersley 2004). Australian culture is dominated by a consumerist ethos, fuelled by an economy dedicated to unending growth (Hamilton and Denniss 2006). Any serious attempt to change from the status quo and develop an alternative vision for the 'good society' must challenge the prevalent culture and its value frame (Diamond 2004; Boyden 2004).

Origins of the SEE-Change Movement

The Canberra SEE-Change movement began with a proposal by Canberra biologist Stephen Boyden in his book The Biology of Civilization (Boyden 2004). Boyden argued that the cultural shift required to enable modern Western societies to adapt to escalating threats could begin with an educated minority who understand the threats and are searching for alternatives. Boyden called these individuals 'concerned and interested persons' (CIPs). He proposed the development of a network of 'life centres' which he saw as fulfilling three objectives:

* To bring concerned and interested people into neighbourhood groups where they could together explore the nature and scientific underpinnings of future challenges.

* To provide a venue for consideration of feasible actions by people in the local community.

* To provide local communities with a new sense of engagement, empowerment and communal goodwill.

Life centres will fill a serious gap in the institutional structure of our society by providing a new framework for constructive collaboration in the environment and health arena between community groups, scientific and professional bodies, businesses, schools, government departments and various other organizations. Their existence will reflect peoples' appreciation of the fact that we are living beings, products and part of nature, and totally dependent for our health and survival on the processes of life which underpin everything that goes on in our own personal lives and in society (Boyden 2004).

We must aim for a society in which everyone, no matter what his or her area of specialization, has a basic understanding of the human situation in realistic biological and historical perspective. Only then is the dominant culture likely to permit and promote a transition to a new kind of society - a bio sensitive and sustainable society (Boyden 2004).

In June 2006 the Nature and Society Forum, which Boyden had founded in Canberra more than a decade earlier, hosted a roundtable of 34 CIPs from a range of vocational backgrounds to consider the feasibility and viability of the Life Centre idea. The group firmly endorsed Boyden's vision and saw Canberra as a good place to test the concept. …

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