20 October 2021

It seems to be the only thing talked about at the moment: COP26. Our Research Manager Channa talks about what it really means for communities.

If your inbox is anything like mine, you will be overwhelmed by newsletters, articles, and predictions for might happen at COP. It’s a hot topic (yes, in more than one way!). But if your thinking is anything like mine, you might wonder how all of these meetings in Glasgow relate to what you experience on a day-to-day basis.

Not only are these conferences often abstract, full of academic and policy jargon, but they also focus on big plans and goals for coming decades, whereas I want to know how to act now! Besides eating local, cutting down meat and dairy, driving less, bringing reusable bags, what else is hidden in all these recent studies that might help people like us to contribute?

At Eden Project Communities we have been involved in two research studies ourselves. One was commissioned by us and focused specifically on the links between pro-environmental behaviours and community cohesion. This research was conducted by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research and is currently in the final stages of wrapping up.

The second research piece, Communities vs Climate Change: the power of local action, was led by New Local, and was done in partnership with us, GroundworkGrosvenor and us. Both of the research piece are worth reading through in full, but there is one element they have in common which really caught my eye. Both of them show us that activities within a community don’t need to be specifically targeted as being environmental or fighting climate change, in order to have a positive environmental impact. Let me explain.

Even the simplest acts of greeting your neighbours, making others feel seen and appreciated, builds community cohesion. It builds a sense of belonging. It builds local pride. And naturally, when you feel proud, you are more likely to look after what you’ve got and protect it.

There are various examples where a similar logic applies to community projects or The Big Lunch. A project might aim to create spaces for people at risk of isolation to come together, but when people get to know each other, have conversations about their local area (or even the weather!), it starts planting the seeds of appreciation and pride. Besides that, when you know your neighbours, it increases social capital, which in turn makes it much easier to take collective action such as contacting local officials about an environmental issue, or deciding to take up responsibility for a local green space.

So my message for anyone who feels a bit overwhelmed by everything COP and climate change related would be to start simple. Don’t give up reducing your plastic, eating sustainably sourced food and doing everything you can reasonably do as individual, but don’t be too rigid and tough on yourself either.

Start local, start conversations and see where this takes you. And bear in mind that even if you don’t see it yourself, little acts of being neighbourly add up and can create both social and environmental impact.

Even the simplest acts of greeting your neighbours, making others feel seen and appreciated, builds community cohesion. It builds a sense of belonging. It builds local pride. And naturally, when you feel proud, you are more likely to look after what you’ve got and protect it.