T08P02 - Postmodern Strategies for Enhanced Environmental Policymaking

Topic : Policy Discourse and Critical Policy Research

Panel Chair : Scott Valentine - scott.valentine@nus.edu.sg

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

Call for papers

Session 1 Shaping Minds and Public Perception


Frank Fischer - ffischer@gmx.com - University of Kassel and Rutgers University - Germany

Challenging the Discourse of Magical Thinking and Individual Responsibility in Environmental Policymaking

Michael Maniates - michael.maniates@yale-nus.edu.sg - Yale-NUS College - Singapore

Since the mid-1980s, a narrative of individual responsibility for environmental ills, propagated in large part by the ascendency of green consumption, has deeply insinuated itself into popular and institutional understandings of sustainability.  In this familiar, ubiquitous narrative, one demonstrates true commitment to progressive environmental policymaking by adopting important markers of a green lifestyle, and by encouraging others to do the same.  This magical thinking – that deeply structural problems are easily rectified via the aggregation of spontaneous acts of environmental goodwill – abounds.  The result, as this paper documents, is a deepening narrative of guilt coupled with a perverse sort of identity politics largely unfamiliar to dominant environmental discourses of the 1960s and 70s.


Theologian and environmentalist Martin Palmer gets it right when he notes that “environmentalists have stolen fear, guilt and sin from religion, but they have left behind celebration, hope and redemption.”  This penumbra  of guilt and personal culpability, accelerated and institutionalized within dominant forms of environmental policymaking described in the paper, fuels a micro-politics inimical to the varieties of multi-stakeholder engagement and conversation of concern to this panel.  It produces and reinforces, especially in the domains of food production, mobility, waste disposal, and sustainable consumption, a deliberative frame that unproductively privileges an "ABC" approach (attitude-behavior-context) to multi-stakeholder engagement. This paper analyses these dynamics from historical and political-economic vantage points, and ends with an assessment of more promising narrative trajectories rooted in celebration, hope and redemption. 


The paper builds on previously published work, including “Make Way for Hope: A Contrarian View,” Nicholson and Jinnah, eds., New Earth Politics: Essays from the Anthropocene (MIT Press 2016) and survey research around the narrative of guilt nearing completion.

Shaping Perceptions, Winning Hearts: Japan’s Strategic Construction of Nuclear Power Support

Scott Valentine - scott.valentine@nus.edu.sg - LKY School of PUblic Policy - Singapore

This paper centers on a chronological study of the development of Japan’s nuclear power program. It documents how the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan systematically insulated the nuclear power regime from civic and political scrutiny before embarking on a campaign that eventually reversed public opinion – from 70% opposed to nuclear power to 70% in favor. Japan’s nuclear power development story speaks to the effectiveness of stakeholder management in designing public policy. It contributes to post-modern literature in tying stakeholder management to marketing theory. It is also a highly salient topic in today’s energy sector as there is evidence that this strategy is once again in play in Japan and might be effectively used in other nations to prepare citizens for energy mix transitions.

Towards an effective environmental policy: A conceptual model of public support

Calvin Wan - spcalvin@speed-polyu.edu.hk - School of Professional Education and Executive Development, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University - Hong Kong, (China)

Most environmental policies aim at invoking behavioral change of target population for alleviating the deteriorating environmental problems through different policy instruments. In practice, however, public resistant behavior may inhibit the effectiveness of environmental policies and could lead to failure of policy goals’ attainment. Different from traditional research which analyzes policy effectiveness from the perspective of institutional structure or bureaucratic capability, this study introduces behavioral insights for analyzing and designing (or re-designing) environmental policies. It is argued that target population’s resistant behavior, such as unwillingness to make necessary environmental behavior changes in accordance with the policy has prescribed, creates a lack of policy support and accounts for the ineffectiveness of most environmental policies.


To pursuit an effective environmental policy, it is necessary to answer questions like what constitutes policy support, how policy support works for the attainment of policy goals, and what implications it would offer to the design of an effective policy. A dual-interaction conceptual model is constructed for systematic examination of policy supportive behavior. It is suggested that policy support (i.e., showing positive responses to policy) is shaped by interactions of target population and two proposed forces, that is, internal force (psychological dimension) and external force (political dimension). On the one hand, engaging in and making changes towards environmental behavior are determined by psychological perceptions and attitudes. On the other hand, policy characteristics as well as relationship between target population and the authority influence our decisions of making responses to policy instruments. Only by disaggregating the supportive behavior in this way allows for a more thorough analysis of environmental behavior and optimizing conditions for policy effectiveness.


Drawing upon the literature in the areas of environmental psychology and political science, a conceptual model explaining public support for environmental policies is developed. The conceptual model offers policy-makers insights into the origin of (in)effectiveness that appears in most environmental policies, and provides guidelines to effective policy design and make a better connection between citizens and policy instruments.

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