We are not idealists: A qualitative case study on the role of residents’ climate change concerns in rural mobility practices

University essay from Lunds universitet/Miljövetenskaplig utbildning

Abstract: Citizens concerned about climate change could represent a potential for changes in everyday travel behaviour in a less carbon intensive way, or even put public pressure on governmental decisions to mitigate climate change emissions from the transport sector. Situated in the context of rural residents’ everyday life in Denmark, this study explores how the role of climate change concerns within residents’ everyday travel practices might be understood. The study draws upon 6 in-depth interviews with residents living in two rural villages in Northern Denmark. The findings highlight a concern among the residents that does not translate significantly into changed travel behaviour. I draw on the work of Kari Marie Norgaard to explain how the residents’ arguments for this represent cultural tools available to them and provide legitimising strategies for their behaviour. Combined with a social practice analysis of the residents’ prevalent mobility practices (car driving, public transport and cycling), the study concludes that the role of climate change concerns in the everyday mobility practices has several aspects. These can have negative, positive or neutral impacts on the actual mobility practices, such as a strengthened identity marker on utility cycling that framed the practice as unattainable, or a positively reinforcing role in sustaining low carbon practices. The study also proposes potentially positive roles for concerns, and subsequently points to the need for more knowledge on preconditions to low carbon mobility practices in rural areas, and social scientific understanding of the tensions between travel behaviour as either a private or political issue.

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