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Action with(out) activism: understanding digital climate change action

Jessica Emma McLean (Department of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
Sara Fuller (Department of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 12 September 2016



A recent mainstream intervention in Australia involved the creation of a climate change communication institution, the Climate Council, from crowdfunding and support in social media. Such digital action invites further examination of supporters’ motivations. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the reported intentions and interests of the Climate Council’s supporters to gain a better understanding of mainstream climate change action in digital spaces.


This paper reports on a survey that was undertaken by the Climate Council with their Founding Friends that sought to understand their motivations for supporting the institution. The survey received over 10,000 responses. From four selected questions, the paper considers all of the quantitative responses while a random sample of 100 responses was taken from the qualitative data.


The data show that most Climate Council supporters were motivated to maintain an institution that communicates the impacts of climate change while a minority desired more political engagement by the institution. The results capture an example of action with limited conscious activism.


Digital spaces fundamentally need the interconnections between people in order to function, in a similar way to physical spaces. Nonetheless, the power of online action, in all its contradictory forms, should not be overlooked in considering the range of possibilities available to those interested in effecting meaningful social change. Even mainstream interventions, as presented in this paper, that seem to disavow climate change activism on the whole, can nevertheless produce institutional changes that defy national governance shifts.



The authors thank the Climate Council for working collaboratively with the authors on this research project. Also thanks to anonymous reviewers and editors Richard White and Tricia Wood for their work on this special issue.


McLean, J.E. and Fuller, S. (2016), "Action with(out) activism: understanding digital climate change action", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 36 No. 9/10, pp. 578-595.



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