A meta-ethnography to synthesise household cultural research for climate change response

A meta-ethnography to synthesise household cultural research for climate change response


Lesley Head, Chris Gibson, Nicholas Gill, Chantel Carr, Gordon Waitt

Organisation of Presenter:

University of Wollongong, Australia


Cultural change is critical to effective responses to climate change, but the in-depth qualitative research that most effectively investigates culture is necessarily conducted at small scales that can be difficult to integrate with policy. Adapting methods used elsewhere in the social sciences, we report and assess a meta-ethnography of household sustainability research, scaling up findings from 12 studies encompassing 276 Australian households. Seven themes are dominant: family concerns are central to household practice; adaptiveness to interruption is contingent, but more pervasive than often assumed; households make sense of the world (and climate change) through physical resources, objects and materials; boundaries of the home space are dynamic and subjective; daily time is an important currency; paradoxes abound among everyday practice; and privacy and a sense of autonomy are prioritised. We assess the method against two criteria, whether it generates new insights and is relevant for climate change response. Insights include new light on familiar themes when seen through an environmental lens, thickening and triangulation of existing research, and a stronger basis for international comparisons. On relevance, findings are uneven. Some have straightforward application to policy, others identify potential areas of risk and resistance, others still are more conceptual. We conclude the method has considerable potential and is worth developing further, providing a critical perspective is maintained.