Respect for nature at 200 km/h? Rally driving in Scotland and environmental responsibility
Mabon, Leslie James
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This thesis explores how rally drivers in Scotland perceive environmental issues and the environments through which they drive. The overarching aim behind this is to think about a group of people who may be more hostile towards questions of environmental responsibility, and look at how such stakeholders reason round their behaviours and perceive environmental issues. I argue that due to the potentially farreaching impacts of contemporary environmental challenges, it is crucial to take seriously the viewpoints and values of those who are perhaps not so willing to engage with environmental issues. The work draws on several bodies of literature. First is work in environmental philosophy on the practical contribution of this sub-discipline, in particular environmental pragmatism. Second is thinking in sociology and human geography on responsibility, especially the interface between responsibility and care. Third is recent material in geography on the body and movement, in particular the burgeoning field of automobility. These issues are addressed through a three-fold research design. Ethnographic and participatory techniques are used to foster an understanding of what exactly ‘the environment’ might mean to rally drivers (and indeed other users of the forest with whom rallying may come into conflict) and how it is experienced. In-depth interviews and subsequent narrative analysis seek to delve further into participants’ narratives and life histories in order to get a handle on how rally driving sits in relation to broader life contexts. Finally, two small-scale participatory projects with rally organisers relating to environmentally-responsible practice look at how this all comes together when participants make practical responses to environmental challenges. The key conclusions arising from the empirical data are that environmental problems are experienced through a range of senses, with different groups using different sensory ‘evidence’ to make claims about environmental damage; that in some cases stakeholders’ views of environmental issues are based on perceived conflict with others as opposed to actual conflict; and that the values activities such as motor sport may represent are just as significant as their physical environmental impacts. In terms of the broader applicability of this research, I suggest two things. Firstly, that one of the key challenges in responding to contemporary environmental issues lies in thinking through how publics link up their everyday practices with much bigger discourses on global environmental change. Secondly, that careful and critical reflection on the rich narratives of place and people, and on the range of emotions shaped by embodied experience, can go some way to explaining why people may persist with more environmentally damaging practices in spite of ethical and environmental criticisms.