Parochialism (a focus on a local area) is often viewed negatively, and is sometimes seen as being akin to “nimbyism” — characterised by insularity and selfishness. But researchers from the University of Exeter argue that “positive parochialism” could be a foundation for environmental concern and action.

Their study revisits the Parish Maps project instigated in 1987 by UK arts and environment charity Common Ground, and finds the project offers a “foundation for ecological concern that remains relevant today.”

“The Parish Maps project was hugely popular at the time, but has been somewhat overlooked since it ended,” said Professor Patrick Devine-Wright, of the University of Exeter.

“It led to a huge upswell in local environmentalism and the creation of thousands of maps across the UK and beyond. We argue that it represents parochialism without the negative connotations many people associate with that word.

“We did not find evidence that parochialism was inevitably negative and inward-looking. It can be those things, but there’s no necessary conflict between feeling connected to your local area and feeling connected to the wider world.

“For a long time, the consensus has been that if we want people to think about global issues they need a cosmopolitan world view — but this may not be the case. “Given where we are now in terms of trying to encourage people to make changes to help the environment, ‘positive parochialism’ offers something that has been overlooked.”

Read more at University of Exeter