Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Attitudes toward Environmental Activism and Conservation: Independence and Norms as Moderators of Commitment to Environmental Sustainability

Kevin Joseph LeGrand, Fielding's School of Human and Organizational Development

This study addresses a central existential question humanity faces: Can we provoke adequate lifestyle change to avert ecological collapse? Prior research asserts the central role of context in shaping behaviors and suggests social contexts supportive of pro-environmental choices may reduce future environmental damage. The question that remains is why do some people act to produce such contexts (i.e., engage in environmental activism) while others, who may be as concerned about the environment, do not?

To help answer this question, this study investigated whether certain individual values (conformity and self-direction assessed by the Portrait Values Questionnaire; Schwartz, Cieciuch, Vecchione, Davidov, Fischer, Beierlein, … Konty, 2012) and perceived social norms moderate relationships between environmental concern and select environmental attitudes. Study results affirm a positive relationship between environmental concern and private-sphere pro-environmental attitudes. Level of independence (calculated as self-direction minus conformity) did not affect this relationship; norm perception (a proxy for context) had a main effect rather than interacting with environmental concern. Turning to public-sphere pro-environmental attitudes, environmental concern was a significant predictor but explained less variance here than for private-sphere attitudes. Independence was associated with greater environmental activism propensity when environmental concern was high. Perceptions of environmental activism as a social norm predicted higher environmental activism propensity across various levels of environmental concern.

This study required the development of a new instrument, the Environmental Activism Propensity (EAP) scale, which measures willingness to act to change social institutions and norms so social contexts encourage pro-environmental behavior. In addition to the study results and the EAP scale, this manuscript presents knowledge and approaches that can be put to practical use by environmental and ecological justice advocates.

Key Words: Environmental Activism, Values, Social Norms, Environmental Attitudes, Pro-Environmental Behaviors

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