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Principles of Environmental Sustainability (P00807) The Principle of Participation in Environmental Sustainability Dr Claire Haggett Lecturer in Sociology.

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Presentation on theme: "Principles of Environmental Sustainability (P00807) The Principle of Participation in Environmental Sustainability Dr Claire Haggett Lecturer in Sociology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Principles of Environmental Sustainability (P00807) The Principle of Participation in Environmental Sustainability Dr Claire Haggett Lecturer in Sociology of Sustainability

2 Why do we need to think about human behaviour and the environment? Policies and plans are for people – not developed in the abstract Have to understand how they will be received and work eg transport planning, solar panels on roofs Individual or cultural explanations – need to know which to appeal to We are all ‘people’ – move beyond high-handed attitudes Have to understand environmental attitudes and behaviour in the context of people’s lives

3 What shapes public attitudes and engagement? People – as individuals People – in contexts People – making up communities Crucial to try and understand how people think about sustainable development; and how to work with people and communities

4 Overview for today Part 1: Understanding human behaviour Public attitudes and behaviour Public response to environmental issues Break Part 2: The role and nature of participation The importance of public opinions Case study of renewable energy Part 3: Break Part 4: Discussion Part 5: Feedback and key points

5 Part 1: Understanding human behaviour Overview i) Understanding the emergence and extent of environmental concern ii) Why don’t people care more? iii) Strategies for change and encouraging environmentalism iv) Responsibility to care

6 Apollo 17 (Dec 1972) Iconic image World as a whole for the first time Able to see problems, disasters, devastation

7 i) Understanding environmental concern General trend increase Influence of specific events/issues Widespread in the population Concern and knowledge grew during the 1980’s and 1990’s DEFRA Survey of Public Attitudes to Quality of Life and to the Environment


9 Explanations for the rise in environmental concern 1. Environmental explanation 2. Interest based explanation 3. Post material values explanation 4. Cultural based explanation

10 1. Environmental explanation Environmental problems are serious… … and are getting worse? Dramatic, catastrophic nature Advances in technology, communications More able to see evidence of them

11 But: does not explain rise and fall in concern Hilgartner and Bosch (1988) Concern not directly in line with seriousness of all problems eg seals not slugs Concern does not necessarily translate into action…

12 2. Individual interest based explanations Rational individuals – will not act unless personal cost is exceeded by the sum of selected incentives Material incentives Solidarity incentives Purposive incentives


14 But – overly individualistic and simplistic to see participation in environmentalism as just about self-interest Appeal of collective goods and benefits

15 3. Post material explanations Inglehart’s Post-Material Values Thesis “The rise of the ecology movement is not simply due to the fact that the environment is in a worse condition than it used to be. Partly this development has taken place because the public has become more sensitive to the quality of the environment than it was a generation ago” (Inglehart, 1990:372). Shift from material to post-material values Idea of hierarchy of needs

16 Scarcity hypotheses – have money, so worry about environment

17 So… Satisfaction of material needs does not necessarily lead to the development of post-material values Lack of material values does not necessarily mean no post-material values Environmental Justice movement

18 Developing countries – Gallup ‘Health of the Planet’ survey of 24 nations Citizens in less economically developed nations.. much more likely to see their local environments as degraded more likely to see their national environments as degraded Just as likely to see world environmental problems as very serious..... than citizens in the wealthier nations

19 4. Cultural based explanation: The Risk Society Beck – environmentalism as a response to the ‘risk society’ Broader changes in society Technology out of control Spread of ‘bads’ rather than ‘goods’ “Hazards produced in the growth of the industrial society become predominant” (Beck, 1996:28-29). Minimising the consequences of modern society becomes more important than the accumulation of wealth

20 New characteristics of environmental risks Risks no longer tied to their place of origin Risks can affect everyone: “risks endanger all forms of life on this planet” (Beck, 1993:22). Risks are felt across space Risks are felt across time: “atomic accidents.. affect even those not yet alive at the time” (Beck, 1993:22)

21 Poverty, justice and sustainable development Minimising the consequences of modern society becomes more important than the accumulation of wealth Risks are globalised But - risks are felt differently by different people The rich may be able to buy themselves a certain amount of freedom from risk Housing, nutrition and occupation Invariably the poor who live in polluted areas, face the possibilities of contaminated food, and the prospects of hazardous jobs and working conditions

22 Impacts of environmental risks Rich countries – produce vast bulk of past and current GHGs … Yet those to suffer most from climate change will be in the developing world fewer resources for coping with storms, with floods, with droughts, with disease outbreaks, and with disruptions to food and water supplies Exporting of risk – pollution and chemicals; relaxed environmental regulations for investment

23 Environmentalism as a response to huge environmental problems and inequalities As part of a cultural shift Societal transition: goods and wealth to pollution and ‘bads’

24 ii) Why don’t we care more? Catastrophic consequences International impacts; and in the UK Media coverage Fourth Assessment Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report on understanding of the human and natural drivers of climate change, climate processes and attribution, and estimates of projected future climate change. Conclusions: Climate change is happening It is caused by human impacts The effects will last for centuries to come

25 Why don’t we care more? Issues often characterised by: Being invisible Being temporally distant Being spatially distant Being science based Lack of direct experience (mediated information) Responsibility – cannot unite against a common enemy Impacts incremental No definite deadline Huge range of causes and actions – one person’s contribution infinitesimal Environmental ‘bads’ can be social and economic goods eg cheap flights Example from India: ‘The People’s Car’

26 Practicalities Time consuming: public transport Costs higher at the point of consumption: new boiler Yucky: green nappies Lack of opportunities

27 Public deficit model If only people knew better… But people are not necessarily stupid, ignorant, or irrational They do not necessarily lack information More reports will not necessarily correlate with increased ‘environmentalism’ Environmental attitudes and behaviour have to be understood in context

28 iii) Strategies for change 1. General information provision 2. Reducing opportunities for ‘ungreen’ behaviour 3. Sticks 4. Carrots 5. Inciting fear 6. Small, incremental, tangible change

29 1. General information provision Most frequent but not most effective: providing general information, and providing information about consequences

30 2) Reducing opportunities Reducing opportunities for ‘un-green’ behaviour 47% of C0 2 emissions from homes Climate Change Bill Phasing out ‘stand-by’ buttons Energy saving light bulbs Easier decision making or removing people’s choice?


32 3) Encouraging environmentalism: sticks Punishments Regulation Polluters pays Not just ‘pollution’ Pay-as-you-throw Road pricing Low Emission Zone: £200 charge for lorries in London ‘Sledgehammer’ approach Would individuals choose to do this without (large) financial penalties? Is the Govt right to think of the greater good (air quality, illness and death) – and force drivers to do this? Doesn’t encourage support for specific or wider incentives

33 4) Encouraging environmentalism: carrots Rewarding or making easier ‘green’ behaviour Free home insulation Grants for solar panels Reduced council tax for energy efficient homes HIPs Car share schemes Personal, social, community rewards…

34 5) Inciting fear Inducing regret; arousing fear Least effective: elated

35 6) Small, incremental, tangible change Most effective: setting specific goals; prompt reviews of behaviour; generate community-talk, engaging people in locally relevant ideas You do influence people by helping us to see what we want to do Induces goodwill and the experience of facilitation Enhances authority Promotes mobilisation

36 Example 1: TEU Collected ‘waste’ from departing student’s halls 7 tonnes of waste was collected from a pool of 4000 departing students and diverted from landfill. 3 tonnes of carbon saved Goods given a new home - reducing consumption, waste and saving students money

37 Charity: ‘Freshstart’ An estimated 1000 people attended during the first three hours of the event The engagement team talked to those in the very long queue about different programmes and signed up people who want to participate in other events Wider consequences…?

38 Responsibility: ‘Other’ people Other people’s behaviour, and what they should and shouldn’t do eg environmentalists and flying ‘If only everyone else would drive less..’


40 Other people We all engage in un/green behaviour We are all ‘other people’ Can we expect ‘other people’ to do things we wouldn’t be prepared to do ourselves?

41 Summary of this lecture: The importance of understanding human behaviour Rise of environmentalism Environmental explanation Interest based explanations Post material explanations Cultural shifts; societal transitions Factors that influence the relationship between problems and concern

42 Summary of this lecture: The importance of understanding human behaviour Different strategies to encourage environmentalism All important because Have to understand how policies will be received and work eg transport planning Information, fear or incentives Behaviour as interest based? Or culturally informed?

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