CH 3 â€śThe Links between Environmental Attitudes and Behaviorsâ€?
This chapter explored links between environmental belief systems and the opinions, attitudes, and behaviors derived from them. I learned how to differentiate between the terms â€śbeliefâ€?, â€śvalueâ€?, â€śattitudeâ€? and â€śopinion.â€?
-Beliefs are assumptions by which we understand things and live our lives
-Values are statements about the way things â€śshouldâ€? be
-Attitudes express a positive or negative evaluation of another person, idea, or entity
-Opinions are a publicly expressed preference
Since the word â€śenvironmentalistâ€? tends to be a loaded word today and is often used to stereotype extremely diverse set of beliefs it is important to come to a better understanding of what it really means. According to the New Oxford English Dictionary, an environmentalist is â€śa person who is concerned about or seeks to protect the environment, especially from pollutionâ€? (Corbett, 59). This is clearly a very broad definition and explains why such a wide variety of people might identify themselves as environmentalists when in fact they may behave very differently toward the environment. It was interesting to come across a list of demographics that are most closely associated with a concern for the environment. These include being young, female, colored, educated, upper-class, liberal and urban. Some of these results seem counter-intuitive to what kind of person you would think of as an environmentalist as portrayed by the media. I personally would think of an older white man. In order to test your own ecological worldview the most widely accepted test is the New Ecological Paradigm Scale (Corbett, 64). Public opinion polls have found that the majority of Americans support environmental protection, but do they really strive for it? By this decade it is increasingly popular, but still not everyone who says they support it behaves in the same way.
The three most important factors that determine our position are awareness, personal conduct knowledge, and environmental literacy. Why is there still a disconnect between attitudes and behaviors? We are a culture governed by a paradigm based on continual growth and consumption. There are many other factors that influence our attitudes and behaviors such as this. How can we actually demonstrate environmental concern? There are many ways and varying degrees of engagement including environmental activisim (the most intense like monetary donations), nonactivist behavior in the public sphere (writing letters to political leaders), private sphere environmentalism (green consumerism), and actions within organizations to which we belong (designing less packaging for a product). There is no way we can guarantee a personâ€™s behavior, although a personâ€™s values are relatively stable across lifetimes and become important predictors (Corbett, 73). The bottom line is that there isnâ€™t any top-down message to cause people to support environmentalism. We are far too complex social and psychological beings. It does matter, however, what messages are communicated to us. For example, advertisements on TV almost always encourage consumption. Maybe we get a tax rebate for buying energy efficient appliances though. Perhaps a new public transport system is built in our city. Achieving social change in small or large ways must cross and include all levels: individual, societal, cultural and even global.