Climate Change

Topics: Environmentalism, Natural environment, Environment Pages: 11 (3081 words) Published: January 16, 2013

March 2012

Chapter 1

Energy conservation research in the mid-1980s found that even people who are knowledgeable about an environmental issue and the steps needed to address it often do not take action to change their behavior (Pelletier, Tuson, Green-Demers, Noels, & Beaton, 1998). In addition, research in the mid-1990s illustrated that while environmental interest and concern has become more prevalent, few people take steps to alter their environmental behaviors in day-to-day life (Blake, 1999). This represents a discrepancy between knowledge and understanding of environmental issues and actively taking steps to reduce one’s impact, better known as the “value-action gap” (Blake, 1999; Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). This idea illustrates that simply providing individuals with information does not necessarily lead to behavior change. Also, this research indicates that while a large number of people might indicate awareness and understanding of an environmental issue or problem and also behaviors to mitigate that problem, fewer people actually follow through and take action to remedy the problem.

Blake identified several factors as possible explanations for this gap, including individuality, responsibility, and practicality (Blake, 1999). Individual barriers are those that are person-specific, related to that individual’s attitudes and beliefs. An individual who is not interested in environmental issues or feels that other topics require more attention is less likely to adopt an environmental behavior. The second factor Blake described, responsibility, is a common barrier to action in terms of environmental issues. Many individuals feel that one person should not be responsible for the health of the environment or that one person’s actions cannot make a difference, leading many people to not adopt an environmental behavior. The final barrier, practicality, represents constraints that would prevent an individual from taking action. By feeling that they have a lack of time, money, or information, many individuals feel unable to adopt an environmental behavior, even if they have a positive attitude toward it.

There have been conflicting approaches suggested as the best way to address this “value-action gap” and to increase the likelihood that environmental knowledge can successfully lead to behavior change (Barr & Gilg, 2006). While some researchers assert that educating the public on specific environmental topics and actions is the best approach to spurring action, this is contrary to the idea of the “value-action gap,” which does not necessarily include a deficit in environmental knowledge. Others argue that better understanding individual characteristics and the social context in which environmental behavior occurs is more critical to ensuring the adoption of individual environmental actions.

A 2007 study in Hong Kong looked specifically at the “value-action gap” associated with recycling among college students and attempted to identify the reasons behind this gap. Chung & Leung’s (2007) study found that nearly half of the respondents would regularly throw items they knew to be recyclable into the regular trash receptacles. In addition, the study found that 98 percent of those particular respondents agreed or strongly agreed that individuals have a responsibility to help protect the environment and those same respondents also do recycle on occasion. These results support the idea of the “value-action gap,” clearly illustrating that this large percentage of respondents, while understanding the importance of a specific environmental action and feeling a responsibility for the environmental behavior (i.e., recycling), do not consistently carry out that behavior.

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