«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
Moreover, the IWF has the unique capacity to invite for the discovery and articulation of one’s worldview, by supporting individuals to articulate the answers to these foundational worldview-questions. For example Taylor has emphasized in his discussion of ‘inescapable frameworks’ how worldviews are not necessarily our official views and ideologies, but tend to be more subtle–often subconscious and unarticulated, even suppressed and resisted (C. Taylor, 80 1989). In order to live up to the creative responsibility that our worldviews bring, the task at hand is of contemplation, articulation, reflection, creation, and invention. The IWF could therefore also be used as a (practice-oriented) tool aiming to both generate awareness, responsibility, and reflexivity within individuals, as well as foster dialogue, exchange, and learning between individuals.
This will be discussed more extensively in chapter eight, where I address policy and communicative implications of insight into and understanding of worldviews.
2.5.2 Reflexivity, creativity, responsibility, and inclusiveness: crucial for sustainable development As the philosophical review shows, the concept of worldview, and the cultural evolution it is an expression of, appears significant and powerful, especially as it is associated with an increasing reflexivity, responsibility, creativity, and inclusiveness (see summary and discussion). These qualities seem to be of crucial importance in the context of our current planetary sustainability-issues.
In the first place, reflexivity appears to be significant for the sustainable development debate, as it opens a space for discussions in which addressing environmental issues can go hand in hand with an open investigation of the (often unconscious) ideas about modernization, development, and quality of life that have led to the environmental crisis, and to discussions of the role of alternative visions about the meaning of development (O' Brien et al., 2010). As argued in the introduction, the concept of sustainable development demands this kind of reflexivity, as it does not specify what kind of development or way of life is to be sustained (De Vries & Petersen, 2009). Moreover, because of the complex and imperfectly understood interdependencies in the systems affected, global environmental issues tend to be seen as wicked problems—that is, problems that are beyond the reach of mere technological knowledge and traditional forms of governance (Hulme, 2009). Therefore, the idea of climate change should be used, in the words of Hulme (2009), “to rethink and renegotiate our wider social goals about how and why we live on this planet” (p. 325), thereby enacting environmental issues as an opportunity to ask essential questions and invite for deep reflection on our worldviews, values, and vision for the future, on our relationships to nature and our fellow human beings. More generally speaking, in the literature on climate governance, reflexivity is regularly held up as something to aspire to (Huitema et al., 2011). The here presented IWF may 81 provide theoretical, empirical, and practical support for such reflection and exploration.
Moreover, for realizing the transitions to a (more) sustainable society, creativity may very well be the keyword. Starting to imagine different trajectories, different modes of production and consumption, a different way of living and being—that is, an altogether different future—may very well be the first step in bringing that world into being. Reflexivity and creativity therefore seem related capacities, as reflexivity opens up the space to consider other—and thus also new and creative—possibilities and potentials. O’Brien speaks in this context of the inner and subjective dimensions of adaptation, or cultural adaption, emphasizing how a society’s capacity for adaptation (e.g. to climate change) is profoundly influenced by individual’s values, worldviews, and cultural capital, including the potential for creativity, innovation, and imagination (O' Brien, 2009). Additionally, the emerging insight that the way we view the world also enacts and co-creates our world, tends to enhance one’s sense of responsibility.
This is obviously very important in addressing our current challenges. An interesting example is the idea that humans simply do not have the capacity to affect the climate—an idea that very likely obstructs a prompt and effective response to climate change. Simultaneously, several commentators have observed how the concept of anthropogenic climate change and its potentially catastrophic consequences for (human) life on earth may challenge certain worldviews and instigate a new sense of responsibility (Hulme, 2009) Lastly, reflexivity and inclusiveness are necessary for (intercultural) communication and cooperation across different actors, stakeholders, partnerships, and networks, which are becoming increasingly important in the process of forging a more sustainable society (Glasbergen, Biermann, & Mol, 2007). Such (communication) processes ask for the inclusion of a plurality of value-perspectives, as represented by a diversity of stakeholders. Awareness of the nature and presence of worldviews has the potential to support such inclusion, as the process of reflection tends to break down the absoluteness of one’s own worldview or (sub)culture and thereby increases the capacity to understand, empathize, and thus communicate and cooperate with individuals and institutions embedded in other perspectives. Additionally, for (environmental) policy-makers, politicians, and campaigners, a reflexive 82 understanding of, as well as a capacity to include and thus speak to, different worldviews is arguably critical, as their effectiveness appears to be greatly influenced by the extent to which their messages are able to resonate with the Zeitgeist. For example, several studies have shown that the same information or campaign can have an entirely different effect on different groups of people (Bronner & Reuling, 2002; Brook, 2011), thereby demonstrating the need for more attunement to how information is processed, interpreted, and valued among individuals with diverging value-orientations and worldviews. Hence, an understanding of a multitude of worldviews seems highly relevant in the context of facilitating processes of communication and collaboration for a more sustainable world.
The evolution of the worldview-concept and the reflexivity, creativity, responsibility, and inclusiveness that it fosters as well as expresses appears to be of crucial importance for the larger sustainable development debate. The IWF is developed in order to support the process of exploration of and reflection on our worldviews—individual as well as collective, in research and in practice— thereby aiming to contribute to a process of cultural and social change towards a more sustainable society.
83 84 Chapter 3 Exploring worldviews and their relationships to sustainable lifestyles: Towards a new conceptual and methodological approach 85
3.1 Introduction A change of behaviors in a more sustainable direction is generally considered to be of vital importance for realizing the urgently needed transition to an ecological economy and society (Buenstorf & Cordes, 2008; World Watch Institute, 2008). Such sustainable behaviors include pro-ecological, frugal, altruistic, and equitable behaviors, and there is empirical evidence showing significant interrelationships among those different types of actions (Corral Verdugo, 2012; De Young, 1993; Schultz, 2001). Such behaviors thus involve aspects of individual lifestyles—such as consumer and dietary choices, use of energy and transportation, political priorities, support for policy measures, and contributions to societal change. However, such everyday choices, which can also be seen as important drivers of spending patterns and economic trends, are generally understood to be difficult to alter. Not only are there many structural (e.g. economic, infrastructural, institutional, social-practical) barriers for changing behaviors and lifestyles, they also tend to be deeply embedded in worldviews, values, and cultural associations and habits (Gifford, 2011; Schösler & Hedlund-de Witt, 2012; Shove, Pantzar, & Watson, 2012; Sorin, 2010). This has also been called ‘the double embedding of attitudes’ (Hernes, 2012).
Worldviews, the inescapable frameworks of meaning and meaning-making that profoundly inform our very understanding and enactment of reality, appear to be particularly relevant in this context. Not only do they tend to shape how individuals perceive particular (ecological) issues and their potential solutions, they also tend to influence their willingness to partake in such solutions themselves, as well as their (political) support for addressing the issue societally (Gifford, 2011; Kempton et al., 1995). Worldviews thus profoundly influence perceptions of human-environment relationships, thereby informing environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles. Take for example the consumption of organic food. The origination of organic agriculture in the beginning of the 20 century has frequently been associated with shifting views th on and feelings towards nature (Schösler et al., 2013; Verdonk, 2009; Vogt, 2007). Such changing perspectives on the human-nature relationship—e.g. from domination over nature towards participation with nature—may point at larger processes of changing worldviews in society (Campbell, 2007; Hedlund-de Witt, 2011; Van den Born, 2008), thereby supporting economic and political trends, 86 such as the global growth in the organic food industry (LEI, 209) and the emergence of political support for ecological agriculture. Therefore, in order to better understand the nature and structure of (more) sustainable lifestyles, insight into worldviews and how they function and change in society appears to be of substantial relevance (De Vries & Petersen, 2009; Hulme, 2009; O' Brien, 2009).
As a field of study, the concept or construct of worldview is still young, and to date, there is no formal (scientific) general theory of worldview available (Koltko-Rivera, 2004).34 At the same time, and paradoxically so, as Kearney (1975) noted more than three decades ago, literature about worldview-related subjects permeates the social sciences, including sociology, psychology, and anthropology. In fact, the intangibles—that is, the worldviews, values, and attitudes—that seem to underlie and interact with (more) sustainable behaviors and lifestyles have been explored for decades. As a result, a large body of research has built up on the issue of what explains individual differences in such behaviors (see e.g. Kaiser, Wölfing, & Fuhrer, 1999; Milfont & Duckitt, 2004;
Schultz & Zelezny, 1999). While values have been conceptualized as important life goals or standards (Rokeach, 1973), environmental attitudes have been defined as “the collection of beliefs, affect, and behavioral intentions a person holds regarding environmentally related activities or issues” (Schultz et al., 2004, p.
The more encompassing concept of worldview is generally understood to consist of foundational assumptions and perceptions “regarding the underlying nature of reality, ‘proper’ social relations or guidelines for living, or the existence or non-existence of important entities” (Koltko-Rivera, 2004, p. 5). As argued in chapter two, worldviews are understood here as the inescapable, overarching systems of meaning and meaning-making that substantially inform how humans interpret, enact, and co-create reality, and thus contain, for example, values and environmental attitudes. Although the concept of worldview has not been a central focus in existing approaches in the field of environmental behavior and 34 Although one can find aspects of the worldview-construct under other names (e.g.
schema’s, values) in the literature of a number of psychological subdisciplines, there appears to be a neglect of the concept in the mainstream psychological literature. As Koltko-Rivera (2004) describes this situation: “One comes away with the impression that worldview is the most important construct that the typical psychologist has never heard of” (p. 4).
87 psychology, precisely because of its overarching nature it may be particularly suitable to come to a more comprehensive understanding of the explanatory mechanisms underlying individual differences in (more) sustainable behaviors, as well as generate insight into how existing approaches are related to each other. Also others have argued that the concept of worldview may have the potential to function as an integrative framework with which to investigate the interaction of beliefs, values, and attitudes (K. A. Johnson et al., 2011; KoltkoRivera, 2004).
This study, then, aims to support research into worldviews and their relationships to (more) sustainable lifestyles, by analyzing and critically challenging existing measures as well as by developing a new conceptual and methodological approach that attempts to build forth on their strengths and surpass their identified limitations. First, a literature review is provided in which multiple survey-approaches, stemming from different disciplinary and theoretical traditions, are summarized and explored. Subsequently, a meta-analysis is presented that identifies several limitations to these measures, as well as potentially opportune directions for a new survey approach. On the basis of this analysis it is concluded that, optimally, an approach to exploring worldviews in relationship to sustainable behavior should be comprehensive and systematic, measure structural worldview beliefs and assumptions, and be able to account for human and cultural development. Then, the Integrative Worldview Framework (IWF) is proposed, aiming to support such a systematic, comprehensive, structural, and dynamic conceptualization of the worldview construct. This framework enables one to operationalize the somewhat abstract and complex concept of worldview in the context of empirical research (such as survey studies), highlighting that a worldview is not a patchwork of loosely related phenomena but a coherent pattern or system that integrates seemingly isolated ideas into a common whole (Campbell, 2007; Inglehart & Welzel, 2005; K. A.
Johnson et al., 2011). Moreover, in contrast with existing measures that are frequently based on one or two central binaries (e.g. new environmental paradigm versus dominant social paradigm, intrinsic versus instrumental values of nature), this framework is based on a more dynamic, dialecticaldevelopmental perspective (see e.g. Habermas, 1976; Kahn, 1999; Kegan, 1982;