«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
Wilber, 2000). The chapter concludes that this framework may have substantial 88 potential to support studies investigating the relationships between worldviews, environmental attitudes, and sustainable lifestyles. Finally, directions for potential future research are outlined.
3.2 Literature review: Research into worldviews and values In this section, I discuss a sample of five, generally widely used and frequently cited approaches (e.g. Dunlap, Van Liere, Mertig, & Jones, 2000; Mayer & McPherson Frantz, 2004; Milfont & Duckitt, 2004; Schultz & Zelezny, 1999; S.
C. Thompson & Barton, 1994) that stem from distinct disciplinary and theoretical traditions, such as social and environmental psychology, political science, environmental philosophy, and value theory. In this way, I aim to cover the most exemplary approaches to researching worldviews and values vis-à-vis sustainable behaviors and lifestyles, as well as insure some degree of diversity among them. Most of these approaches tend to be conceptually and methodologically formulated around one or two central binaries.35 This section is therefore structured according to this observation.
3.2.1 New Environmental Paradigm: Ecological interconnectedness versus human exemption The most widely used scale for exploring environmental worldviews in the past few decades is the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP; see e.g. Dunlap, 1980, 2008; Dunlap et al., 2000). The NEP aims to measure the adherence of individuals to an “ecological worldview,” which, in contrast with the Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP), acknowledges “the fact that human societies depend on their biophysical environment for survival” (Dunlap, 1980, p. 5). According to the authors, the DSP starts from the assumption that, unlike other species, Homo 35 However, this binary structure does not characterize all existing approaches. An example is the Human-and-Nature scale (HaN-Scale), which differentiates several images of relationship between humans and nature, ranging from ‘master,’ ‘steward,’ ‘partner,’ to ‘participant.’ ((M. De Groot et al., 2011; Van den Born, 2008)). However, as has been noted by the authors themselves, these different images of relationship may be interpreted as a (binary) scale of degree of anthropocentricity. Moreover, the HaN-scale is primarily focused on the relationship between humans and nature, and is thus of limited use for investigating worldviews more comprehensively.
89 Sapiens is exempt from ecological constraints. In contrast, the environmental paradigm calls attention to the fact that human beings are governed by the same physical laws that regulate the growth and development of all other species. This new paradigm thus rejects the “exemptionalist” perspective on human societies (Dunlap, 1980). The conceptualization of the NEP focuses on beliefs about humanity’s ability to upset the balance of nature, the existence of limits to growth for human societies, and humanity’s right to rule over the rest of nature, plus (in the updated version) the estimated likelihood of an ecological catastrophe, and a stance of anti-anthropocentrism. Although the NEP has proven to be, especially at the time of its conception, a highly innovative approach with fairly strong psychometric properties (e.g. strong internal reliability), the scale has been criticized for its lack of unidimensionality and its lack of predictive power concerning environmental behavior (see e.g. Dunlap, 2008; Scott & Willits, 1994). Moreover, other authors have argued that while the NEP emphasizes the instrumental and ecological interconnectedness between human beings and nature, the intrinsic and spiritual connection seems not-well captured (Lockwood, 1999; Van den Born, 2008). In the context of global environmental issues, environmental philosophers have frequently underscored the significance of such an intrinsic, spiritual, or metaphysical sense of interconnectedness. According to some, the natural world, when seen as devoid of an intrinsic or spiritual dimension, will be automatically perceived in an instrumental and materialistic fashion—even when human being and nature are understood as physically interconnected (see e.g. B. Taylor, 2010; White, 1967;
Wilber, 1995; Zweers, 2000). And it is precisely this instrumental, materialistic position that has frequently been claimed to lead to the exploitation and destruction of nature (Duintjer, 1988; Lemaire, 2002; Leopold, 1949; Naess, 1989; White, 1967; Wilber, 1995; Zweers, 2000). Thus, failing to address the intrinsic, spiritual, and/or metaphysical dimension of the connectivity between humanity and nature, the NEP seems to be based on a somewhat conceptually deficient understanding of this relationship.
90 3.2.2 Intrinsic versus instrumental value of nature, ecocentric versus anthropocentric attitudes The intrinsic value of nature is a central notion in the environmental debate, and its rejection or acceptance a recurring theme in research on the determinants of environmental attitudes and behavior. Van den Born, Lenders, De Groot, and Huijsman (2001) give an overview of the research on this topic, and conclude that “it appears that the general public in Europe and the USA has developed a strong general ‘biophilia,’ nature-friendliness. One indicator of this is that in quantitative research, 70 to 90% percent of the population recognizes the right of nature to exist, even when it is not useful to humans in any way” (p. 65).
Furthermore, research supports the finding that people who ‘believe’ in intrinsic value—that is to say, who see nature as valuable in its own right, also when it is of no practical, economic, or even esthetical, or recreational use for human beings—are more inclined to pro-environmental behavior than those who reject the idea of nature’s intrinsic value. Thompson and Barton (1994) therefore distinguish between what they call ecocentric and anthropocentric attitudes, a distinction based on the differentiation between spiritual and instrumental views of people-environment relations (see also Stokols, 2004). Ecocentric individuals value nature for its own sake and, therefore, judge that it deserves protection because of its intrinsic value or “the transcendental dimension” (S. C. Thompson & Barton, 1994, p. 150). In contrast, so-called anthropocentrics emphasize that the environment should be protected because of its value in maintaining or enhancing the quality of life for humans, which can be called instrumental value.
Although both ecocentrics and anthropocentrics express environmental concern and an interest in preserving natural resources, their motives are different, as well as their concrete behaviors and initiatives towards (protecting) the environment: “Those who saw nature as valuable in its own right expressed less overall environmental apathy, were more likely to conserve and joined more environmental organizations. In contrast, a belief in preserving nature for humanity was associated with more apathy about the environment, less conserving behavior, and membership in fewer ecologically-oriented organizations” (p. 153).
A similar theme was found in the work of Dietz et al. (1998), who found a link between viewing nature as sacred—either ‘because it is created by God,’ 91 or because it ‘is spiritual or sacred in itself’—and the willingness to sacrifice and pro-environmental consumer behavior. This in contrast with those who supported the statement that ‘nature is important, but not spiritual or sacred.’ The reason for the sacredness of nature appeared to make an important difference: individuals who believed nature is sacred because it is created by God were more likely to sacrifice than either of the other groups, and proenvironmental consumer behavior was reported most frequently by those who saw nature as sacred in itself (Dietz et al., 1998). This research thus seems to suggest that viewing nature as sacred or spiritual is conducive to environmental behavior, but that the specific nature of the religious or spiritual beliefs are important in how that comes to expression.
3.2.3 Self-transcendence versus self-enhancement, openness to change versus conservation Other studies showed specific sets of values to be positive predictors of environmental behaviors. Several studies have been based upon Schwartz’ value-theory (1994; S. H. Schwartz & Bilsky, 1987, 1990), in which values are arranged along two dimensions, self-transcendence versus self-enhancement, and openness to change versus conservation. In any culture, individual values will fall along the dimensional continuum of self-enhancement to self-transcendence.
This dimension reflects the distinction between values oriented toward the pursuit of self-interest (even at the expense of others) and values that relate to a concern for the welfare of others (close and distant, and of nature). In the environmental-psychological literature it has been argued that instead of the distinction between self and other, also the differentiation between the (human) other and the (non-human) environment may be relevant for understanding environmental beliefs and intentions. The three different value orientations are then egoistic (care for self), social-altruistic (care for others) and biospheric (care for nature and the environment) (Schultz, 2001). According to Snelgar (2006), these different value-orientations display a continuum ranging from self to otherness from self (comparable with Schwartz distinction between selfenhancement and self-transcendence). Although some studies have not supported the distinction between the biospheric and the social-altruistic value 92 orientation empirically (Stern, Dietz, & Gaugnano, 1998), others found the distinction into three value orientations to be of sufficient internal consistency (J. I. M. De Groot & Steg, 2008; Hansla, Gamble, Juliusson, & Gärling, 2008).
The second dimension contrasts ‘openness to change’ with ‘conservation,’ arraying values in terms of the extent to which they motivate people to follow their own intellectual and emotional interests in unpredictable and uncertain directions versus to preserve the status quo and the certainty it provides in relationship with close others, institutions, and traditions (S. H. Schwartz, 1994).
Karp (1996) found that valuing self-transcendence/openness to change appeared to be a strong positive predictor of pro-environmental behavior, whereas valuing self-enhancement/conservation appeared to be a strong negative predictor. Grob (1995) generated similar results: “the most important effects on environmental behavior come from personal-philosophical values, i.e. postmaterialistic values and openness to new thinking positively influence environmental behavior” (p. 215). Schultz and Zelezny (1999) confirmed selftranscendence and openness to change to be positively correlated with the NEP and ecocentrism, and found this pattern to be consistent across multiple countries. However, in their understanding self-transcendence reflects a broader, more inclusive orientation to self-benefit, rather than it being the result of self-sacrifice. In their view, people who score high on self-enhancement have a narrow definition of self that does not include other people or other living things.
In contrast, self-transcendence reflects a broader cognitive representation of self, and measures the degree to which a person includes other people and other living things in their notion of self. It then follows that self-transcendence values are positively associated with biospheric concerns, while self-enhancement values are positively related to less biospheric concerns and more egoistic concerns. Schultz and Zelezny (1999) therefore suggest “that the New Environmental Paradigm, and more broadly biospheric environmental concerns, reflect the degree to which people define self as part of nature” (p. 263).
3.2.4 Connectivity with nature: Connectedness versus separateness The idea that seeing nature as a fundamental part of one’s identity will lead to a more respectful treatment of nature can be traced back to the work of ecologists 93 and philosophers like John Muir and Aldo Leopold (1949), and more recently Arne Naess (1989) and Joanna Macy (2007). Scholars writing about this topic use terms like ‘ecological identity,’ ‘ecological self,’ ‘identification,’ or ‘oneness with nature’ (Bragg, 1996; Naess, 1989; Schultz et al., 2004). Different measures of a sense of connectedness to nature have been developed, aiming to determine the extent to which an individual defines nature as part of oneself. Generally, connectedness to nature was shown to have positive correlations with biospheric concerns, and negative correlations with egoistic concerns (Dutcher et al., 2007;
Mayer & McPherson Frantz, 2004; Schultz et al., 2004).
Inclusion of nature in self (INS) is a single analogue item measuring degree of overlap between nature and self (Schultz, 2001). The implicit association test (IAT) is a computer-based response-time test modified by Schultz et al. (2004) to measure implicit connections with nature, through testing automatic concept-attribute associations. Following up on these studies, two different Connectivity with Nature Scales (CNS) were developed, which both turned out to be significantly and positively associated with environmental behavior. As Mayer and McPherson Frantz (2004) state with respect to their scale, the findings support “Leopold’s contention that connectedness to nature leads to concern for nature, as the CNS has also been shown to relate to a biospheric value orientation, ecological behavior, anticonsumerism, perspective taking and identity as an environmentalist. Lastly, the findings suggest that personal well-being is linked to a sense of feeling connected to nature” (p. 512).
According to Dutcher et al. (2007), this sense of connectedness is not limited to
a physical-material interdependence, but includes a ‘spiritual’ sense of oneness:
“Although material interdependence is important, we believe that connectivity with nature arises not so much from knowledge of natural resource economics as from an intuitive sense of sameness with the world around (and within) us. … Connectivity attempts to describe the perception of a force or essence that holds the universe together – the same essence or force that runs through all creation” (p. 479). Connectedness with nature is explored more extensively in both chapter four (quantitatively) and in chapter five (qualitatively).