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«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»

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94 3.2.5 Environmental solutions: Public versus private, preservation versus utilization A different worldview-approach was developed by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, focusing on the individual’s perception of the most appropriate and effective organization of society and solutions to environmental problems. Based on extensive surveys among the Dutch population and combining Schwartz’ value orientations with the IPCC future scenarios (IPCC, 2000), PBL aimed to analyze people’s value orientations and relate it to the ways in which they interpret and understand sustainability problems (De Vries & Petersen, 2009; PBL, 2004). The four quadrant model of PBL is based on two continuums: the vertical axis runs from an orientation on market/efficiency to government/solidarity, while the horizontal axis runs from a local orientation to a global orientation, resulting in four archetypal worldviews, such as ‘global market’ and ‘caring region.’36 In this way, they distinguished between different preferred solutions to environmental problems, for example ranging from a belief in technology and free markets (private interests, market regulation) to an emphasis on institutions and behavioral change (public interests, governmental regulation).

A similar continuum was found in Milfont and Duckitt’s meta-study (2004), in which they combined several environmental scales (including the above discussed NEP and Ecocentrism versus Anthropocentrism scales) and proposed a higher-order two-factor solution consisting of a preservation and an utilization factor. The preservation factor emphasized individual behavioral change and institutional enforcement (exemplified by the sub factors ‘intent of support,’ ‘care with resources’ and ‘external control/effective commitment’). In contrast, the utilization factor stressed a belief in science and technology and the free operation of market mechanisms as the most viable solutions to the environmental crisis (exemplified by the sub factors ‘rejection of exemptionalism/confidence in science and technology’ and a negative loading on 36 A comparable analysis is found in Cultural bias theory, in which “myths of nature” are connected to environmental risk concerns and preferences for environmental management strategies, also based on two fundamental dimensions, ranging from group–oriented to individual-oriented (or from a high degree to a low degree of social contact), and from ruleoriented to not-rule-oriented (from a high degree to a low degree of social regulation) (Douglas & Wildavsky, 1982; M. Schwartz & Thompson, 1990).

–  –  –

3.3 Meta-analysis: Strengths and weaknesses of current measures Reviewing and analyzing these prominent approaches, which all investigate the relationships between worldviews and sustainable behaviors in different ways, has led to several key-observations. These are presented below.

First, there are indications that worldviews are not always investigated in a way that correlates with the construct that approaches purport to measure. Or, in other words, sometimes the construct validity is questionable. For example, several authors have emphasized that the NEP is measuring ‘environmental concern’ or ‘awareness of consequences’ rather than worldviews (Milfont & Duckitt, 2004; Poortinga, Steg, & Vlek, 2002; Stern, Dietz, & Guagnano, 1995).

While the NEP purports to measure “worldviews” or “primitive beliefs” about the nature of the earth and humanity’s relationship with it (Dunlap et al., 2000), some of its items seem to describe surface positions rather than worldview beliefs and assumptions—which are the deeper, foundational structures that underlie such positions. As Koltko-Rivera (2004) highlights this distinction: “Worldviews include beliefs that may be unproven, and even unprovable, but these assumptions are superordinate, in that they provide the epistemic and ontological foundations for other beliefs within a belief system” (p. 4, italics added). He

continues on to state that:

Not all beliefs are worldview beliefs. Beliefs regarding the underlying nature of reality, ‘proper’ social relations or guidelines for living, or the existence or non-existence of important entities are worldview beliefs.

Other beliefs are not (p. 4).

For example, the NEP item “we are approaching the limit of the number of people the earth can support” seems to state a surface position concerning a 96 scientific debate rather than describe one’s deeper perspective regarding the nature of reality. In contrast, the item “humans were meant to rule over the rest of nature” (also from the NEP) expresses a perspective on ‘proper’ social relations or guidelines for living, thus pointing to a more structural worldviewbelief. In this context it is noteworthy that Scott and Willits (1994) found that although the general acceptance of the items in the NEP was high, the support for the different ideas contained in the NEP was not univocal, with the notions of limits to growth receiving more consistent support than statements about the place of human beings in the ecological order. Their study therefore seems to support the idea that items stating a concrete surface position (e.g. concerning limits to growth) have less of a differentiating function than items stating one’s deeper, or more structural, worldview assumptions (e.g. arguing for a more equal human-nature relationship; see also Nooney, Woodrum, Hoban, & Clifford, 2003). Although most other reviewed approaches do not claim to measure worldviews, in general they do appear to be fairly limited in scope— that is, they frequently investigate a single aspect of a worldview (such as the relationship with nature, or different societal visions), rather than worldviews comprehensively. Yet in terms of understanding what explains differences in environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles, such a more comprehensive understanding may turn out to be particularly useful. A framework operationalizing the construct of worldview for empirical research may therefore contribute to a more comprehensive and systematic exploration of worldviews, as well as support the measurement of structural assumptions and beliefs rather than surface positions and opinions.





Second, it is noteworthy that the reviewed survey-approaches all seem to be conceptually and methodologically built on one or two central binaries—that is, polar or dichotomous continuums that stretch from a certain conceptual qualification to its diametrically opposed (and frequently considered mutually exclusive) counterpart. For example, the NEP is contrasted with the DSP, with the NEP intending to articulate a worldview based on the ecological interconnectedness of humanity and nature and the DSP based on the belief in human exemption.37 There thus seems to be a certain conceptual resonance and 37 The approaches based on Schwartz’ values contrast self-enhancement with self-transcendent values, thus opposing an orientation towards self-interest with an orientation towards (the 97 potential alignment between these different approaches. However, while the observed uniformity in this basic binary structure may signify a theoretical or philosophical agreement undergirding these instruments, this has, at this point, not led to a more integrated understanding and investigation of worldviews.

Instead, as argued above, the focus has typically been on single aspects and constructs, rather than on the larger whole they are potentially part of. Up to this date, there appear to be few instruments available that explicitly explore how these different aspects of worldviews are related to each other and in combination potentially make up overarching, logically coherent worldviews (see also Milfont & Duckitt, 2004). Therefore, making use of a unifying worldview-theory aimed at exploring the relationships between multiple measures, and potentially combining and integrating them into a more comprehensive worldview construct or measurement tool, may be important for a more inclusive understanding of worldviews and their relationship to sustainable behaviors.

Third, it is also significant that several of these central binaries appear to be asymmetrical or ambiguous—that is, while one side of the binary continuum tends to exclude the other side, the other possibly but not necessarily includes its ‘opposite.’ Take for example intrinsic versus instrumental values in relation to nature: while instrumental values tend to be operationalized in a way that excludes intrinsic values (e.g. nature has value only because humans are able to use or enjoy it), intrinsic values may—possibly but not necessarily—include and envelop instrumental values (e.g. nature has value even when it is of no use for human beings). In a similar vein, while self-enhancement values tend to be limited to the self and exclude taking into account others, self-transcendence values may transcend and include self-enhancement values. Schultz and Zelezny (1999) therefore explain self-transcendence values by talking about “a broader cognitive representation of self” (p. 263), emphasizing that people who adhere to these values do not necessarily negate their individuality and personal needs, but inclusion of) others, as well as an inclination of openness to change with a tendency towards conservation. Similarly, the Connectivity with Nature Scales contrast individuals who feel connected to nature with individuals who feel more separate from nature. Another approach opposes an emphasis on private interests and market regulation with an emphasis on public interests and governmental regulation, which seems to converge with the emphasis on preservation versus the emphasis on utilization, as found by Milfont and Duckitt.

98 rather tend to have a more inclusive representation or sense of self—one that is extended to incorporate others and nature, and thus includes rather than excludes self-enhancement values.38 From a psychological-developmental perspective (see e.g. Kegan, 1982; Wilber, 2000), we may understand this as follows: While self-transcendence values may signify a negation or lack of differentiation of the self from the larger community or one’s family (that is, one’s values are prescribed by societal roles and/or family expectations), thus indicating an undifferentiated position or orientation, these values may also signify a more complex interpretation of the self, one that includes one’s individuality as well as others and nature (one’s values are a reflection of one’s individuality, yet are reconciled with those in one’s family and/or society), thus indicating a more integrated perspective. Although these two positions or orientations are very different, the construct of ‘self-transcendence values’ as presently operationalized may not be able to sufficiently capture this important distinction.

From a psychological-developmental perspective, the downside of the use of these asymmetrical or ambiguous binaries is therefore that no clear distinction can be made between an undifferentiated position or orientation, that is, the union or symbiosis before differentiation occurred (in any developmental process), and an integrated outlook, that is, a developmentally more complex synthesis of the two (or more) differentiated poles (see e.g. Kahn, 1999; Kegan, 1982, 1994; Kohlberg, 1984; Loevinger, 1977, 1987; Wilber, 2000).39 This results 38 Also Milfont and Duckitt (2004, p. 300) emphasize, with regards to their findings, the necessity of complementarity between environmental preservation and utilization, as “humans need to use natural resources for human wellbeing, but also need to protect the environment at the same time, that is, a balance of utilization with preservation,” rather than a mutually exclusive polarity between them. Their solution is a model of environmental attitudes in which preservation and utilization are two distinct, though related constructs, that is, independent rather than the opposite ends of a continuum (partially because this solution appeared to provide better fit to the data than a single bipolar structure, and partially because of the mentioned conceptual reasons).

39 This understanding is in line with basic developmental insights: theorists like Piaget, Kohlberg, Loevinger, and Kegan (and more broadly speaking the school of cognitive developmentalism or developmental structuralism) conceive of development as progressing through hierarchical stages, in which each stage is shown to be more differentiated than the preceding one, while also being more integrated. While differentiation refers to the number of distinctions that exist in a given phenomenon, integration refers to the connections between the different parts—to integrate is to bring together or synthesize differentiated parts into a 99 in a tendency to conflate two positions—undifferentiated and integrated—that in reality are very distinct (Wilber, 1995, 2000). Therefore, introducing a psychological-developmental perspective may support investigating worldviewdynamics in a way that is able to account for the cognitive possibility of integration, instead of working with a binary framework based on mutual exclusiveness or a conflation of integrated with undifferentiated perspectives (Esbjörn-Hargens & Zimmerman, 2009; Kahn, 1999; see also Ryan, 1995).40 Also several other theorists have linked collective, cultural worldviews to the psychological development of individuals’ cognitive structures (see e.g. CookGreuter, 1999; Habermas, 1976; Kegan, 1982; Kegan, 1994).

Lastly, while much-used scales like the NEP tend to focus on the physical and instrumental interconnectedness of humanity and nature, empirical studies suggest that the spiritual or metaphysical connection between humans and their surrounding world may turn out to be substantial in explaining individual differences in sustainable behaviors and lifestyles (see e.g. Dietz et al., 1998; Dutcher et al., 2007; Frederickson & Anderson, 1999; Kaplan & Talbot, 1983; Stokols, 2004; S. C. Thompson & Barton, 1994; Williams & Harvey, 2001). Although approaches and concepts such as intrinsic values, ecocentric attitudes, self-transcendence values, and connectedness with nature seem to allude to what some theorists might call a more spiritual perception of nature and life in general, this dimension is generally not explicitly or systematically explored as such. Also Perkins (2010) observed that the arguably more spiritual emotions of love, awe, wonder, and deep reverence for nature have received little attention from researchers, especially with regards to quantitative measurement.



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