«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
4.2 Background 4.2.1 Historical-cultural context: Charles Taylor Pro-environmental attitudes and more sustainable lifestyles appear to fit particularly well with the cultural movement of the post-Romantic, expressivist turn towards nature as (moral) source that Taylor describes. According to him, many of the inspirations from the Romantic era that are alive and potent today converge around the idea of reunification: “bringing us back in contact with nature, healing the divisions between people, and creating community” (1989, p.
384). In this vision, humanity is seen as set in a larger, frequently providential, natural order, with which humanity should be in harmony. However, in contrast with the Enlightenment’s objective ‘interlocking order,’ which was organized on principles that could be grasped by disengaged reason, the Romantic order was an enigma—one could only understand it by participating in it (p. 380). This Romantic perspective is therefore accompanied by a powerful affirmation of the freedom, rights, and uniqueness of the individual, as well as of modes of knowing such as feeling, imagination, and creative expression. While nature in this vision tends to be depicted as a great current of life running through all things, the human being is the creature who can become aware of this—and bring it to expression. So while there is a strong emphasis on humanity as part of nature, simultaneously there is the sense of a specific role for the dignified individual.
Crucial to this conception is that our access to nature, to the larger order, to the essence of life, is primarily inward: “It is an inner impulse or conviction which tells us of the importance of our own natural fulfilment and of solidarity with our fellow creatures in theirs. This is the voice of nature within us” (C.
Taylor, 1989, pp. 369-370). With this shifting epistemology—from a rationalist, objectified perspective on nature ‘from the outside’ to a more intuitive, subjectivized mode of knowing nature ‘from the inside’—also the axiology changes. A central part of the good life comes to consist in being open to the 115 impulse of nature. Being attuned to nature, and not cut off from it, implies being in tune with how one feels, with one’s emotions and intuitions. Such a perspective therefore places a value on human sentiments for themselves. In contrast with more traditional worldviews, yet in (partial) alignment with the worldview of Enlightenment materialism, sensuality itself becomes significant, thereby blurring the distinction between the moral or ethical and the sensual or aesthetic: “The good life comes to consist in a perfect fusion between the sensual and the spiritual, where our sensual fulfilments are experienced as having higher significance” (C. Taylor, 1989, p. 373). In our own era, we can see this notably in the ‘flower power generation’ of the 1960’s and in the emphasis of the New Age movement on the wholeness, pleasures, and wisdom of the body (see also Van Otterloo, 1999).
As Taylor (1989) argues, if our access to nature is within, we can only know this nature through articulating what we find within. This connects to another feature of the philosophy of nature: the idea that its realization in each of us is also a form of creative expression. And this involves not only a making manifest—articulating something that was already there—but also a bringing of something to be, a creation, an invention. This notion of expression has become
one of the cornerstones of contemporary culture:
This is the idea which grows in the late eighteenth century that each individual is different and original, and that this originality determines how he or she ought to live. […] The differences are not just important variations within the same basic human nature; or else moral differences between good and bad individuals. Rather they entail that each one of us has an original path which we ought to tread; they lay the obligation on each of us to live up to our originality (p. 375).
In this vision, spiritual and moral authority is gradually internalized, thereby giving a central place to self-discovery. The inner domain that emerges truly has depth—that is, it reaches further than we can ever articulate; it is inexhaustible. Although the Greeks had already contended to ‘know thyself,’ what is new in the philosophy of nature as source, according to Taylor, is that the inexhaustible domain does not lead to a God above or a universal, 116 transcendental order beyond, but is properly situated within. And, “to the extent that digging to the roots of our being takes us beyond ourselves, it is to the larger nature from which we emerge” (p. 390).
The Post-romantic focus on participation, different modes of knowing, inwardness, self-expression, the unique contribution of the individual to the whole, and the importance of self-discovery and depth, can all be found back in the formulation of the Likert-type items of the questionnaire, as will be discussed in section 4.3.1.
4.2.2 Psychological context: Self-Determination Theory (SDT) Complementary to this cultural-historical perspective, environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles can also be understood in the context of SelfDetermination Theory (SDT), using the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, as environmental psychologists increasingly attempt to do (e.g. J. I. M. De Groot & Steg, 2010; Schösler, De Boer, & Boersema, 2012b;
Weinstein et al., 2009). While intrinsic motivation refers to initiating an activity for its own sake, because it is interesting and satisfying in itself, extrinsic motivation refers to engaging in an activity to obtain an external goal—that is, the activity is a means rather than an end in itself. SDT suggests that the key difference between intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations—and the reason that the pursuit and attainment of these aspirations are differently related to psychological health and well-being47—is the degree to which they are linked to the satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Ryan et al., 2008). These needs are understood to be innate and universal, essential for an individual’s psychological health, and when satisfied, allow optimal functioning and growth (Grouzet et al., 2005;
Ryan, 1995). Thus, while self-determined (or ‘eudaimonic’) individuals fulfill these basic needs as a result of being guided by their intrinsic motivations, nonself-determined individuals appear to be less successful in fulfilling their basic psychological needs because they tend to be guided by extrinsic motivations, which tend to be instrumental and acquired instead of inherent. However, 47 Researchers found that eudaimonic individuals—individuals characterized by psychological well-being, construed as a set of outcomes of a life well lived—are driven by intrinsic rather than by extrinsic values and motivations (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Ryan et al., 2008).
117 intrinsic motivation is not the only type of self-determined motivation. Indeed, much of what people do is not, strictly speaking, intrinsically motivated. SDT therefore recognizes differing degrees to which the value and regulation of a requested or instrumental behavior have been internalized and integrated.
Internalization refers to people’s “taking in” a value or a regulation, and integration refers to the further transformation of that regulation into their own so that, subsequently, it will emanate from their sense of self (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 71).
Next to being associated with psychological health, subjective well-being, vitality, and a sense of meaning and purpose (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Ryan et al., 2008), intrinsic aspirations have also been found to be related to pro-social and other-focused value orientations, while extrinsic aspirations were found to predict self-focused value orientations (Weinstein et al., 2009). Moreover, Brown and Kasser (2005) found that people embracing the extrinsic goal of materialism consumed more and had bigger environmental footprints. However, this raises the question to what extent we can conceive of sustainable behaviors as intrinsically motivated, as environmental impact is frequently an unintended consequence of a behavior that, defined from the actor's standpoint, may have nothing to do with the environment (e.g. individuals generally do not cook, or transport themselves for the environment, but because they are hungry, or need to get somewhere). In our eyes, sustainable behaviors can be understood as both intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, depending on the circumstances and the intention (e.g. to benefit the environment; see Stern, 2000). Therefore, while specific sustainable behaviors may be motivated by extrinsic goals such as saving money or enhancing one’s status, we expect that sustainable lifestyles, which are characterized by more sustainable behaviors across the board, generally will tend to be intrinsically motivated. Perhaps such lifestyles are experienced to be intrinsically satisfying as they may support individuals to meet their psychological needs for competence (e.g. through cultivating qualities that are needed for certain sustainable behaviors), for autonomy (e.g. through the sense of living in accordance with one’s own, self-determined principles), and for connectedness (e.g. as engaging in these behaviors make one feel in harmony with others and the larger order).
118 In the development of the questionnaire, which will be discussed below, several of these insights come to expression by including both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations in the worldviews-orientations, as well as in the motivations for sustainable behaviors.
4.3 Methodology As stated in the introduction, this study aims to generate insight into how environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles are related to worldviews, both in individuals and society at large. In section 3.1 I describe the development of the questionnaire, in 3.2 I elaborate on the selection of participants and other procedures, and in 3.3 I describe the techniques used to analyze the generated data.
4.3.1 Development of the questionnaire Although it is impossible to cover all potential worldviews in the Netherlands comprehensively through developing a limited amount of Likert-type items, I have attempted to measure worldviews broadly by covering the (in the introduction discussed) five aspects of ontology, epistemology, axiology, anthropology, and societal vision of worldviews. In line with an understanding of worldviews as overarching systems of meaning and meaning-making, these five aspects appear to be interrelated and interdependent. For example, an individual’s anthropology will tend to be intimately related to his/her societal vision. This means that neatly separating these aspects is not always possible.
However, the function of employing these five aspects is that it is likely to support a (more) systematized, balanced, and encompassing operationalization of worldviews into Likert-type items, as well as a more structured data-analysis and interpretation. In terms of the content of these items, several existing scales have informed us—including the Connectivity with Nature scales—as well as Taylor's more general insights in the cultural-historical dynamics of worldviews.
The development of the questionnaire was a result of several major steps:
1) In the first place, Likert-type items were developed for exploring worldviews, by spanning the five aspects of worldview: ontology, epistemology, axiology, anthropology, and societal vision. Although the 119 list of items that emerged from this exercise is clearly not comprehensive or exhaustive in any way, it is fairly wide-ranging in comparison with most of the existing scales that explore beliefs, values, and attitudes in relationship to environmental behaviors (ibid), and goes beyond the more narrow exploration of, for example, environmental attitudes or value-orientations. Moreover, researching worldviews in such an openended and explorative way may contribute to generating either more focused or more comprehensive scales in future research.
2) Then, Likert-type items were developed for exploring environmental attitudes, such as connectedness with nature. All items developed in step 1 that pertained to nature and the environment (which were mostly societal vision items, but also several ontological, anthropological, and axiological ones), were included in this group (see appendix I). Even though the distinction between worldviews and environmental attitudes is somewhat arbitrary and inconsistent with my discussion of worldviews as containing environmental attitudes (on page 3-4), separating these items has the analytical advantage of enabling one to investigate environmental attitudes exogenous to worldviews, and explore their relationship to it, rather than as part of it. Thus, even though conceptually I tend to consider nature- and environmentally-oriented positions as an integral part of worldviews, for purposes of analysis I have distinguished all worldview-items that speak to nature or the protection of the environment. In this way, potential relationships between worldview-factors and environmentally significant behaviors are clarified and cannot be reduced to (endogenous) worldview-items that refer to nature or the environment. In this study, then, environmental attitudes signify those elements of worldviews that explicitly position themselves vis-à-vis nature and/or the environment, in line with my definition of environmental attitudes as given in the introduction: “the collection of beliefs, affect, and behavioral intentions a person holds regarding environmentally related activities or issues.”
3) Lastly, a measure was constructed that explores sustainable lifestyles, by
exploring environmentally significant behaviors in different domains:
food consumption, domestic energy use, mobility, general consumer 120 behavior, and contributions to societal change. As articulated above, my understanding is that while specific sustainable behaviors may be more coincidental and less intentional, sustainable lifestyles are characterized by a more consistent manifestation of environmentally significant behaviors across the board.