«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
Thus, complementary to conceptualizing environmental behaviors to result from ‘altruism,’ demanding actions from the individual that are at odds with his or her self-interest, some authors have argued that sustainable lifestyles can be seen as a healthy expression of human nature (Kaplan, 2000). Others have underscored that sustainable actions should be understood as expressions of positive antecedents such a capacities, emotions, virtues and strengths, and positive consequences such as satisfaction, psychological well-being, and happiness (Corral Verdugo, 2012), or as an expanded sense of self. It would likely be fruitful to explore how such an expanded self is related to intrinsic motivations 141 as conceptualized in SDT. For example, as Marshall (2009, p. 42) has proposed, potentially the move from external contingency to inner directedness—or from extrinsic to intrinsic motivations—can be seen as consistent with the move from earlier to later stages of development, which in developmental psychology is often associated with a more expansive sense of self (see e.g. Cook-Greuter, 2000; Kegan, 1982). These potential interconnections, bridging different subfields in psychology, deserve further investigation.
4.6 Conclusions This study was aimed at generating insight into how environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles are related to worldviews, both in individuals and society at large.
The results suggest that, in line with SDT, more intrinsically oriented worldviews correlate with pro-environmental attitudes and lifestyles, while more extrinsically oriented worldviews correlate with less environmental attitudes and lifestyles. Especially the factor of Inner growth strongly resonates with SDTinsights regarding self-determined individuals, and indeed demonstrates, as SDT would predict, significant correlations with pro-environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles, as well as with life satisfaction and the desire to contribute to society (pro-social attitude). Interestingly, this study thereby seems to provide suggestive evidence for the idea, as argued for by some (Corral Verdugo, 2012;
De Young, 1996), that sustainable lifestyles might be (also) conceptualized as indicating psychological health and well-being (as a result of being intrinsically oriented in life), and potentially also facilitating psychological health and wellbeing.
In line with Taylor, these results can also be interpreted to indicate the existence of a more traditional, modern, and postmodern worldview in the Netherlands. These worldviews are only partially portrayed here, yet display different environmental attitudes and tendencies regarding environmental attitudes and the sustainability of lifestyles. In that way, the study gives a preliminary overview of potentially important worldviews in a contemporary Western society such as the Netherlands: the two (partially overlapping) variations of a more postmodern worldview, Inner growth and Contemporary 142 spirituality, appear to have substantial advantages for goals and issues of sustainable development (see also Giner & Tábara, 1999; Hedlund-de Witt, 2011; B. Taylor, 2010), as they tend to display significantly more environmentfriendly attitudes and sustainable lifestyles—including ecologically highly relevant behaviors such as meat consumption (FAO, 2006; Schösler, De Boer, & Boersema, 2012a), political preferences, action and participation (L. R. Brown, 2008), and support for societal organizations. In the coming chapters, these cultural phenomena and worldviews will be further explored.
Although the direct, predictive effect of the worldview-factors on sustainable lifestyles appears to be mediated through the environmental attitudes, the worldview-factors are nonetheless relevant for our larger understanding of the cultural context and explanatory mechanisms of proenvironmental attitudes and their association with more sustainable lifestyles.
For example, this study has clarified how pro-environmental attitudes appear to be associated with more intrinsically oriented worldview(s), which can be understood to be of a more postmodern nature. This worldview is characterized, in part, by an ontology of an intrinsic dimension to reality and an epistemology emphasizing inner modes of knowing, such as feeling, intuition, and selfdiscovery. Insight into the different worldviews at play can thus generate a more comprehensive understanding of pro-environmental attitudes and their connections with other concepts, beliefs, and issues in society. These larger worldview-dynamics in society are important as environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles cannot be explained adequately on an individual, psychological basis only, and society’s beliefs about nature, reality, self, and societal issues are changing (De Boer, 2010; Hedlund-de Witt, 2011; Kempton et al., 1995), informing individual’s perceptions and understandings as well as being informed by them. By making use of the IWF and placing environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles in a larger historical-cultural context, researchers can connect and integrate insights from different disciplines in the social sciences, such as psychology and sociology (see also K. A. Johnson et al., 2011). This appears to be a critically important undertaking for the 21 century, st which is characterized by a multitude of complex, urgent, multifaceted, planetary issues in the context of a pluralistic and increasingly polarized cultural landscape (Hulme, 2009).
Worldview-items It is pure coincidence that human life has developed on earth (6) I see the earth and humanity as part of an ensouled or spiritual reality I believe the universe gives expression to a creative intelligence What people call ‘God’ does not only exist above, but also here in the world around us (6) Wealth is just as much to be found within ourselves as in the world around us I find the whole idea of ‘spirituality’ or ‘something spiritual’ nonsense (6) God stands far above life on earth I have sometimes had experiences that you could call spiritual (6) There is something that connects human being and world in their core (6) I see life as one big growth-process Science is the only source of trustworthy knowledge Next to science, also feeling and intuition are needed to know reality Earning a lot of money is really important to me The more money I can spend, the higher the quality of my life Everybody needs to take care of oneself and stand up for oneself (5) The most important thing in my life is that I enjoy myself and am happy myself (3) Things that I enjoy, but are bad for the environment, I want to keep on doing (3) I aspire a luxurious and comfortable lifestyle I hardly ever reflect on the meaning and purpose of life (7) Inner growth is really important to me I want to contribute to society in my own, unique way (3) I take a moment for reflection, prayer or meditation regularly (7) The human being is the only being on earth with consciousness (6) The suffering that happens to people does not have any meaning (6) Pain and suffering provide me with the opportunity for growth and maturity I don’t think body and mind are closely connected What we do to others will in the end come back to ourselves I believe the human being is by nature, that is to say in his core, good Human beings are in their core egocentric beings: they think mostly of themselves I believe every human being has a spiritual or divine core I believe in reincarnation, that is to say, that we will be born again in this world after our death (7) Environmental attitude items I don’t feel a personal bond with nature (4) I don’t care so much that species are becoming extinct (1) By mastering nature, the human being can find freedom (2) I think animal rights are nonsense (2) Nature has value only because the human being is able to use and enjoy her (2) 144 I have a deep feeling of connectedness to nature (4) It hurts me to see nature being destroyed (4) Changing my own behavior will hardly contribute to solving environmental problems The relationship between human being and nature should be one of respect, adjustment and attunement (2) I like making an effort to contribute to a better environment (3) It gives me a good feeling to buy products that contribute to a better environment, even when they are a bit more expensive I aspire a conscious and more natural lifestyle Through the development of science and technology environmental problems will be solved by itself (5) Environmental problems will be solved through the working of the market, e.g. because oil prices are going up (5) I don’t feel responsible for contributing to solving the environmental crisis In these economically difficult times, environmental requirements should not become obstacles to economic growth The world can only be changed by first changing oneself within For solving the climate problem we need to adjust our lifestyle (7) For solving environmental problems, the government needs to get space for carrying through strict rules and laws (5) Every individual needs to contribute to solving the climate problem (5) What is good for the environment, is in the end also good for the economy Notes: The development of the various Likert-items was inspired by several approaches and
1) The New Environmental Paradigm (Dunlap et al., 2000)
2) Intrinsic versus instrumental values of nature (S. C. Thompson & Barton, 1994); Human and Nature scale (HaN-scale) (M. De Groot et al., 2011; Van den Born, 2008; Van den Born et al., 2001)
3) Schwartz’s self-transcendence versus self-enhancement (Grob, 1995; Karp, 1996; Schultz & Zelezny, 1999; S. H. Schwartz & Bilsky, 1987)
4) Connectedness with Nature (Dutcher et al., 2007; Mayer & McPherson Frantz, 2004)
5) Societal visions on environmental issues (De Vries & Petersen, 2009; Milfont & Duckitt, 2004; PBL, 2004)
6) Research in the field of the sociology of religion (Eisinga et al., 2000)
7) World Values Survey (Hallman, Inglehart, Díez-Medrano, Luijkx, & Basánez, 2008).
145 Appendix II: Introduction to questionnaire and behavioralquestions
Introduction This questionnaire explores your attitude towards life in general, and your perspective on nature in particular. Sometimes we speak of ‘sustainability.’ With that, we mean ways of life, production, and consumption that are minimally harmful to human being and environment— both here and at other places in the world, both now and in the future.
Do you use green energy at home (sustainable energy, e.g. solar, wind)?
How often do you use a car as mode of transportation?
How often do you use a bike as mode of transportation?
In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, – no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, –my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space– all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me: I am part or parcel of God. […] In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson52 Thoreau wrote of nature as a source of spiritual renewal and inspiration. A surprising outcome of the wilderness research has been the remarkable depth of such spiritual impacts.
[...]. The quest for tranquility, peace and silence resonates with what in religious contexts might be considered serenity. Similarly, the sense of oneness is more likely to appear in a spiritual context than in research on human functioning. A third dimension that comes out strongly in these results, the notion of wholeness or what Mary Midgley calls “integration”, may be related to the achievement of a coherent sense of oneself. We had not expected the wilderness experience so powerful or so pervasive in its impact. Nor had we anticipated that this research program would provide us with an education in the ways of human nature. We have been introduced to some deeply felt human concerns that broadened our conception of human motivation and priorities.
- Stephen and Rachel Kaplan53 52 Nature and selected essays (1849), p. 39.
53 The Experience of Nature. A Psychological Perspective (1989), p. 147-148.
5.1 Introduction The restorative, psychological, and well-being effects of nature are becoming increasingly well reported (see e.g. Herzog, Black, Fountaine, & Knotts, 1997;
Kaplan & Talbot, 1983; Parsons, Tassinary, Ulrich, Hebl, & GrossmanAlexander, 1998; Talbot & Kaplan, 1986; Ulrich et al., 1991; Weinstein et al., 2009). However, a more thoroughgoing, empirical exploration of the spiritual dimension that is frequently associated with experiences of nature still appears to be lacking (Terhaar, 2009). This is so, despite several studies suggesting its potential importance (see e.g. W. A. Clark, 2011; Frederickson & Anderson, 1999; Terhaar, 2009; Williams & Harvey, 2001; Wilson, 2011), and the increasing popularity of research into 'connectedness with nature' for understanding the human-nature relationship (see e.g. Dutcher et al., 2007;
Mayer & McPherson Frantz, 2004). In these latter studies, the spiritual dimension is frequently referred to. According to, for example, Dutcher et al.
(2007), “as experienced … connectivity may be an essentially spiritual phenomenon” (p. 490).
Various theorists and philosophers have also claimed that a more meaningful or spiritual experience of nature has a potential ‘healing’ effect on our worldviews and attitudes towards nature, potentially leading to more environmental-friendly attitudes and behaviors (Calicott, 2011; Devall & Sessions, 1985; Leopold, 1949; Naess, 1989). For example, the environmental philosopher Bryan Norton (1990) refers in this context to the transformative value of nature. Norton’s argument is that intimate experiences in nature can force us to reassess our held values (including demand or instrumental values of nature) and inspire us toward a more ecological view and appreciation of human choice and behavior. Nonhuman species are thus understood to have transformative value, as they can aid us in moving away from materialism to appreciation of values that do not readily submit to cost-benefit analysis.