Going green has become a part of everyday speech. People converse with each other about their own eco-friendly practices, the media portrays new pro-environmental techniques, and the government is promoting going green as well. It seems that with the abundance of information about being eco-friendly, more people would participate. However, many people are reticent to joining the green revolution because of both cultural and psycho-social characteristics including; type of society they live in, location, race, socioeconomic group, gender, and age. In this essay, I will explore each of these factors and relate them to the bigger issues of pollution, global warming, and reduction of the ozone layer, as they affect a world that is far from being as green as it could be. These factors will also assist to provide a framework for a society that has the potential to develop eco-friendly habits.
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The technology for implementing environmentally sound practices is all around us. However, ¿½the biggest challenge is not inventing new technology but persuading more people to adopt technology and practices that already exist¿½ (Charles 804). Therefore, it could have been assumed that people did not engage in pro-environmental activities because of their ignorance; specifically, ignorance of the rewards, pleasures, and benefits of being eco-friendly. Some researchers suggest that one way to combat this is by forcing changes upon people. That way, they have no choice but to partake in pro-environmental activities. For example, In Juneau, Alaska, a transmission line for power was cut off and the civilians had to adjust their style of living to not waste the precious electricity they had left until the line was fixed. After the line was fixed, the eco-friendly practices the people had adopted did not disappear but were still used and consequently the city now saves electrical power every year (Charles 805). However, every city is not like Juneau, Alaska, and therefore people in other parts of the country may need to be motivated differently. Some researchers believe that incentives, mainly in the form of money, need to be produced in order to motivate the public. What motivates an individual according to Yeonshin Kim is what he calls Perceived Consumer Effectiveness, or PCE, which refers to ¿½the extent to which individuals believe that their actions will make a difference in solving a problem¿½ (Ellen, Weiner, and Cobb-Walgren 1991). If an individual has the desire to get involved in pro-environmental action to benefit society, they are more likely to undertake that task rather than put it off. The desire to be green is developed over time and it is based on individual¿½s experiences. Different experiences vary based on the type of societal view that an individual inhabits.
There are two basic types of societal views that impact eco-friendly initiatives; individualistic and collectivistic. Both Yeonshin Kim and Sejung M. Choi, authors of ¿½Antecedents of Green Purchase Behavior: An Example of Collectivism, Environmental Concern, and PCE,¿½ as well as Gary Baverstock, an author who writes about sustainable energy at the national level, agree that eco-friendly activity is typically smaller in individualistic societies than in collectivistic societies. This is because individuals in individualistic societies, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, typically focus on themselves while other parts of the society focus on its own problems. Individualistic societies are also typically richer than average. Collectivistic societies, like many Latin American countries, on the other hand, combine the efforts of the individual with those of the community, the government, and the nation as a whole, and are typically on the poorer end of the spectrum. Therefore all pro-environmental activities are directed at one goal either through education, self-interest, or mass movements. These positive actions are the result of a greater number of individuals that practice self efficacy in collectivistic societies. When individuals have confidence in what they do as well as confidence in that it will have a positive effect on others, it is easier to promote pro-environmental actions through them. Irene Tilikidou, author of ¿½Types and Influential Factors of Consumers’ Non-Purchasing Ecological Behaviors,¿½ proposes that to encourage such action in collectivistic societies, the government and the community must educate the individual instead of the other way around. This way, people can learn the values of going green and then combine their efforts with others.
Collectivistic and individualistic societies can be found all around the world and one key determinant of whether a society is collectivistic or individualistic is location. Location, therefore, also has a profound effect on the possibility for societies to adopt eco-friendly practices. The Tilikidou survey, which earlier discussed pro-government action to promote eco-friendly actions, was conducted in Greece. One of the key causes of pollution in Greece is caused by their well known traffic problems ( ). However, they are a collectivistic society in which people come to the aid of others in times of need. If the government directs its efforts at educating the populous on the benefits of public transit, it is possible for Greece to start working its way into its own green revolution. Tilikidou also describes how people must have a desire to change. If they are not inclined to become eco-friendly in the first place, it will be much more difficult for them to adopt such practices. Luckily, Greece is a collectivistic country. In other words it can be assumed that more citizens will be inclined to attempt almost any pro-environmental practice that the community educates them on.
Australia is another example of a country trying to educate its population on green practices. It is not completely clear as to whether Australia is a collectivistic or individualistic society. However, based on the article ,¿½A Case for Establishing a Nationally Based Program for Sustainable Energy and Water Use in the Built Environment: An Investigation Into: Establishing a Vibrant R, D ¿½& D Collaborative Centre for Energy Efficient Lifestyles, Developmental Patterns, Building Technologies and Building Design Strategies,¿½ by Gary Baverstock, I assumed it was another example of a collectivistic country. I base this assumption on the fact that Baverstock writes about the new establishment called the Research Institute for Sustainable Energy, RISE, which promotes the education of citizens on pro-environmental behaviors through a holistic approach. A country whose universities are actively involved in educating the populous falls under the category of a collectivistic society. This, however, does not mean that those who do not attend universities are left behind. The government, communities, and lower level schools are also a key factors in educating all parts of any country on eco-friendly developments. RISE promotes the development of a Cooperative Research Centre, or CRC, in which universities across the country will educate their students and the public on eco-friendly behaviors. RISE proposes that the ¿½[CRC] needs to be a holistic entity, part of a learning system that includes the community, industry and governance¿½ (Baverstock et al 160). However, Australia actually ranks among the top countries in the world for individualism. After seeing this, it makes sense that a program such as RISE be put into place.
Among the other highly ranked individualistic countries overall are Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, all countries that are considered rich. Latin American countries typically are more collectivistic but generally poverty stricken. Poverty stricken areas in the United States are usually populated by minorities, which brings me to my next point of emphasis, race. It is generally concluded in the United States that higher educated people, specifically white males with high income, are more likely to take on eco-friendly initiatives. However, there is now research proving that high levels of pro-environmental action are being proposed by minority groups. In Eugene Uyeki¿½s article, ¿½Diffusion of pro-environment Attitudes,¿½ he claims that minority groups are more likely to be pro-environmental since they are constantly being exposed to the least desirable living areas in the world. These places are typically located near waste plants and industry, which are very highly polluted areas. He then concludes that since they are exposed to so much pollution, they are more inclined to take action against it ( ). The highly educated, white male typically lives in the suburbs, a place where there is most likely no effluence of pollution, and therefore he does not see the full effects of pollution. If he cannot see the problematic effects that occur, then cannot have any desire to fix them.
However, minority groups might be more inclined to take on pro-environmental behaviors, but they do not always have the resources to do so. The highly educated white populous can actually take on pro-environmental activities because they have the money and the resources to do so. Still, this does not mean that said action is taken. Irene Tilikidou, who has written many articles on recycling and pro-environmental behavior, used a survey to attempt to collect data on people¿½s own opinions of their recycling habits. Some conclusions she drew from the survey include that individuals with positive attitudes towards recycling are more likely to participate in it because they are either swayed by self motivation or they think it is their social responsibility, people who are already involved in the going green revolution are more likely to engage in other pro-environmental activities, and that all nations must recognize the benefit of motivation when it comes to consumer attitudes on going green. However the most important conclusion she drew was that highly educated people are more likely to engage in eco-friendly initiatives. This caught my attention not only because it is contradictory to my point that minority and poverty groups are more likely to engage in eco-friendly initiatives, but also that this was based off of conclusion drawn from a survey. Since surveys have a high potential to being exposed to bias, this survey is no different. The highly educated people who participated in the survey could have answered how they thought society expected them to answer rather than giving the true answer. This reiterates how people are sometimes only claiming to be eco-friendly when they are actually not doing much if anything to participate in pro-environmental activities.
This shouldn¿½t be surprising in the least bit because most people in the present day have been informed of the environmental problems the world is struggling with since childhood. Many children would construct or design posters with pictures of either a sick earth, a slogan promoting pro-environmental behaviors, or anything along those lines. However, what did those children actually do to help the environment after creating these posters or what could they even do to take the actions they promoted? The answer is usually nothing and with ¿½nothing¿½ could have come a mentality to promote action for or against something without the desire to take truly take action. In The Psychology of Environmental Problems, Deborah Du Nann Winter claims pro-environmental attitudes are more established in children and younger people because they are less likely to bring in family income so it is less complicated for them to vocalize their attitudes (Du Nann 61). Donna Lee King, in her book Doing Their Share to Save the Planet, describes exactly what children are doing to promote eco-friendly activities, but doing nothing about it, as well as why children are led to believe they must promote these activities. Children endorse pro-environmental behaviors mostly through their own illustrations of how to help the earth, what the future of the earth was doomed to become if no action was taken, and how they helped to keep the earth clean, but many had no method of carrying out their claims on a broader scale, no knowledge of the true effect of their claims, nor any inclination to fulfill their claims other than to broadcast them. Her logic for this is that children are led to believe they must advocate going green due through their schooling and the government, and are therefore filled with misinformation ( ). A key aspect of her research was the fact that she divided her observations into subgroups that include location, race, and gender. What she found was that, in the United States, the north was more pro-environmental than the south, girls are more pro-environmental than boys, and poor, black children are more pro-environmental than any other race or socio-economic group (King 67). The first result came as a slight surprise since the northern United States is typically thought of as individualistic and the southern states as collectivistic. My guess is that this is related to the civil war era when the northern states were all about small businesses and working alone to support their families while the south was focused around plantations and working together to support their family and friends. There is not much research to support this assumption however. The two basic conclusions that King drew in that minority groups are more pro-environmental than other socioeconomic groups and that women are more likely to promote going green than men did coincide with my previous research. The most important conclusion, nonetheless, is that support for going green is developed at an early age in the present day but taking steps to perform the actions necessary to complete what children are promoting is lacking.
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Much of this knowledge of environmental problems but lack of understanding what to do about it can be related to psychology, especially behavioral psychology, which focuses on how the environment plays a major role on how people¿½s behaviors develop (Du Nann 88). Behaviorism explains through operant conditioning how behaviors can be developed and modified. Operant conditioning involves taking a behavior and reinforcing it either positively or negatively. Positive reinforcement is used when a certain behavior is desired or should be constructive and can be conditioned through rewards for completing beneficial activities. Incentive recycling is an example of this, where the recycling company offers and incentive such as payment or rewards to those who participate in recycling. Negative actions are operations that need to be done away with through a process called negative punishment. This involves the removal of certain activities in order to promote the action of other activities. Some examples of this include the electric company making electric bills go up so people use learn to use electricity more sparingly, gas stations raising the prices of gasoline causing people to think of using alternative travel measures such as hybrid cars, car-pooling, or public transit ( ). It is through operant conditioning that we can educate the present and future generations on how to bring about positive change to the environmental problems surrounding us. Positive reinforcement should be applied to those who are actively participating in going green as well as those who are not so that everyone has an incentive to take pro-environmental action. Negative reinforcement should be applied to those who promote without taking action, such as giving them the resources they need in order to practice what they preach. According to Deborah Du Nann Winter, negative reinforcement should be carried out through three types of discriminative stimuli; prompts, information, and modeling (Du Nann Winter 97). Prompts are signals that communicate what actions are appropriate, including self-reminders to take out the recycle at the appropriate time (Du Nann Winter 97). Information refers to explaining procedures are providing examples of eco-friendly acts such as commercials promoting use of geothermal energy or riding a bicycle instead of driving a car. Modeling involves actions done in public that are then mimicked by others who saw the action take place. This can be as small as picking up a piece of litter in the park.
Modeling in behaviorism relates largely to social psychology, the study of how society influences an individual¿½s decisions (Du Nann Winter 56). Society has always been a factor in manufacturing individual¿½s decisions. It influences career choices, relationships, and especially eco-friendly activities. Many pro-environmental decisions are made because sometime society causes people to feel uncomfortable in such a way that individuals believe they must get rid of that feeling, also known as cognitive dissonance (Du Nann Winter 57). The main way of doing this is by the individual doing what they think society will be most acceptable of. Take the example of the person who picks up a piece of litter in the park. Many of those who watched this person while they were picking up the litter will be influenced in some way. They will either mimic the action taking place at another point in time because they feel that society will accept them for it, or they feel that society will not scrutinize them if they do not do the same, and example of S.H. Schwartz¿½s norm activation theory in Rama Mohana R. Turaga¿½s article ¿½Pro-environmental Behavior: Rational Choice Meets Moral Motivation.¿½ Norm activation theory is composed of two aspects, ¿½awareness of consequences¿½ and ¿½ascription of responsibility.¿½ Awareness of consequences is described such as an individual must heed the consequences of their actions as it affects the welfare of others, such as not smoking in public, while ascription of responsibility is the drive that compels an individual to take on those actions, such as an incentive for recycling. Another example of cognitive dissonance at work is the survey conducted by Irene Tilikidou that was previously discussed. Those highly educated individuals who answered that they are very eco-friendly could have been acting under the influence of cognitive dissonance in order to stay humbled in the public eye.
The main factors that contribute to cognitive dissonance are social norms. A norm is ¿½and implicit rule, an expectation about what kind of behavior is appropriate in a given situation¿½ (Du Nann Winter 67). Environmental social norms are typically positive, in which the public expects others to participate in activities that are environmentally sound. However, not all actions are based on social norms. According to Freudian theory, people act of instincts and unconscious drives. Yes these instincts are sometimes socially acceptable because they follow the social norm, but this is not always the case. Some people¿½s instincts allow them to act differently than society expects them to. These unconscious drives have no motive other than an inner force compelling individuals to act instinctively or give themselves untrue rationales for their actions. . For example, someone throws an item that could be recycled into the trash based on the untrue rationale that their one item is insignificant and will have no major consequence upon the earth. They however forget that many people think like this because we all have similar human instincts. This could mean that in one day, if half of the people in the United States threw away one item that could have been recycled, over 150,000 pieces of recycle would have been added to the huge garbage dumps each day.
Garbage dumps are a one of the biggest problems in America today and it continues to be a global problem (Bacard 43). This is only one aspect of pollution as a whole which is an ever increasing commodity around the world as well. Pollution is further exponentially increased by deforestation to build industry, oil dumping by not only large corporations but individuals as well, and increased use of individual transit instead of public transit. People who operate landfills claim that people will throw away almost anything which in turn causes there to be increasing amounts of damage. This carelessness could be attributed to the fact that people in individualistic countries throw away items without considering the benefits another person might have from it. Collectivistic countries, typically poor countries, need to use all the resources they have and share what they don¿½t use to maintain a steady and beneficial way of life. Location also affects pollution. For example, if a person lives in the slums, they are constantly exposed to pollution in the streets, at their job, and possibly even at their home. This kind of an environment might allow a person to think they are following the social norms of their society when they contribute to this litter. Also, they might be so overwhelmed and over-exposed to this pollution that they begin to advocate against it. Each of these outcomes can be determined by whether the society they live in is individualistic or collectivistic, as well as whether the person is male or female.
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