Environmental Behavioral Gaps: Gap between Environmental Values and Environmental Behaviors
Environmental degradation remains one of the major threats to human existence. Over the last 10,000 years, the trajectory of human development has not been sustainable. The condition points to an urgent need to save the environment from additional exploitation. The efforts to change such a trajectory ought to be guided by the ideology of environmentalism. Although there have been gains in spreading environmental values among people, there is no parallel demonstration of environmental friendly behaviors (Nickerson, 2003).
There is sufficient global research indicating the gaps between environmental values and gaps. A survey conducted in Canada found that 72 percent of the respondents confessed to having gaps between their plans and actual behavior. This discrepancy in values and action is a major concern to both practitioners and academics. Essentially, human survival and the general existence of the ecosystem are under threat. The study identified three variables that contribute to the gaps (Kennedy et al., 2009). The variables enhancing the EVB gap are individual, household, and societal variables. Individual variables include basic values, environmental beliefs, and lack of information. The significance of basic values is in its influence on other values, including an individual’s personal values on the environment. Environmental beliefs are shaped by an individual’s observations, learning, and perceptions about the environment.
Household variables include time, money, and support from other household members. In a family setting, a powerful member has the ability to influence opinions and behaviors of other members, including their actions towards the environment. The element of time as a household variable comes to play with the perception that environmental-friendly behaviors are more time-consuming compared to normal behavior. Such perceptions are deterrent to positive actions towards the environment, despite an individual holding strong environmental values. Money is not a significant element of the variables, with a weak link between an individual’s income and the gap between values and behavior.
Societal variables include services in environmental community and perceived control over decisions. Perceived control is a person’s autonomy over important decision-making. In addition, the availability of community environmental services is a major influence in an individual’s precipitation in environmentally-supportive behavior. Arising from this analysis, the most significant contributors to gaps between a person’s environmental values and environmental behavior are lack of information and lack of time (Kennedy et al., 2009).
The findings in Kennedy et al (2009), offer important insights in efforts to narrow the gap between the values and behavior. People do not feel threatened by environmental problems, demonstrating the lack of information on the consequences of environmental degradation. In addition, individuals have selectively chosen to adopt the rhetoric of environmentalism, and not the core beliefs. The civil society, markets, and the state can play a crucial role in changing the trajectory. Importantly, changing individual’s attitudes is crucial in narrowing the gap in EVB (Nickerson, 2003).
This analysis demonstrates that there is no major problem in individuals’ values with regard to environment. Essentially, a significant proportion of population believe in protecting the environment. These values, however, are insignificant if they are not reflected into environmentally-supportive behaviors. The main cause to this gap is lack of information. As such, increased awareness among the masses is important in achieving the goal of narrowing the gap between the values and behavior. In addition, there is need to change attitudes and perceptions towards the environment. Consequently, time will not be a barrier to environmentally-supportive behaviors, as the perception that it is time-consuming will be eliminated.
Kennedy, E.H., et al., (2009). Why we don’t walk the Talk: Understanding the Environmental Values/Behavior Gap in Canada. Human Ecology Review, 16 (2): pp. 151-160.
Nickerson, R.S., (2003). Psychology and Environmental Change. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.