Everyday environmentalism in Clarke County, Georgia
Gurung, Hari Bhagat
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Anthropology has little studied everyday environmentalism in post-industrial societies. This dissertation research investigates variation in environmentalism as influenced by level of activism (laypersons, activist environmentalists, and non-activist environmentalists and science/environmental professionals), ethnicity, gender, age, and education in Clarke County, Georgia. Data were collected on seventy-nine individuals using slip-sorting, modified thematic apperceptions test, and semi-structured ethnographic interview methods. Level of activism and gender differences are observed in ecosystem, environmental state, and environmental protection orientations in the sample. Research participants volunteered twelve types of values. Consumptive, aesthetic, and ecological are the primary values. Level of activism, ethnicity, gender, age, and education are important in explaining environmental value orientations in the sample. Although environmental concerns vary significantly by level of activism in the study sample, a general environmental concern is expressed. The concerns expressed and behaviors reported are invariant in the layperson sample as defined by ethnicity, age, and education. This finding is interesting in light of other findings in the social sciences, e.g., blacks rated lower than whites, inverse relationship between age and environmentalism, and positive relationship between education and environmentalism. Gender differences are observed. Males showed significantly higher levels of environmental concern than females, but they did not differ in proenvironmental behaviors. This indifference is due to pragmatic and home-oriented nature of females which predispose them to take pro-environmental behaviors. The environmental ethics held by the sample is ecological-anthropocentrism or utilitarian-conservationism. Contrary to the much publicized anti-ecological Christian ethics research participants invoked their Christian belief positively to express environmental beliefs, values, and concerns. These findings suggest positive attitude towards the environment. But, environmental concerns expressed are inadequately translated into action, especially in the layperson sample. Data suggest low level of ecological/environmental knowledge in the layperson sample. Public policies/programs to enhance public environmental knowledge are important to reduce discrepancy between concern and action. Future research into the discrepancy in a social dilemma and cognitive dissonance theoretical frameworks is suggested. Religion as a potential influence on public environmentalism has received insignificant attention in environmental research. Future research should study religion as an institution and a medium to achieve environmental sustainability and human survivability.
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