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... for they know not what they do : an exploratory review of the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour and policy approaches to address them

Langer, Gesa LU (2015) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20151
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
Given the extent and urgency of many sustainability challenges it is crucial that individuals change their behaviour to steer society towards a more sustainable future. Yet, a variety of barriers exist that hinder sufficient individual pro-environmental behaviour. As it is not only important to understand these barriers but also how to facilitate more pro-environmental behaviour, my research aim is to find out why people do not behave more environmentally friendly, to develop an analytical framework of the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour, and to explore potential ways to overcome these barriers.
I reviewed academic literature on the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour using a subsumption technique and categorised them into... (More)
Given the extent and urgency of many sustainability challenges it is crucial that individuals change their behaviour to steer society towards a more sustainable future. Yet, a variety of barriers exist that hinder sufficient individual pro-environmental behaviour. As it is not only important to understand these barriers but also how to facilitate more pro-environmental behaviour, my research aim is to find out why people do not behave more environmentally friendly, to develop an analytical framework of the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour, and to explore potential ways to overcome these barriers.
I reviewed academic literature on the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour using a subsumption technique and categorised them into four categories based on how they influence pro-environmental behaviour (problem awareness, motivation for and realisation of individual action, and sufficient action). Barriers discussed in the literature and their interrelations are presented. They range from psychological barriers such as worldviews and perceived inequality, to structural barriers such as lack of infrastructure and information overload. Even though the categories can be displayed as steps of awareness and motivation for individual environmentally friendly actions, pro-environmental behaviour does not require climbing these steps sequentially. Instead, policy can create shortcuts from each category directly to pro-environmental behaviour using adequate interventions (e.g. framing, convenience, infrastructure projects and cognitive dissonance). In general, policymakers as external actors appear powerful in removing barriers to individual pro-environmental behaviour, but in particular governments’ power in implementing individual behaviour change is constrained by the ideological foundation of liberal states, such as liberty and autonomy. Finally, taking both the problem-solving and critical approach of sustainability science, I conclude that the contextual nature of barriers allows little contribution from academic research to problem-solving and transdisciplinary approaches are needed to overcome barriers in real world settings. Furthermore, individual behaviour is constrained by existing structures which need to changes in order to achieve a sustainable future.
My thesis contributes to sustainability science synthesising interdisciplinary knowledge of barriers to pro-environmental behaviour from fields such as psychology, economics, and sociology. This gives practitioners as well as academics a comprehensive understanding of the complex and dynamic field of barriers to pro-environmental behaviour and aims to generate inspiration for further research and interventions. In exploring how to overcome these barriers, my thesis contributes to one of sustainability science’s core questions aimed at improving human-nature interactions towards a more sustainable future. (Less)
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author
Langer, Gesa LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20151
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
pro-environmental behaviour, behaviour change, cognition, climate change, environmental policy, sustainability science
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2015:004
language
English
id
5436004
date added to LUP
2015-06-01 09:46:57
date last changed
2015-06-01 09:46:57
@misc{5436004,
  abstract     = {Given the extent and urgency of many sustainability challenges it is crucial that individuals change their behaviour to steer society towards a more sustainable future. Yet, a variety of barriers exist that hinder sufficient individual pro-environmental behaviour. As it is not only important to understand these barriers but also how to facilitate more pro-environmental behaviour, my research aim is to find out why people do not behave more environmentally friendly, to develop an analytical framework of the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour, and to explore potential ways to overcome these barriers. 
I reviewed academic literature on the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour using a subsumption technique and categorised them into four categories based on how they influence pro-environmental behaviour (problem awareness, motivation for and realisation of individual action, and sufficient action). Barriers discussed in the literature and their interrelations are presented. They range from psychological barriers such as worldviews and perceived inequality, to structural barriers such as lack of infrastructure and information overload. Even though the categories can be displayed as steps of awareness and motivation for individual environmentally friendly actions, pro-environmental behaviour does not require climbing these steps sequentially. Instead, policy can create shortcuts from each category directly to pro-environmental behaviour using adequate interventions (e.g. framing, convenience, infrastructure projects and cognitive dissonance). In general, policymakers as external actors appear powerful in removing barriers to individual pro-environmental behaviour, but in particular governments’ power in implementing individual behaviour change is constrained by the ideological foundation of liberal states, such as liberty and autonomy. Finally, taking both the problem-solving and critical approach of sustainability science, I conclude that the contextual nature of barriers allows little contribution from academic research to problem-solving and transdisciplinary approaches are needed to overcome barriers in real world settings. Furthermore, individual behaviour is constrained by existing structures which need to changes in order to achieve a sustainable future. 
My thesis contributes to sustainability science synthesising interdisciplinary knowledge of barriers to pro-environmental behaviour from fields such as psychology, economics, and sociology. This gives practitioners as well as academics a comprehensive understanding of the complex and dynamic field of barriers to pro-environmental behaviour and aims to generate inspiration for further research and interventions. In exploring how to overcome these barriers, my thesis contributes to one of sustainability science’s core questions aimed at improving human-nature interactions towards a more sustainable future.},
  author       = {Langer, Gesa},
  keyword      = {pro-environmental behaviour,behaviour change,cognition,climate change,environmental policy,sustainability science},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {... for they know not what they do : an exploratory review of the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour and policy approaches to address them},
  year         = {2015},
}