Environmental Identity Stronger Indicator of Sustainable Behaviour than Affiliation with Activists: Implications for our Changing Climate Author: Sharon Burrell
My MSc research was conducted in 2023. Key points are outlined below and the full research paper is available on request. If you would like to discuss further please contact me at Sharon@sharonburrell.co.uk. Key points
Humans continue to find it challenging to respond to the existential threat of climate change in a constructive manner.
Coping strategies in response to uncomfortable emotions include denigrating those who advocate for the protection of the environment.
Communication via the media and other channels plays a significant role in perpetuating negative stereotypes of environmentalists.
This research replicated a study from 2013 which investigated the impact of negative stereotypes on people’s willingness to associate themselves with environmentalists and take up the behaviours they advocate.
The research also measured the strength of participants’ Environmental Identity – how they relate to nature and perceive themselves as part of the wider ecology.
The results revealed a change since the 2013 research. Who is conveying the environmental message no longer appears to influence the audience’s willingness to take part in pro-environmental behaviours.
However, people still attach more negative stereotypical traits to environmentalists who challenge the status quo (eg by protesting) compared to environmentalists who advocate for individual action (eg charity work and sustainable lifestyle choices).
The strength of someone’s Environmental Identity was found to have a significant positive effect on their willingness to support environmentalists and the views / behaviours they advocate.
The findings are therefore supportive of storytelling and communication strategies which not only subvert negative stereotypes of environmentalists, but also focus on nurturing an audience’s Environmental Identity.
There are many ways of achieving this, including portraying environment-friendly activities as desirable, and normalising a balanced and respectful relationship with nature.