Promoting pro-environmental competency

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Human behavior has to be effective in order to become sustainable. Effectiveness is a dimension of human psychology that makes possible both people's adaptation and their problem-solving processes. Environmental crises pose a variety of problems that individuals have to effectively deal with by using their behavioral capacities. Efficiency is one of such capacities, implying the generation of a product or result by minimizing resources and wastes. Environmental affordances also induce effective behaviors by offering problem-solution clues to humans and other animals; that is why environmental psychologists suggest the design of environments containing pro-environmental affordances. Environmental knowledge allows handling information with regard to ecological problems and also information that permits taking advantage of natural resources. Knowledge has to be transformed into skills to effectively impact the environment. Pro-environmental skills are significant determinants of sustainable action and they are one of the two basic components of pro-environmental competency (PEC), the requirements asking for environmental conservation being the second component. Thus, PEC is defined as "the possession of skills responding to pro-ecological requirements." Those requirements are demands that social groups set in order to guarantee the protection of environmental resources. People also develop self-imposed pro-environmental requirements in the form of norms, values, motives and beliefs. The pertinent literature shows that developing PEC in citizens increases the likelihood of their engaging in sustainable behaviors. In this chapter, we present a structural PEC model specified with data generated from a study with Mexican children. The model assumes that pro-environmental competency results from high and significant interrelations among pro-environmental skills, knowledge, motives, beliefs and behaviors. These interrelations are presumably influenced by appropriately-designed educational programs, which integrate pro-environmental demands (requirements) with conservationist skills. An environmental education program aimed at promoting water conservation was designed and tested. Children did not exhibit pro-environmental competency prior to implementing the educational intervention, as manifested by low levels of their environmental requirements and skills, as well as by almost-zero correlations between those variables. After implementing the program, PEC coherently emerged as a second-order factor linking requirements with skills. PEC saliently and significantly predicted water conservation behaviors and the levels of pro-environmental skills, knowledge, motives, beliefs and behaviors significantly increased as a consequence of the program. Implications of these results for the development of successful environmental-education strategies and for the promotion of sustainable behaviors are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychological Approaches to Sustainability
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent Trends in Theory, Research and Applications
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Pages225-246
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781626188778
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by U.K. S.E.R.C.

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