Title: ACCOUNTING FOR PERSISTENCE IN AND DESISTENCE FROM PRO-ENVIRONMENTALBEHAVIOUR: UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND CAR USE
Speaker: Chijioke Uba
School of Management,Royal Holloway University of London
Global C02 emissions are on the increase worldwide and must be substantially reduced to abate the associated impact of environmental problems such as global warming. Conventional wisdom suggests that while the effects of C02 emissions may be difficult to quantify, the potential importance of their impact on the planet and future generations calls for immediate collective actions.
Car usage is one of the major culprits on the sustainability agenda. For this reason, a lot has been done, especially in developed countries, to try to convince people to reduce car use. Some of this effort involves thecreation of ‘penalties’ associated with increased car usage (e.g. congestion charges, limited parking, and petrol taxes) as well as efforts to promote and improve alternatives to car use. Despite these efforts, many individuals are not willing to reduce use of the car. There is also growing awareness that thisis not largely an awareness issue; most drivers profess awareness and belief inthe need to reduce car use for environmental reasons. As such, the marginal impact of further awareness campaigns is unlikely to be substantial. This raises thequestion of why pro-environmental cognitions fails to translate to corresponding pro-environmental behaviour
A lot of studies document the different motivations underlying car use. That pro-environmental cognitions or beliefs do not necessarily translate to pro-environmental behaviour is also argued in literature. However, few studies have focused specifically on understanding how individuals are able to free themselves from the environmental imperative to reduce car use, and how "freeing" mechanisms and strategies are underpinned by schemas (the broad cognitive representations or views that people have of themselves, others, roles, events and the social world, as well as how these become embedded in practices and ways of living). This gap forms the point of departure for the study's findings that will be presented. A synthesis of the study's focus, methodology and findings form the basis for the presentation.
More concretely, a high level conceptualization("binary approach") is employed in exploring the link between pro-environmental beliefs and corresponding pro-environmental behaviour in relation to car use. Specifically, the study explores the linguistic accounts and mechanisms employed by a university student sample to justify and maintain continued use (persistence) and reduction or discontinued use (desistence) of the car. The study's theoretical framework is underpinned by the Neutralization (Sykes & Matza, 1957) and Affirmation (Copes & Williams, 2007)techniques, attribution theory and identity theories.
The study findings identify the dominant neutralizations and affirmations techniques that are employed to justify persistence in or desistence from car use. Justification accounts can become add-ons to the more generic motivations for car use or non-use that have been identified in literature. In addition, the study's findings shed light on how these techniques and justification accounts are tied to schemas, the imperatives of conflicting normative contexts and the individual's evolving sense of self. For the individual and group, findings highlight how justification accounts serve as mechanisms and strategies for reflexive self-organization, that is, maintenance of consistency with schemas, expressed identities and corresponding normative imperatives. Once identified and contextualized, implications for intervention(s) aimed at getting people to reduce use of the car are discussed.