384 pages, 17 illustrations
The often impassioned nature of environmental conflicts can be attributed to the fact that they are bound up with our sense of personal and social identity. Environmental identity – how we orient ourselves to the natural world – leads us to personalize abstract global issues and take action (or not) according to our sense of who we are. We may know about the greenhouse effect – but can we give up our SUV for a more fuel-efficient car? Understanding this psychological connection can lead to more effective pro-environmental policymaking.
Identity and the Natural Environment examines the ways in which our sense of who we are affects our relationship with nature, and vice versa. Identity and the Natural Environment brings together cutting-edge work on the topic of identity and the environment, sampling the variety and energy of this emerging field but also placing it within a descriptive framework. These theory-based, empirical studies locate environmental identity on a continuum of social influence, and Identity and the Natural Environment is divided into three sections reflecting minimal, moderate, or strong social influence. Throughout, the contributors focus on the interplay between social and environmental forces; as one local activist says, "We don't know if we're organizing communities to plant trees, or planting trees to organize communities".
"Identity and the Natural Environment is a fascinating book on many levels, dealing with topics of the utmost importance for our future well-being – even our survival as a species. It does so by pioneering a host of new research approaches, and presents the findings in ways that are interesting and accessible, yet rigorous. It represents a wonderful perspective that ushers in a new domain in the social sciences."
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Claremont Graduate University, and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
"Anyone interested in how people come to identify with the natural environment and how such identification in turn affects behavior must read this book. It reports a fascinating set of studies, employing a range of methods applied to diverse populations, that provide rich insights into the antecedents and consequences of environmental/ecological identification."
– Riley E. Dunlap, Donner Professor
"Identity and the Natural Environment is a superb anthology of interdisciplinary research, conceptually organized to get to the heart of a crucial question: how are ecological awareness and activism linked to core identity?"
– Mitchell S. Thomashow, Chair, Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch New England Graduate School, author of Bringing the Biosphere Home and Ecological Identity
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Susan Clayton is Professor of Psychology at the College of Wooster. Susan Opotow is Professor in the Graduate Program in Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.