Cognitive and Behavioral Environment Concern Among University Students in a Western Canadian City: Implications for Institutional Interventions

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:40
Oral Presentation
Rozzet JURDI-HAGE, Sociology & Social Studies, University of Regina, Canada
H Sam HAGE, University of Regina, Canada
Henry CHOW, Sociology & Social Studies, University of Regina, Canada
Informed by Stern and colleagues’ Value-Belief-Norm (VBN) theory and their empirical work on the linkages between social forces and social-psychological processes that impel people to act pro-environmentally, we examined levels and predictors of cognitive and behavioral environmental concern (EC) of post-secondary students in a setting heavily focused on expanding resource extraction. Students are worth further study; they will be affected by and will have to provide solutions and take competent action in civic participation for sustainable environmental development. Data for this investigation were obtained through completion of self-administered questionnaires during the 2009/2010 academic year from a sample of 421 undergraduate students attending a medium-sized public university in southern Saskatchewan, Canada’s second largest oil-producing province and third largest producer of natural gas. The rise to power of the “pro-extraction” Saskatchewan Party for the third consecutive term since 2007 has intensified neoliberal environmental governance to facilitate economic growth. Results showed no widespread pro-NEP oriented attitudes. Students were more prone to place responsibility for environmental protection at the door of government and industry than themselves. Students practiced a range of environmentally supportive behaviors (ESB) with varying intensities. To test the causal structure of the VBN, hierarchical multiple regression models were used, which provided replication for several of the theory’s propositions in predicting generalized and specific environmental beliefs and ESB. Findings highlight the complex relationships between personal background, academic and cognitive variables as influences on pro-environmental participation. Notably, the impact of formal instruction on the environment in influencing cognitive and behavioral EC, both directly and indirectly, suggests it is essential educational institutions have formal curricula that expose students to the necessary types of environmental knowledge, awareness, attitudes, and critical thinking skills to promote environmental literacy and address unsustainable lifestyles and attitudes. Institutional interventions are discussed, including the role of universities as “effective change agents”.