Recognizing and overcoming the critical cultural barriers to progress in the sustainability movement : from a human perspective Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/zc77ss357

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  • This thesis seeks to better understand the most pressing cultural barriers to progress in the sustainability movement, and to offer suggestions for overcoming barriers. This research includes a two-year long case study of the sustainability movement at OSU, where the researcher coordinated projects encouraging behavior change. Despite increasing severity and knowledge of environmental problems, behavior on-campus continues largely unchanged. Cultural norms and values of western society underlie reasons why behavior is not changing on-campus. The OSU case study grounds cultural barriers identified in analysis of semi-structured interviews with campus sustainability leaders. Literature for this research looks at cultural norms and values which block progress in the movement and critiques current efforts which rely too heavily on science and technology to solve fundamentally human problems in pursuing sustainability. Some of the more prevalent cultural barriers identified in this research include: a lack of time and/or money to get involved in the movement or make behavior changes, reactionary thinking, a growing sense of entitlement, and a lack of dialogue about the sacrifices needed to create a more sustainable society. In examining ways to overcome cultural barriers to progress, the researcher suggests crafting the sustainability message to be accessible, relatable, valuable and manageable to the average person. The framework for crafting the sustainability message is guided by the notion that progress in the movement will be defined by a focus on creative, personal, and spiritual aspects of human life, in addition to scientific and technological measures.
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