“Concepts of Human-Nature Relationships and biospheric values: a
gateway to a better understanding of transition towards sustainable energy behaviour?”
The following PhD-Project by Michael Braito is based on the idea of the Post-Doc-Project by Iris Kunze (see below).
Although we deepened our understanding of how and why people choose to behave, it is not yet fully clear how to encourage environmentally oriented behaviour in order to reduce human impact on nature. Economic incentives seem to make only a limited contribution in promoting environmental oriented and sustainable behaviour. In sustainability literature, the effect of socio-psychological factors (values, Concepts of Human-Nature Relationships, attitudes, norms etc.) on human behaviour has been much emphasised. However, there is little knowledge on the socio-psychological factors in the field of energy behaviour. In particular there is a knowledge gap concerning the effect energy policies might have on people’s socio-psychological factors that according to literature play a crucial role to enhance a long-lasting behavioural change.
In my PhD project I study human behaviour within the complex system of energy governance, in order to contribute to a better understanding how to accelerate transitions towards more sustainable energy behaviour. It is the aim to provide a holistic understanding why people behave in society the way they do. The social context in which this behaviour occurs is as important as the performance and influence of incentives and institutions. I focus on the interdependences between governance strategies and the motivation (socio-psychological factors) individuals have to change their energy behaviour.
I explore the example of two entirely different photovoltaic governance approaches: stimulating individual versus collective engagement in photovoltaic projects. Both study cases in Austria and the Province of Bolzano/South Tyrol (Italy) involve individual engagement; citizen solar power plants can only be found in Austria. Moreover, financial support in Austria is moderate compared to the huge subsidy granted in Italy until July 2013. In the empirical research I combine several variables and research approaches. On the basis of multi-disciplinary theories a mixed methods design is applied to investigate the following questions:
- How does the energy behaviour differ between those who engage in individual and those in collective photovoltaic investments?
- How do different governance approaches to promote photovoltaics influence the motivation of respondents to change their energy behaviour (Austria versus South Tyrol)?
- Which values and Concepts of Human-Nature Relationships do individuals in each case hold (individual versus collective)?
- What are the effects of economic incentives on values and Concepts of Human-Nature Relationships (Austria versus South Tyrol)?
Phd-student: Braito Michael, Mag.
supervisor: Penker Marianne, Ao.Univ.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.
Muhar Andreas, Ao. Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. nat.techn.
Flint Courtney G., Dr.nat.soc. (Utah State University, USA)
In the following the former intention of Iris Kunze, planned as a Post-Doc-Project is describe.
“Concepts of Human-Nature Relationship and their Applicability in Sustainability Processes”
Multiple factors have transformed the landscapes in Central Europe into a contested terrain of different interests. Growing material wealth, an exponential growing economy and resource use as well as an increase in mobility are threatening and challenging the global and regional balances. As a consequence the concept of sustainability was invented to raise the consciousness about the interference between the local and global scales as well as between nature and society. Expressed in governmental strategies by the UN, conveyed on national and local level the strategies should be and are implemented in regional landscape planning. Still the decision making and planning processes are often experienced controversial by the participating actors. The interpretation of the concept of sustainability does not appear as homogeneously and clearly in practice as it sounded in theory.
The research project aims to clarify firstly how the engagement of actors in rural landscape management processes in Austria is influenced by their concepts of human-nature-relationship. Secondly it is asked if and how engagement for sustainability values can be triggered; e.g. does a utilitarian concept of ecosystem service foster or hinder sustainable behavior?
The research starts with a theoretical analysis of concepts and studies on attitudes and engagement in landscape research and the neighboring disciplines of environmental psychology, sociology, and educational studies. In several surveys typologies of human-nature-relationships were derived from the areas of e.g. ecological consumption, nature use or agriculture. In the second step a system of typologies will be chosen to construct narratives for the area of landscape planning processes from the actors’ perspective.
For the selection of case studies in Austria (in collaboration with a corresponding study in the US) key actors in Austria will be identified for qualitative Interviews. They are asked about the main issues in communication and engagement, obstacles and experiences for success in the area of realizing sustainability in rural landscape management. Those can be found in the area of agriculture (environmental and culture landscape programs), nature conservation planning, (e.g. Natura 2000), sustainably regional development (e.g. Agenda 21), river revitalization or energy planning (e.g. wind power, geothermal energy). Programs that include group decision processes are of special interest. Three to five case studies will be chosen to interview if possible all involved – engaged or concerned but not engaged – actors. The concepts of human-nature-relationships in connection with the kind of engagement of the actors shall be identified by using the narratives in partly qualitative (with key actors), partly quantitative interviews.
In the second part of the study, those concepts of human-nature-relationship, which trigger engagement in sustainability processes will be also related to different concepts of sustainability. The outcome aims at providing a list of communication strategies to motivate engagement in sustainability processes.
post-doc: Kunze Iris, Dr. (former team member)
supervisor: Muhar Andreas, Ao. Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. nat.techn.
co-supervisor: Penker Marianne, Ao.Univ.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.