Saturday, July 23, 2011

Environmental Psychology Article Analysis


Although many current events affect environmental psychology, perhaps by far the most pervasive human affect is the process by which people obtain food. The processes range from highly sustainable to severely polluting, and a large percentage of the population is ignorant of these processes. Although many people seek healthy choices, they are not prepared to make conscious decisions, which can have altering effects on both the individual and the natural environment (Institute of Grocery Distribution, 2002). Feeding our growing populations has become an issue of grave consequence, and empirical evidence through scientific exploration is an essential component toward accommodating sustenance for both the species and the environment by which it thrives.

Article Summary

Even though there has been a substantial increase in positive attitudes on sustainable food consumption, behavior is not universally consistent with attitudes. Vermeir and Verbeke (2006) aimed to identify the behavioral gap between the two. Barriers to sustainable food consumption include personal ignorance about sustainability as well as believing sustainable products are unavailable, overpriced, or inconvenient, price being the most significant barrier (Institute of Grocery Distribution, 2002). Even when consumers can afford the price difference, there is little empirical evidence supporting the use of the more expensive product.

Vermeir and Verbeke (2006) analyzed “the impact of involvement, perceived availability, certainty, perceived consumer effectiveness, values and social norms on consumers’ attitudes and intentions towards sustainable food products” (p. 169). They found involvement with sustainability, certainty about the effects of unsustainable consumerism, and perceived consumer effectiveness had a significant positive influence on attitude and intention. Furthermore, they determined perceiving limited availability negatively affected intention to purchase, and social pressure was more influential than personal attitudes. Vermeir and Verbeke (2006) established sustainable and ethical food consumption is efficiently promoted through raising involvement, helping consumers understand the power of their choices, promoting certainty in sustainable food theories, social pressure, and increasing the awareness of availability. Schwartz (1992) and Minteer, Corley, and Manning (2004) claim linking values with intentions to purchase sustainable products varied throughout the population; however, raising public awareness and involvement, strengthening personal as well as social understanding and certainty significantly increase sustainable food consumption.

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Supply

In the recent decade, it has become apparent to agricultural science that sustainable food production is an essential component to the health and well-being of the environment. Hobbs (2007) claims during the next decade, agriculture will have to accommodate more efficient use of natural resources minimizing the affect on the environment. Because of growing population demands, agriculturists will have to provide more food from less land, and incorporate more sustainable processes. Although far more consumers opt for ethically produced or sustainable products like organic, fair trade, and those in which animals are treated humanely, human food consumption continues to be driven by convenience and habit, and people often resist change (Minteer, Corley, & Manning, 2004; Jensen & Sandoe, 2002). The decisions consumers make regarding foods and consumerism are often based on value, taste, appearance, and convenience, rather than motivations toward animal welfare or the conservation and preservation of the environment (Hobbs, 2007).

Influence on Environmental Psychology

Every issue that demands empirical evidence must be accommodated by scientific investigation (Clayton & Myers, 2009). The information obtained by Vermeir and Verbeke (2006) facilitates the design and implementation of realistic, safe, and effective ways for human navigation into the previously unknown territory of unsustainable consumerism. Because environmental psychology studies the relationship between the natural environment and its inhabitants, it is the responsibility of this psychological discipline to guide and provide reason for a more beneficial course of interaction (Clayton & Myers, 2009). As in any science, it is the questions that determine the studies, ergo, the questions create the science. More than influencing environmental psychology, these questions determine the breadth and scope of the growth and development of the discipline. Vermeir’s and Verbeke’s (2006) study is a tangible example of problems as they influence an affect toward realistic change.

Sustainable food consumption will continue to play a huge role in the natural environment’s preservation and conservation (Hobbs, 2007). As people more accurately attach value and consequence to the implications by which we process and provide food, environmental psychology continues to provide knowledge and design for agriculture and food consumption that better aligns with sustainability (Schwartz, 1992). Furthermore, the discipline determines the cognitive aspects of human engagement and provides adequate means of positively influencing masses of people (Vermeir & Verbeke, 2006). The questions evoked by the need to create a system of sustainable food production continue to influence environmental psychology and its scientific exploration into further identifying both human and environmental needs, and mediating the affects of the reciprocal relationship between the nature and its human inhabitants.

Conclusion

Educating people to the need for sustainable food consumption and production proves difficult, at best, and understanding the reasoning by which people embrace sustainable food consumption, hesitate, or simply decline to engage in changing their consumerism becomes a significant component of promoting such change (Minteer, Corley, & Manning, 2004). Environmental psychology continues to play a significant role in designing effective influential means to create a more accurate awareness by which humans can implement working solutions toward the preservation and conservation of their essential and life-giving resources.


References

Clayton, S. & Myers, G. (2009). Conservation psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hobbs, P. R. (2007). Conservation agriculture: what is it and why is it important for future

sustainable food production? The Journal of Agricultural Science, 145(02), 127. doi:

10.1017/S0021859607006892

Institute of Grocery Distribution (2002). “Consumer attitudes to ‘Eat the View’: part two – store

exit interviews”. A report prepared for the Countryside Agency by the IGD, Letchmore Heath,

Watford, Herts. http://www.eat-theview.org.uk/research/pdf/Consumer%20Attitudes%20-

%20Part%202.pdf

Jensen, K.K. and P. Sandoe, (2002). Food Safety and Ethics: The Interplay between Science and

Values, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 15(3), 245-253.

Minteer, B. A., Corley, E. A., & E. Manning, R. (2004). Environmental Ethics Beyond

Principle? The Case for a Pragmatic Contextualism. Journal of Agricultural and

Environmental Ethics, 17(2), 131-156. doi: 10.1023/B:JAGE.0000017392.71870.1f
Schwartz, S.H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values – theoretical advances and

empirical tests in 20 countries. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 1-65.

Vermeir, I., & Verbeke, W. (2006). Sustainable food consumption: exploring the consumer

“attitude – behavioral intention” gap. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics,

19(2), 169-194. doi: 10.1007/s10806-005-5485-3

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