Identity and the Natural Environment: The Psychological Significance of Nature

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Susan D. Clayton, Susan Opotow
Mass., 2003 - Psychology - 353 pages
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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. This book 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 the book 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."

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About the author (2003)

Susan Opotow is Professor in the Graduate Program in Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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