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Trading Zones in Environmental Education

Creating Transdisciplinary Dialogue


Edited By Marianne E. Krasny and Justin Dillon

Environmental educators often adhere to a relatively narrow theoretical paradigm focusing on changing attitudes and knowledge, which are assumed to foster pro-environmental behaviors, which, in turn, leads to better environmental quality. This book takes a different approach to trying to understand how environmental education might influence people, their communities, and the environment. The authors view changing environmental behaviors as a «wicked» problem, that is, a problem that does not readily lend itself to solutions using existing disciplinary approaches. The book as a whole opens up new avenues for pursuing environmental education research and practice and thus expands the conversation around environmental education, behaviors, and quality. Through developing transdisciplinary research questions and conceptual paradigms, this book also suggests new practices beyond those currently used in environmental education, natural resources management, and other environmental fields.
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Introduction. Tales of a Transdisciplinary Scholar: Marianne E. Krasny

Is Changing Environmental Behavior a “Wicked” Problem?



Tales of a Transdisciplinary Scholar

Marianne E. Krasny

More than 20 years after the historic Belgrade and Tbilisi meetings defining environmental education (UNESCO 1975, 1977), Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002) posed the question: “Why do people act environmentally, and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior?” In particular, they wondered why people who are environmentally knowledgeable and aware often fail to display pro-environmental behaviors. After reviewing the evidence for predictive models in environmental education, including those positing linear pathways from knowledge to attitudes to behavior, as well as those emphasizing altruism, empathy, and pro-social behaviors, they concluded, “the question of what shapes pro-environmental behavior is such a complex one that it cannot be visualized in one single framework or diagram. Such a single diagram with all the factors that shape and influence behavior would be so complicated that it would lose its practicality and probably even its meaning” (Kollmuss and Agyeman 2002, 248). Similarly, Steg and Vlek (2009) and Heimlich and Ardoin (2008) reviewed multiple lines of research attempting to predict environmental behaviors, including those focusing on cost/benefit analysis, moral and normative concerns or values, self-efficacy, social marketing, social learning, and emotion. Whereas each model was useful in some situations, the authors found neither a unified predictive model ← ix | x → that explained environmental behaviors in multiple contexts, nor an explanation of which models might be most useful in a given situation.

A number of authors have recognized that environmental problems are complex...

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