From Perception to Reaction
An Excursus: Environmental Problems
To understand the relationship between the environment and society completely, from perception to reaction – if this is possible at all – one has to take a look at what is actually meant when speaking about pollution and environmental problems. In everyday language it is often used in a rather vague way without any specificity. Research papers in the social sciences often do so as well. The purpose of this chapter is to provide insight into the complexity of what can be found behind the concepts of pollution and environmental problems. Especially when investigating people’s attitudes and behavior toward preventing pollution, it has to be kept in mind that pollution may have different definitions, not only from country to country but also between individuals. A few questions from the 2010 module of the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), the third wave about the environment, may introduce the issue:
International Social Survey Programme 2010:
These four questionnaire items mention environmental problems, environmental protection, uncertainty about doing something about the environment and environmental threats. Do people think about throwing away a piece of paper or spilling oil into a river when pondering environmental problems? Is reducing people’s energy consumption or donating to or actively participating in environmental protection groups when environmental protection is addressed? Do people consider environmental pollution and problems to be the same? These kinds of questions can be understood in diverse ways, “because different countries face different environmental problems and interpret the question differently” (Israel...
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