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ECHO - Ecologic Change - Human Options

Project Title:
ECHO: Ecologic Chance - Human Options:
Ecologic Encouragement Settings (EES) for Opinion Leaders, aimed at generating a Paradigm Change from "Economic Growth" to "Ecologic Sustainability".

The ECHO project grounds on my desire to make a practical contribution to environmental education and/or motivation. Chosing the format of a PhD project seemed a way of combining academic study and practiced environmentalism. Obtaining a PhD would be a logical further step in my "academic career" (since 1987), aimed at gaining credibility. For me the topics of sustainable development and limits to growth, and their images for opinion leaders represent the core of the ecological issue.

Current, mainstream environmental efforts focus primarily on the public, which is asked to 'care for the environment', to 'reduce - re-use - recycle', to develop another 'ethic', and so on. However, most opinion leaders push in the opposite direction: they seem to believe that continued increased production and consumption (economic growth) is both necessary and can be made compatible with safeguarding a viable environment.

The task of educating opinion leaders - toward an ecological vision that growth is NOT sustainable - seems of major importance. We have no time, I believe, to wait for our children to change their mindsets and take control. Extrapolation of environmental trends leads to my (present) opinion that environmental disaster will be here within the next 50 years, approximately. This is only an indication of my own sense of urgency. But even if it would be in 75 or in 150 years, this would not defuse the ultimate destructive power of the growth paradigm and practices. Because of the time perspective, opinion leaders are focused rather than students, since opinion leaders decide today on the environmental conditions we and our own children will enjoy (?) tomorrow.

Research concept:
The core of the research is the designing and trying out the 'Ecologic Encouragement Setting' (EES). The research design originally proposed would have three stages:
1. Pre-test: Monitoring the attitude and behaviour regarding growth.
2. Test: Application of the 'Ecologic Encouragement Setting'.
3. Post-test: Monitoring the attitude and behaviour regarding growth.
and possibly a fourth:
4. The application of a post-test "supportive setting" may be needed for reinforcement of the newly won sustainability attitude, some time after the application of the EES.

The participants are individual opinion leaders from business and administration, preferably the men and women at the top of the hierarchy. The aim is to generate paradigm change in the individual. The effect which this change may or may not have on the organisation they work for, or on their personal situation outside the workplace will not be addressed. These 'after-change' effects depend on a number of factors that are outside the scope of this project.

The opinion leaders' partners (wives, husbands) may very well be an important influence (extraneous variable). Therefore it should be carefully examined whether these partners can be included as participants in the 'Ecologic Encouragement Setting'. The design of the EES will determine the number of opinion leaders (OL) that participate. This in turn will lead to determining the details of the research design (method). Eventually the research may develop into an exploratory qualitative design. My present idea on the EES means a participation of 8 to 10 opinion leaders in the main EES application at a maximum.

A pilot phase is needed for testing the EES and the monitoring methods for pre- and post-test behaviour. Because of the societal level of the participants, their choice and the invitation to participate needs careful consideration. The number of possible participants may be rather restricted. Also, the nature of the enterprise does require a preparation that creates a maximum chance of positive outcomes of the 'Ecologic Encouragement Setting'. Therefore it may be desirable to have a pilot phase with repeated application of the EES on graduate students in management and economics and a main phase with only one application of the EES.

The whole set-up should become a commercial venture, where the participants in the main phase will pay for participation in an "experience" or "course" they desire to take part in. This will increase the chance for positive outcomes.

Time schedule
The intended finalising date for the thesis project is 1 February 1998. Because of the forthcoming elections (Oct 1996), the probably turbulent political time before and after this event, and the summer/Christmas period, the main test (application of the EES) should take place by April 1997. This grants sufficient time for 2 to 3 pilot applications and their evaluation in the second half of 1996, the post-test monitoring and analysis after the main EES application, and the writing of the thesis.

The Ecologic Encouragement Setting (EES):
In view of the character traits of leaders and a number of well-known escape mechanisms I think that an Ecologic Encouragement Setting (EES) that generates a shift in ideology will resemble a psychologic intervention. The EES method to be devised should therefore draw from experience in psychotherapy, management training, peace education, and other. The EES should build upon basic motivational drives, such as self-interest, pride, and pleasure. A changing of the participants' character is and cannot be an intended outcome of the EES .

The EES comprises two main factors for change: motivational (psychology), and educational (teaching methodology). Because of the tendencies of psychologic repression and defense reactions in view of the magnitude of the task, the EES should take advantage of proven methods in psychotherapy . It must closely link to the level of knowledge and the ways of thinking and the economic, environmental, and social models the participants work with and adhere to. Important issues to deal with are the current mindsets towards continued change, high speed, efficiency, 'free market' competition, globalisation, and other.

In discussions, ecological issues are frequently confounded with moral questions. Moral, ecological and economical issues are ofetn closely linked, of course. But initially one should discuss each issue separately, in order to obtain an scientifically correct model. Continued eradication of insect-borne diseases may be socially desirable desirable but ecologically harmful, for instance. After elaboriating the socio-economic and ecological models separately, an evaluation and discussion on priority setting can be started. In principle, the EES method could range from the extreme of a very authoritarian setting (putting the leaders back into a primary school classroom situation) to a participatory facilitating setting of full mutual disclosure and trust. The EES could be a weekend from Friday night till Sunday afternoon. The facilitators should be experienced facilitators, to be trained especially for this specific task. The EES will have to provide in the suitable support to deal with the emotional effects that a shift in the perception of environmental realities may evoke.

Monitoring of attitude and behaviour regarding growth Attitude is expressed in behaviour: the possible discrepancy between verbal and factual behaviour makes verbal behaviour (attitude) subject to the proof of behaviour. It is assumed that the participants adhere to the growth paradigm, which will certainly become easily evident in the pre-test monitoring of their public behaviour. As opinion leaders they enjoy public attention, appear in the media with advertisements, articles, and in interviews. They write books and papers, give lectures. Opinion leaders take policy decisions that are publicly accessible.

Monitoring the OL's utterances in public is one way of assessing the pre- and post-test behaviour. The behaviour within the organisation and in the opinion leaders' private life is much less accessible to monitoring. Within an organisation subordinate workers could be interviewed as to behavioral the OL's change with regard to growth issues. Interviewing the opinion leaders after the EES would be a direct means of behavioral assessment. One question is in how far the interview responses regarding the growth paradigm can be considered reliable.

Present situation:
I am in the process of being enrolled at VUW.. My supervisors are Dr. James Liu (psychologist), and Prof. Kaye McAulay, director of the Graduate School of Business and Government Administration at VUW.
The research set-up that was originally proposed and accepted is now considered to be insufficient for a PhD in Psychology. The method is questioned in its feasibility. Both supervisors have experience in quantitative research designs. In psychology their appears to be nobody who could/would supervise a qualitative design, that would probably evolve when the EES would support a maximum of 8 participants only. Doubts exist as to the possibilities of monitoring attitude change. It is claimed that such a change could be completely repressed. I have spoken with Nancy Pollock (anthropology) and John McKinnon (development studies) who both show active interest. I will see John McKinnon again on Friday 15 March.
Wednesday 13 March I will speak with Karin Cronin, PR of WWF in the botanical gardens.

I wish to maintain the core of my project: the trial to achieve a change of ideology in opinion leaders. I consider a mere survey of attitudes or environmental awareness as insufficiently fruitful. But I am perfectly willing to adapt the project to academic and practical needs.
Possibly other departments do put less weight on quantitative methodology, or allow a different PhD altogether. I have insufficient academical insight and depend on guidance.

The principal purpose of my ECHO project is elaborating and testing a method that generates a change of attitude and behaviour regarding the 'growth' paradigm.
The work lies in the area of Environmental Motivation (EM), defined as the motivation to care for the environment. EM is closely related to factual knowledge of both environmental issues and the feasibility and real benefit of proposed solutions. Thus Environmental Motivation, directed at a change of mindset, involves Environmental Education (EE).

In spite of continued public attention to the environmental issues, the state of the world becomes worse every year and resources are destroyed at and increasing pace. Because of the environmental urgency, I chose to design a project that aims a creating a major change in a field that I consider to be the core of the problem: the ideology of growth of the opinion leaders in society.

It can be logically maintained that growth in any form is not sustainable. Any kind of growth will eventually come to an end, either by choice or by physical boundaries. Since people follow their leaders, I choose to focus my efforts on trying to change opinion leaders' visions on the environmental issue of growth. I chose to call them opinion leaders and not the more currently users decision takers or decision makers, since all people make decisions. Because of the time perspective, opinion leaders are focused rather than students, since opinion leaders decide today on the environmental conditions we and our own children will enjoy (?) tomorrow.

General set-up
The research will comprise three stages:
Measuring of change It is assumed that change with regard to the growth paradigm is an absolute change (yes vs. no) . But the way in which this absolute change becomes evident in actual behaviour probably varies along a scale. An opinion leader may very well remain within the organisation for pragmatical reasons but 'emigrate internally', demonstrating passive resistance, for instance . The 'Ecologic Encouragement Setting'

Analysis of the outcomes

A monitoring and assessment of the level and current sources of information about the environment during a period before and after the application of the EES will control the extraneous variables which may contribute to paradigm change.
The statistical analysis depends on the number of participants and the number of EES application that can be carried out. We, the human race, have an ecologic chance to survive at a decent level of well-being. But we have to do it ourselves and choose the options in line with the precautionary principle. This means that solutions must be based based on the knowledge and technology that is available today. We cannot speculate on future solutions or wait for the other to start. I must do what I can and I must do it now .
I consider the current "growth"-ideology to be one of the most important factors toward the continuing degrading of our environment.

The Ecologic Encouragement Setting method will also include a carefully designed portion of Environmental Education (EE), drawing transdisciplinary from ecologic and economic sources, crossing the boundaries and models set by mainstream scientists.

ECHO Outline
ECHO Project

Vergleiche auch: AEM Adult Environmental Motivation (thesis 1992).

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