Collective stewardship and pathways to change: understanding pro-social values, connectedness to nature and empathic capacity to cultivate ecocentrism in rural communities of North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Date: 5 July 2021
University of Exeter
PhD in Human Geography
Drawing from multiple research traditions, I investigated pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours and assessed potential of behaviour change strategies, focusing on addressing hunting as a practice. An immersive 14-month ethnographic study involving participant observations, interviews, and focus groups explored the cognitive, ...
Drawing from multiple research traditions, I investigated pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours and assessed potential of behaviour change strategies, focusing on addressing hunting as a practice. An immersive 14-month ethnographic study involving participant observations, interviews, and focus groups explored the cognitive, social, and spiritual histories of four rural communities in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Particular attention was paid to the individualistic elements of attitudes, values, and beliefs, along with the social norms and perceived behavioural control governing these variables. My research revealed highly pro-social communities, with empathic tendencies and care-giving values, demonstrating latent potential for conservation advocacy. Expression of these values is dependent on several loci of control, particularly normative pressures of close communal living and religious doctrine. Land stewardship through participation in resource management initiatives generates responsibility toward wildlife and natural areas. I discovered the heterogenization of old and new belief systems toac have major implications for control and acceptance of behaviours and how likely people partake in practices related to the environment. Next, a strong affinity for nature was recorded, demonstrated by preferences for natural settings, awe and wonder of nature, human-animal relations including expression of empathic and compassionate predispositions. I noted a growing phenomenon of cultural erosion and loss of traditional ecological knowledge. A call for preservationism reflected the wish to avert breakdown of ancient cultural roots and identities, and the wisdom which connects people to the natural world. Finally, I experienced emergent environmental identities and openness to change, with a transition toward pride over exploitation of native wildlife, suggesting potential pathways to ecocentrism and thus more sustainable lifestyles. I distilled these insights into a strategic theory of change. This includes developing campaign messages which promote pro-sociality and environmental citizenship; working within the governing structures of societal control, particularly belief systems; and speaking to pre-existing communal values and social norms surrounding the acceptance of exploitative practices related to the natural world. Emergent from this research is a nuanced understanding of cultural dynamism and the links between pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours, which may help to normalise more harmonious relationships between people and nature.
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