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The ValueBehavior Gap in Sustainable Development: A Review of the Evidence


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Title: The ValueBehavior Gap in Sustainable Development: A Review of the Evidence

The Value-Behavior Gap in Sustainable
Development A Review of the Evidence
  • Robert Kates
  • Kennedy School, Harvard University
  • November 4th, 2004

Most advocates of sustainable development
recognize that for it to be realized would
require changes in human values, attitudes and
behaviors…Despite the importance of such value
changes, however, relatively little is known
about the long-term global trends in values,
attitudes, and behaviors that will both help or
hinder a sustainability transition. (Akin
Mabogunje 2004)
The Great Transition Scenario
  • ltwww.gsg.orggt

Four Visions of the Future
Policy Reform Stewardship through better
technology and management
Market Forces Market optimism, hidden and
enlightened hand
Great Transition Progressive social evolution,
human solidarity and the art of living
Fortress World Social chaos, fragmentation,
authoritarian solutions
Great Transition
  • In Great Transition, a connected and engaged
    global citizenry advance a new development
    paradigm that emphasizes the quality of life,
    human solidarity, and a strong ecological
    sensibility new values shape the planetary
  • Great Transition includes the rapid penetration
    of environmentally benign technologies, as does
    Policy Reform, but at a more rapid pace. A second
    major feature also supports environmental
    sustainability the shift toward less
    materially-intensive lifestyles. Resource
    requirements decrease as consumerism abates,
    populations stabilize, growth slows in affluent
    areas, and settlement patterns become more
    integrated and compact. At the same time, poverty
    levels drop, as equity between and within
    countries rapidly improves.

Values, Attitudes, and Behavior
  • Values are expressions of, or beliefs in, the
    worth of objects, qualities, or behaviors. Values
    define or direct us to goals, frame our
    attitudes, and provide standards against which
    the behavior of individuals and societies can be
  • Attitudes refer to the evaluation of a specific
    object, quality or behavior as good or bad,
    positive or negative. Attitudes often derive
    from and reflect abstract values
  • Behavior refers to concrete decisions and actions
    taken by individuals and groups, which are often
    rooted in underlying values and attitudes

Sustainable Development Values Documentary
  • Historical Chronology
  • Sustainable Development Taxonomy
  • The Earth Charter
  • The UN Millennium Declaration
  • The Great Transition Scenario

Historical Chronology
  • Peace 1945
  • Freedom 1950s
  • Development 1960s
  • Environment 1970s
  • Sustainable Development 1980s

Sustainable Development Taxonomy
The Earth Charter
The UN Millennium Declaration
The Great Transition Scenario
(No Transcript)
Values Comparison
  • Values come in many shapes, sizes, and guises
  • Values are ordered, but not consistently so
  • Key value themes
  • 20th Century concerns peace, freedom,
    development, and environment
  • Three pillars of sustainable developmentenvironme
    nt, economy, and equity
  • Sustainability Transition meeting human needs,
    reducing hunger and poverty, while preserving the
    life support systems of the planet .

Sustainable Development Attitudes and
Behavior Survey Evidence
  • Sustainable Development No data, but…
  • Development
  • Environment
  • Driving Forces (IPAT, DPAE)
  • Population
  • Affluence, consumption, poverty
  • Technology
  • Entitlements

Multinational Surveys Dates NNumber of
  • One time
  • Health of the planet 1992 N24
  • Pew Global Attitudes Project 2002N41
  • International Social Science Program2000N26
  • Eurobarometer2002 N16
  • Multiple
  • GlobeScan Intl Envt Monitor 1997-2003 N35
  • Demographic and Health Survey1986-2002 N17
  • OECD 1990-2002 N23
  • World Values Survey1981-1998 N 68

  • Surprisingly little data on attitudes towards
    human development, economic development, and
    development assistance.
  • Despite remarkable increases in human well-being
    globally pervasive sense that human well-being
    has recently been deteriorating.
  • Economic prosperity valued but little data on end
    points or distribution
  • Strong popular support but poor understanding of
    development assistance to poor countries.
  • Official national support much less

  • Strong global environmental concern
  • Priority given to environment over economic
  • Support strong national efforts, taxes,
    regulations, but less for international action
  • Half report some pro-environment purchase or
    recycle but only 10-15 activist action

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Source Leiserowitz 2003
  • Number of children desired declining almost
  • Two-thirds support and use family planning and
  • Yet large unmet need for contraception, 20-25
    births undesired

Affluence, Poverty
  • Dramatic rise in aggregate affluence and
    consumption but 2.6 billion people live on less
    than 2 per day
  • Two-thirds say more poor in last decade and
    poverty is primarily caused by unfair treatment
    by society
  • But large majorities of Japan, China, USA,
    Phillipines,Taiwan and Puerto Rico Believe that
    Poverty due to Laziness and Lack of Will Power of
    the Poor

The New East-West Divide Percent Blaming
Poverty on Laziness and Lack of Will Power of the
  • Majorities agree that, at the societal level,
    money, material and status consumption are
    threats to human cultures and the environment
  • Majority thought less emphasis on money and
    material possessions would be a good thing and
    more time for leisure activities or family life
    is their biggest goal.
  • But two thirds say that the spending of money on
    themselves and their family represents one of
    lifes greatest pleasures

Spending Money on Self and Family is One of
Lifes Greatest Pleasures
Source GlobeScan 2000
The Fulfillment Curve How much is enough?
Subjective Well-Being by Level of Development
Source Inglehart 2000
  • Public has very positive attitudes towards
    science and technology
  • Dramatic differences in technological optimism
    regarding environement between richer and poorer
  • Strong support for renewable energy especially in
    Europe, hostility to nuclear, split between rich
    and poor countries on chemical pesticides, and

Equity and Entitlements
  • Large majorities think equity has gotten worse
  • Majority (58) agree most people are better off
    in a free market economy, even though some people
    are rich and some are poor.
  • Access to entitlements declining the bundle of
    income, natural resources, familial and social
    connections, and societal assistance that are key
    determinants of hunger and poverty (Sen, 1982).
  • Two-thirds think government doing too little to
    help people in poverty within their own country

Millenium Declaration Values Attitudes
  • Freedom no data Democracy
  • Strong support for democracy
  • Equality
  • 2/3 for eliminating inequality, for gender
    equality, less clear for income equality
  • Solidarity no data
  • Tolerance
  • Teach tolerance at home (70) but dont live next
    door to homosexuals(43), Gypsies (38), AIDs
    (37) etc.
  • Respect for Nature
  • Strong support for environment
  • Shared Responsibility
  • Majority support for UN but not other
    international economic institutions

Attitudes Towards Contextual Values
  • Capitalism
  • Strong support for free market economy
  • Globalization
  • a good thing (57), increased connections
    communciation, trade good (83-87) but make
    things worse for environment, poverty,
    unemployment (45-47)
  • Trust in Institutions
  • High trust Military, NGOs
  • Low trust legislatures, corporations
  • Social Change
  • 2/3 choose gradual reform

Acting on values, attitudes, and behaviors
  • Accelerating action
  • Bridging barriers
  • Choosing values

The Action Curve
Accelerating action
  • Examples
  • Collective CFCs, civil rights, 9-11
  • Individual smoking, drunk driving, seat belts,
  • Conditions for accelerating SD
  • .Public values and attitudesMany in place
  • Vivid imagery (focusing events)Overall lacking
  • Ready institutions and organizationsMany
  • Available solutionsSome available
  • Accelerating Sustainable Development
  • Africa
  • Climate Change

Bridging barriers
  • Barriers between attitudes and behavior
  • For Individuals and Society Direction and
    strength of needed values and attitudes
  • For Individuals Time, money, access, literacy,
    knowledge, skills, power, or perceived efficacy
  • For Society Laws, regulations, perverse
    subsidies, infrastructure, available technology,
    social norms and expectations, and social,
    economic and political context

Choosing values
  • Most but not all values needed for SD exist
  • Millenium development Goals (2015)
  • Sustainability transition (2050)
  • Great transition
  • Individuals and societies support abstract values
    (peace, freedom, devlopment and environment) but
    in concrete decision-making value conflicts
    arise e.g. species protection vs. exploitation,
    cheap fossil fuels vs. renewables, consumerism
    vs. good life
  • Value conflicts need to be acknowledged value
    uncertainties identified value priorities made

Which world do we want?
The core question that inspires our work…
Research Questions Values
  • What influence do each of the identified values
    exert over sustainability behavior?
  • How are the specific sustainability values and
    attitudes (e.g., population, affluence,
    technology and entitlements) influenced by
    changes in contextual values (e.g., freedom and
    democracy, tolerance, etc.)?
  • What values and life style changes will be
    required to achieve the Great Transition

Research Questions Attitudes-Behavior
  • What are the most critical attitude-behavior gaps
    and what can be done to bridge them?
  • What are the primary individual and contextual
    barriers operating to constrain both individual
    and collective sustainable behavior in particular
    social, economic, political, cultural and
    geographic contexts?
  • What can we learn from retrospective studies of
    past successful and unsuccessful efforts to
    change public attitudes and behaviors (e.g.,
    smoking, littering, drug abuse)?

Research Questions Values-Attitudes
  • What are the values and attitudes that drive
    material consumption and consumerism?
  • What explains the large differences in values,
    attitudes and behaviors (e.g., regarding poverty,
    consumerism, equality) across different nations,
    regions or levels of economic development?