The role of social capital in predicting and promoting 'feelings of responsibility' for local environmental issues in an Australian community

Miller, E.; Buys, L.
December 2008
Australasian Journal of Environmental Management;Dec2008, Vol. 15 Issue 4, p231
Academic Journal
Engaging individuals and communities with environmental sustainability initiatives is an international public policy priority, with recent research focused on understanding the role and value of social capital in fostering environmental responsibility and action. This article investigates the extent to which socio-demographic factors, participation in outdoor activities and eight distinct elements of social capital predict ' feelings of responsibility ' for local environmental issues in a drought-prone, urban Australian community. Most residents felt some responsibility for addressing environmental issues, with logistic regression analyses revealing that the 'neighbourhood connections' element of social capital was a key predictor of water and community responsibility. Conversely, residents who scored higher on the 'feelings of trust' and 'safety' elements of social capital were less likely to report feeling responsible for water conservation and keeping the neighbourhood clean. Such contradictory findings highlight how different dimensions of social capital may either enable or hinder sustainability. Overall, this research indicates that building specific aspects of social capital might be an effective environmental education and engagement strategy, one that could work at the local level to promote feelings of environmental responsibility and, potentially, foster environmentally sustainable attitudes and behavioural change.


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