Date of Award

1993

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Abstract

This study was initiated to investigate factors which contribute to environmental activism. Towards this end, three hypotheses were investigated. First, it was hypothesized that beach clean-up participants would harbor pro-environmental attitudes. Second, it was hypothesized that participants would be relatively young, politically liberal, well-educated, and wealthy. Finally, it was hypothesized that particular types of social structure would influence a person's decision to participate in a beach clean-up. Specifically, it was hypothesized that participants at each clean-up location would be clique members and/or would be structurally equivalent. Surprising, it was revealed that there was virtually no difference in attitude between the clean-up participants and individuals who did not participate. Generally, the clean-up participants were more verbally and actually committed, more knowledgeable, better educated, and older than a sample of the general population from the same geographic region. Except for age, all of these findings were consistent with the work of other researchers. A derived multiple regression revealed that age, education, and verbal commitment, in combination, explained 47.7% of the variance in expressed actual commitment. It was concluded that the existence of cliques and structural equivalency among a population enhanced the probability that members of that population would be inclined to act in a similar manner. Cliques and structural equivalency were not the only models of social structure to impact behavior, however. At each clean-up location there were a number of participants who knew few, if any, of the other participants. With only two exceptions these individuals were present because of the encouragement of family or friends. Thus, it is clear that the behavior of individuals ins influenced by the desires of their social affiliates. The pattern of social structure at each beach was found to be associated with information source. At beaches where people learned of the clean-up through group membership, there was a greater degree of cohesion than at beaches where people learned about the clean-up through public media. Regardless of what the primary source of information was, secondary sources of information proved to be two and two-thirds times more effective at informing participants about the clean-up. The objective behind identifying factors associated with environmental activism was to learn how best to encourage environmentally-responsible behavior. A two stage approach should be adopted in any campaign designed to facilitate social change. Prior to an event, publicity should be planned. The primary objective should be to target a receptive audience of middle-aged, well-educated, verbally-committed individuals who have the support of their social comparitors. Re-existing organisations with established communication mechanisms should be targeted. if resources permit, the publicity should be expanded to reach as many as possible. The second phase of the campaign involves education. Clean-up participants were both more knowledgeable and better educated than non-participants. In order to encourage people to become environmentally active, managers, administrators and community organizers should seek to increase factual knowledge.