Last semester, I was a research assistant to Visiting Professor Jessica Nolan who was in the Human Dimensions unit of the Natural Resources Department. What Professor Nolan’s interested were on how the wording on certain policies would affect the way people felt and perceived the policy. This section of her research tied in perfectly with the communication aspect of the course and how certain words could potentially frame and change the way a person would think. We had some smaller projects where I helped her to make a poster that she presented in the Sustainability Conference hosted by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in January of 2016. I also co-authored a paper with her titled “Further Development of the Interpersonal Defense of the Environment Scale (IDOTESv1) Reliability and Correlates.”
But the main project that I started to embark on was actually quite fascinating, now that I start to think about it. What I did with her was attempt to construct an overall scale that would be able to measure pro-environmental behavior. Before taking this class, I was not able to fully appreciate how hard it was to comprehend human behavior and map it all out. So now looking back at the work that I have done, I truly appreciate what we were trying to accomplish. The problem was that currently with an increase in pro-environmental behavior research, people are creating pro-environmental measure scales that is specifically adapted to their article. Although convenient for each individual paper, it would be very hard to compare these paper with each other as their scales of measurement were all very different. So what we wanted to do was to ultimately create a pro-environmental behavior scale that would be able to work with every paper.
In order to complete our ultimate goal, we had to split everything into steps and do things stepwise. The first section of the research was to understand what is in the literature and what scales are present in the individual papers. In order to do this, I searched the Web of Science database and search its archives for every article that contained the words “Pro-environmental behavior, environmentally responsible behavior, environmental action, sustainable behavior, conservation behavior, ecological behavior, environmentally significant behavior and green behavior.” The sets with the word “behavior” was duplicated because the British spelling of the word is different “behaviour” and it is important to include those searches as well.
After obtaining a total data set of over 1300 articles. I got to work. I had to reach each article and determine whether the article actually measured pro-environmental behavior and not just mention it in the article. Reading over 1300 articles actually takes a very long time and I am currently nowhere near done. With this much work at Cornell, this project is currently at a standstill. I hope to continue working on this research project as after taking this class it made me realize the overall implications that this project will have. I now think that if this project is a success, we would have a major breakthrough in the Human Dimensions field of Natural Resources. Through this class, I learned to appreciate the social side of the hard sciences and truly realize that solving environmental problems is not as easy as I once thought it was.