Changing Public Behavior: Self-Study Modules
CPB Self-Study Module
Step 4: Collect audience information relevant to the environmental practice and specific behaviors
A. Introduction: The “Conservation Planning Environment”
Natural resource professionals transfer information to relevant audiences, provide management tools and techniques, and facilitate local environmental decision-making processes.
When educators focus on specific audiences their work is more likely to lead to desired results. Many factors can influence whether an individual will adopt an environmentally significant behavior. Educators can use research tools to identify and integrate information about particular areas and communities into an outreach strategy that encourages citizens to take appropriate actions in their homes, businesses, organizations, and communities.
As an example of how this understanding can be applied, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) suggests that the “conservation planning environment” consists of “the sum of all factors and issues that influence the content of a conservation plan” (USDA NRCS, 2001).
These factors and issues are divided into four, mutually significant categories:
- natural resources
- social and cultural issues
- economic issues
- legal and policy issues
Each of these factors plays mutually important roles in influencing how individuals make decisions and act in their everyday lives. As a result, conservation plans are more likely to be effective to the extent that they consider and integrate all four of the factors. The NRCS introduced the concept of the “conservation planning environment” to encourage natural resource professionals to move beyond focusing their conservation efforts “solely on natural resource problems and issues” towards a more holistic and in turn effective and sustainable approach equally integrative of all four factors and issues involved in the “conservation planning environment.”
We refer to the “social dimensions” of an environmental topic as a short-hand way of drawing attention to the people factor. In the context of water outreach, social dimensions refer to the role of people in managing water resources in a particular place, time, and community.