Table of Contents

Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies

Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies

Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series

Edited by Matthias Ruth

This volume presents methods to advance the understanding of interdependencies between the well-being of human societies and the performance of their biophysical environment. It showcases applications to material and energy use; urbanization and technological transition; economic growth and social vulnerabilities; development and governance of social and industrial networks; the role of history, culture, and science itself in carrying out analysis and guiding policy; as well as the role of theory, data, and models in guiding decisions.

Chapter 4: Understanding culture and environment dynamics using cultural consensus analysis

Michael Paolisso

Subjects: environment, research methods in the environment, geography, research methods in geography, research methods, research methods in the environment


A focus on human dimensions is a critical component of contemporary research on a wide range of environmental problems, including climate change, resource degradation, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem restoration, pollution reduction and the unsustainable harvest of terrestrial and marine resources (cf. Janssen and Ostrom 2006). Included in this growing body of research on human dimensions and environmental change are approaches to study the influence of cultural knowledge, values and behavior (cf. Medin et al. 2006). Implicitly or explicitly, culture is widely recognized by researchers as a central element of human adaptation, valuation and management of the environment. ‘Culture,’ however, can mean many things to environmental researchers, policy makers, advocates, and the public. Often culture is defined generally as the shared beliefs, values, behaviors, materials and technologies that identify a group (for example, Amish culture). This general definition is not without value, but it lacks theoretical specification that leads to systematic understanding of how environmental knowledge and behavior becomes shared (or not), and how such knowledge changes with different forms/degrees of environmental degradation, conservation, pollution and management (Ross 2004). Within the subfield of environmental anthropology, researchers employing a cognitive approach use theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of culture that lead to systematic research on the generation, communication and implementation of shared group- and individual-level environmental knowledge, values and behaviors (Atran et al. 2005; Ross 2004).

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