Managing Visitors via “Mindful” Information Services: One Approach in Addressing Sustainability
Keywords:Mindfulness, information services, benefits sought, natural resources, state parks, sustainability, restoration
AbstractAs David Brower so eloquently wrote recently, “The Earth is a living throbbing organism. It needs CPR—Conservation-Preservation-Restoration—on a regular basis” (Brower & Chapple, 2000, p. 4). Recognizing many of our recreation and park settings throughout the country are approaching unsustainable resource management levels due to among other things the public’s increasing demand for outdoor recreation (Cordell et al., 1999), the incorporation of sound information services promoting a CPR agenda may make good management sense. Within the context of recreation-based settings and in an effort to address sustainability concerns, Moscardo (1996, 1999) proposed a communication model based on the concepts of mindfulness and mindlessness. Drawing from studies in other disciplines that revealed productivity and learning benefits associated with mindfulness (cf. Langer & Moldoveanu, 2000), her contention was that a visitor who was mindful of the recreation setting they were in, was more likely to learn and act responsibly in the setting than a disengaged (i.e., “mindless”) visitor. According to Langer (1989, 1997), mindfulness is expressed by actively processing information within one’s surrounding context, and is more likely when a setting: 1) is varied, interactive and involving, 2) facilitates perceptions of control, 3) appears relevant to one’s interests, and 4) is perceived as new or different. Mindlessness, on the other hand, can be viewed as a type of disengagement from information in one’s surrounding environment (Langer, 1989, 1997). Recognizing information services as but one approach to addressing sustainability of a recreation setting, the primary purpose of this study was to determine whether a number of specially selected visitor factors, each drawn from previous mindfulness studies, have utility in predicting preference for “mindfully oriented” information services. Sampling of visitors (n=425) to four coastal state parks, each with significant resource management concerns (e.g., habitat loss, erosion, failing infrastructure), took place in spring, 1998. Utilizing regression analysis, three of the five factors in the model proposed for this study were statistically related (p<.05) to mindfully oriented information services, with a visitor’s general level of mindfulness and select benefits sought (i.e., education/learning) on-site most predictive. For a manager seeking to address sustainability concerns from an educational perspective (e.g., promote environmentally responsible behavior), the incorporation of mindfully oriented information services may provide one additional tool to aid them in meeting resource management goals that include a CPR agenda.
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