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Citizen Differences in Attitudes toward the Environment and Pro- Environmental Engagement: Findings from Rural Romania

Natalia Buta, Mark A. Brennan, Stephen M. Holland

Abstract


Romania is an Eastern European country experiencing a transition from a communist to a democratic society, where the treatment of natural resources has been of central importance. Local cooperation has been found to be a strong foundation for successful management of natural resources. Thus, this study investigates how attitudinal factors with an affective component (i.e., connections to nature and attachment to a national park), conservation attitudes, and attitudinal factors with a moral component (i.e., perceived environmental responsibility and pro-environmental civic engagement behavior beliefs) differ among residents in rural communities surrounding the Retezat National Park in Romania. Two hundred and sixty residents were contacted during June–October 2009 using face-to-face interviews (68% response rate) and mail survey (9% response rate). Systematic sampling with a random start was used to select participants for face-to-face interviews. Three multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) models were performed to test for citizen differences in the underlying study dimensions. Three major findings emerged. First, age group was found to be an important factor in explaining the connections and attachments residents’ held toward nature and the park, even after controlling for length of residence and education. Young adults reported lower connections to nature and attachments to the park as compared with their older counterparts. Second, level of education was found to better explain citizen differences in conservation attitudes and moral attitudinal factors toward pro-environmental behaviors than other demographic characteristics. More specifically, levels of education better explained differences in attitudes toward conservation management and perceived environmental responsibility. Third, length of residence was more effective at capturing differences on perceptions of conservation benefits. The study findings emphasize the role played by sociodemographic characteristics in explaining citizen differences as they relate to conservation attitudes and attitudinal factors with affective and moral components. Based on these findings, the efforts of the current management should be directed at developing policy and management initiatives that encourage the involvement of local groups (especially younger generations). Current managers should encourage a policy that supports the development of tourism initiatives in the area, policy that should be grounded in management efforts directed at various sociodemographic groups and their conservation attitudes, and affective and moral attitudinal environmental responses. Furthermore, programs should be developed that would further enhance connections with the park. Efforts should be directed at increasing the quality and quantity of human interaction with adjacent natural environments, which could influence current sentiments toward the park. Based on this work, policy and management should be developed strategically and take into account the sociodemographic diversity in the community.

Keywords


Environmental response; protected areas; rural communities; age differences; community involvement; Romania

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