Psychological dimensions of ecological cooperation

Peace monument, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

While considerable research has been undertaken on links between environmental decline and conflict, very little empirical research has occurred on the mechanisms by which environmental issues can galvanize cooperative behavior. This proposal seeks to empirically address the following research question: How does the inclusion of environmental factors in negotiations around international conflicts influence cooperative behavior? Our highly trans-disciplinary research team of environmental planners and social psychologists will use well-established psychological methods for this analysis. The study will be conducted in several stages in order to ensure reliability and validity of the measures. The psychological experiments will be undertaken with a group of senior negotiators who took part in three particular international conflicts: The Cordillera del Condor Conflict between Ecuador and Peru, The Korean peninsula conflict and the Congolese-Rwanda-Uganda conflict. These cases have been selected for geographic scope and specific factors which make them representative of kinds of conflicts. A first series of studies will use vignettes and maps that describe conflicts between stakeholders from neighboring nations. The level of the severity of the conflicts as well as the impact on vested interests will be varied in the vignettes. The independent variables will vary from the description of environmental threats as a common aversion (like the scarcity of water or other resources), nature as an end in itself that should be protected (e.g. a transboundary protected area without important natural resources), to the absence of environmental issues in the description. Similar experiments with experiential variation will also be carried out with students who will be participating in this study. We hypothesize an effect of the inclusion of environmental issues on the willingness to cooperate with the other party. Dependent variable measures for the vignettes as well as the following studies will include resource allocation between groups, stereotyping, moral exclusion, perceived justice, as well as the willingness to employ different strategies of negotiation. The results of these exercises will be presented to foreign service academies and also used to develop teaching tools for geography educators in secondary and college settings. Our aim is to harmonize historical lessons on wars with a solution-oriented teaching paradigm that considers "territoriality" in both its social and ecological terms.