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Sociological Literature on Environmental Concern
- By Jody Ciano
TRC Graduate Scholar Elysia Nelson, Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, and TRC Faculty Advisor Thomas Macias, Department of Sociology recently published: “A Social Capital Basis for Environmental Concern: Evidence from Northern New England” in Rural Sociology.
The study, funded by the US DOT through the University of Vermont Transportation Research Center, was based on a random-digit-dialing telephone survey of adults in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, using ordinary least squares regression to examine a relatively neglected element in the sociological literature on environmental concern – the influence of an individual’s social capital on the formation of environmental attitudes. Nelson and Macias argued that it is those individuals with a greater diversity of social connections who are most likely to be influenced by ecological perspectives grounded in conservation and environmental protection. The model provides evidence that connections to other people play an important role in determining individual concern for the environment. Specifically, the number of respondents’ “weak ties”— not their closest relationships—and the average occupational status of respondents’ social ties. In general, both positively correlated with environmental concern. Additionally, one of the three measures of community social capital, the number of visits from friends over the past month, was statistically significant and negatively correlated with environmental concern.
"The article was a real step forward in helping to explain environmental concern through the sociological concept of social capital, an idea that has been essentially absent from environmental concern literature," Nelson stated. Rural Sociology is the journal of the Rural Sociological Society, a professional social science association that seeks to enhance the quality of rural life, communities and the environment. This is Nelson’s first scholarly publication.