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Cognitive and behavioural environmental concern among university students in a Canadian city: Implications for institutional interventions

  • Rozzet Jurdi-Hage (a1), H. Sam Hage (a1) and Henry P.H. Chow (a1)
Abstract

Informed by Stern and colleagues’ value-belief-norm theory and their earlier empirical work, we examined levels and predictors of cognitive and behavioural environmental concern (EC) of university students in a Canadian postsecondary context. Data for this study were obtained through completion of self-administered questionnaires from a sample of 421 undergraduate students attending a public university in Saskatchewan, a province heavily focused on expanding resource extraction. The study used a descriptive, correlational, and cross-sectional methodology. Statistical analysis was performed in three parts: (a) univariate description of students’ cognitive and behavioural EC indicators; (b) bivariate associations to assess the nature and direction of the relationships between EC measures; and (c) multivariate analyses to test the causal structure of the theoretical model. Results showed no widespread acceptance of the ‘New Ecological Paradigm’. Students were slightly more prone to place responsibility for environmental protection at the door of government and industry than themselves. Respondents practised a range of environmentally supportive behaviours (ESB) with varying intensities. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses provided support for several of the theory’s propositions in predicting generalised and specific environmental beliefs and ESB. Findings highlighted the complex relationships between personal background, academic and cognitive variables and ESB. That formal instruction on the environment influenced cognitive and behavioural EC, both directly and indirectly, suggests it is essential universities have formal curricula that expose students to the types of environmental knowledge, awareness, and critical thinking skills to promote environmental literacy and address unsustainable lifestyles and attitudes. Institutional interventions, including universities’ role as ‘effective change agents’, are discussed.

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*Corresponding author. Email: rozzet.jurdi@uregina.ca
References
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