David Yencken, John Fien and Helen Sykes
The research questions outlined at the end of Chapter 1 guided the investigation of the environmental beliefs, knowledge and behaviour of young people reported in this book. It is not, however, an easy task to explore and interpret environmental attitudes of young people in different countries. There are conceptual and theoretical difficulties of some magnitude and many associated practical problems. In this chapter we explain our approach to these matters.
An initial issue for the research was that of cultural context. In each of the countries involved in the research we could expect to find different cultural traditions affecting the formation of environmental attitudes and behaviour. Within those different countries there would likely be many different subcultures, each of which might have different nuances of influence on attitudes and behaviour. There is furthermore vigorous theoretical debate about universal and relativist norms and values in different cultures.
A second issue, closely related to the first, concerns problems of cross-cultural comparison. Terms used in one culture might have different meanings in another. Problems of language and meaning are accentuated whenever translation is required.
A third issue relates to the concept of attitude. What is meant by attitude? What are we measuring when we attempt to measure attitude? What might be the relationship between attitude and behaviour? How is behaviour measured? What influence does knowledge have on attitude and behaviour? If we are testing knowledge, what kind of knowledge is significant?
A fourth issue concerns the environmental focus of the research. In what way should environmental attitudes and behaviour be assessed? And what is the purpose of doing so?
A fifth issue concerns environmental education. Educational systems and access to education at different levels and ages vary greatly between countries. Environmental education is strongly developed in some countries, less so in others. The extent and quality of environmental education could be expected to influence attitudes and behaviour. In what way could