The role of social paradigms in resilience to change is poorly understood. Past research suggests that social paradigms shape human values through socialization, including those for our environment and alter an individual's attentiveness to information. Thus, there is a relationship among personal cognition, the objective environment, social paradigm, and human behavior, which I posit may affect perception of and response to change, hence human adaptive capacity. The western industrialized dominant social paradigm (WISP) is a set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that influence our relationship to the environment. It includes beliefs in continuous economic growth; limited governmental intervention in free market systems; and faith that technology will resolve environmental problems. Past research indicates that the WISP correlates negatively with environmental concern and with belief in the need to change behaviors. In this work, measures for environmental values, the WISP, and environmental behaviors were developed from the General Social Survey and analyzed using mediation. The relationship between WISP, environmental concern and environmental behaviors was tested. Regression analysis suggested that WISP reduces environmental concern, thereby reducing environmental behaviors. The spatial relationship between built environment and environmental values and built environment and the WISP was also investigated. The results suggest that geographic regions with less built environment are significantly more environmentally concerned and have higher values of the WISP. Medium-sized cities exhibited significantly lower values of the WISP. Finally, extensive and diverse literature was reviewed to compare other paradigms affecting the relationship between humans and the biophysical environment. Other paradigms foster links between humans and their environment and also serve the purpose of incorporating ritual, myth and story-telling to conform human behavior to the limits of the biophysical environment rather than conforming the biophysical environment to human desires. Accurate perception of environmental feedback and appropriate responses to change increase resilience. This work suggests that the currently predominant social paradigm may reduce our resilience by impairing our perception of change and our willingness to adapt.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2009
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