//
you're reading...

Science Communication

Your worldview: how values influence support of renewable energy

Article: Bidwell, D. Ocean Beliefs and support for an offshore wind energy project. Ocean and Coastal Management, 146, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2017.06.012

 

Would you be willing to take a survey?

Figure 1: An example wind farm near Sakiyama, Japan. (Source: Flickr)

On a leisurely Saturday afternoon you decide to go for a walk downtown to enjoy the sunny weather. Someone with a clipboard stops you at the corner and asks if you have time for a survey. After you agree, he hands you an eight-page survey and you learn he is a graduate student gathering local opinions on an upcoming offshore renewable energy project. As you skim the survey, you see some basic questions (age, gender, etc) as well as some surprises including one on whether you’d describe the ocean as “a place of inspiration” or “a source of food”. You fill in your answers, hand back the survey, and make your way to the ice cream shop around the corner.

Block Island Wind Farm

The above scenario is exactly what happened (well, maybe not the ice cream part) in the summer of 2015 on Block Island, Rhode Island. A project to construct an offshore wind farm off the coast of Block Island was begun in 2015. Its operation was approved after an extensive study period, completed in 2010, of appropriate site locations that would minimize effects on wildlife, the seafloor, tourism, commercial fisheries, and several other factors. Like any major building project, the Block Island wind farm had strong opinions on all sides. The lead researcher of this study, David Bidwell, was curious about how symbolic beliefs about the ocean influence public opinion of offshore wind farms.

Figure 2: A breakdown of fifteen different factors that impact people’s perspective on the Block Island wind farm. Perceived benefits of the project are greater than zero and negative impacts are less than zero. (Source: Bidwell, 2017)

Bidwell investigated how people’s core values and personality traits influenced their opinions on the wind farm by interviewing locals and tourists alike. He handed out an eight-page survey to every third adult who passed particular locations on the island, including near a public library. The survey included a series of questions to ascertain how individuals’ beliefs about the ocean shape their support for offshore wind energy.

How do people feel about the impacts of a wind farm? 

In the survey, participants were asked about the impacts of the wind farm using fifteen different factors (Figure 2). If people thought the wind farm would have a positive impact, the bar is greater than zero; similarly, a perceived negative impact is less than zero. The length of the bar indicates how strongly people felt about each factor. Overall, the co

nsensus was that a wind farm would have a positive impact socioeconomically (e.g. on electricity costs and jobs) but would have a negative impact on natural resources (e.g. scenic views and ocean character). Bidwell paired these responses with questions about each survey-taker’s values using the value-belief-norms (VBN) theory.

Values-Beliefs-Norms Theory

The values-believes-norms (VBN) theory is used to analyze and understand public opinion on issues usually pertaining to the environment. The theory is as follows: people’s foundational values influence their environmental worldviews. This will in turn influence individual’s behavior (such as how they vote on an environmental policy). An individual’s values are assessed with four main measurable traits: egoism (worried mostly about yourself and your family), altruism (worried about people you aren’t related to), biospherism (worried about critters, not people), and traditionalism (well-summarized by the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”).

The researcher found that dominantly altruistic people had a more positive view on the wind farm than did traditionalists, who were more pessimistic about the project. This result is not surprising; commonly in environmental sociology, people who are altruistic tend to be more pro-environment. On the other hand, egoism and traditionalism are linked to a lower concern about environmental issues. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean traditionalists are anti-environment; more that for traditionalists, the environment isn’t a top priority.

Changing approach in the future

Bidwell found that perceived impacts are the strongest predictor of whether or not a wind farm will be supported. Beyond the expected beliefs about the socioeconomics of a wind farm, people’s perspective on the role of the ocean influenced their support of the Block Island wind farm. Does this mean that people that characterized by egoism and traditionalism are never going to support renewable energy sources in their neighborhood? Not necessarily. This study, and land based ones like it, is important in figuring out how to best approach all types of people about prospective projects to adequately address their concerns. People who oppose local projects may be more concerned with maintaining the “status quo” than with improving the quality of the local environmental, which is usually of the primary issues addressed before a project.

A final note, commonly in renewable energy literature people who support wind energy are described as understanding the benefits of renewable energy. However, People who are opposed to these projects are treated as ignorant. Bidwell’s work highlights that this may not be the case and isn’t a fair assessment. He suggests that dialogue-based approaches to planning projects should be implemented in the future. This study demonstrated the importance of openly discussing a communities’ symbolic value of the ocean before starting construction. This may help alleviate some of the concerns of people who have a value framework that inclines them to traditionally oppose these offshore projects.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com