Contextual Drivers of Environmental Values Cross-Culturally: Evidence from Europe Between 2004 and 2012

Kati Orru, Laur Lilleoja


Environmental issues continue to grow in international prominence, owing to the importance of environ- mental conditions to human wellbeing globally. This paper focuses on why people’s values toward care for nature and environmental protection change — one of the antecedents to pro-environmental norms and behaviour. We aimed to clarify how individual and country-level contextual factors affect environmental values in Europe. Our cross-national study used data on individual environmental values from the 2004 and 2012 rounds of the European Social Survey, in combination with macro-level data on socio-economic security, countries’ environmental performance and educational levels. Country-level results revealed that throughout the studied years, nature held more importance to people in countries with increased levels of unemployment and exacerbated income disparities, including in transitional, post-socialist economies. Care for environment is less prominent in countries already performing well in terms of socio-economic and environmental performance, i.e. in states that may have higher resilience capacity towards adverse environmental impacts. Besides a state’s science education, which functions as an effective socialiser of caring for nature, practical experiences with adverse environmental impacts (e.g. health impairment) could be used to predict an increase in the mean value of the natural environment in a country.


value change; environment; cross-cultural analysis; Europe

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