Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 80 credits / 120 HE credits
Background: Humans are part of social-ecological systems, and preferably these systems are resilient, as this increases security of societal benefits derived from them. However, ecosystem-resilience is often threatened by loss/degradation of natural areas. Ideally, nature is only developed after careful cost/benefit analyses, but non-marketable ecosystem-services are often left unaccounted in land-development plans, resulting in loss of these systems and services. One solution is incorporating ecosystem-services into cost/benefit analyses by putting a price-tag on these services. However, people do not accept the ensuing trade-offs, which pit sacred values (nature) against secular values (money). Such (taboo) trade-offs are morally offensive, yet they are necessary if we want to preserve ecosystems from ongoing degradation.
Moral cleansing – attempts to reaffirm one’s own moral position - is a reaction towards taboo trade-offs (i.e. in the shape of donations to charities) However, little is known about people’s behavioural response to assaults on sacred values related to the environment.
Aim: This study focuses on how trade-offs between environmental ‘sacred’ values and monetary values affect expressions of moral cleansing, namely pro-environmental behaviour in the shape of donations to an environmental charity. It investigates whether taboo trade-offs have effects on people’s environmental donations, and consequently the relative importance of trade-offs in such behaviour compared to other behaviour-influencing factors. Laboratory experiments (N=139) were conducted followed by regression analyses, and Multimodel-Inference techniques for data-analysis.
Conclusion: Participants’ decision-to-donate to an environmental charity is affected by social consciousness and taboo trade-offs. Thus taboos are a factor influencing donation behaviour.
Discussion: Results suggest that people with a non-anthropocentric worldview believe that they ought to donate more, but in reality, other factors influence the real decision-to-donate. In this study it is exposure to a taboo trade-off and social consciousness that affects the real decision-to-donate. This supports prior evidence for moral cleansing effects and expands it to environmental fields. It also shows the added use of the explorative MMI-approach in social science-topics. Societal applicability is found in improvement of CBAs, and potential usage as behaviour-change technique. However, such usage deserves more attention on practicalities, feasibility and ethics.