Rachel Thiet, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
Environmental problems are generally attributed to the product of collective and individual human behavior. The most common grassroots interventions that respond to such behavioral challenges are environmental capacity building projects. This master’s thesis documents the cast study of an Environmental Leadership development Program (EYLC) in Honduras to investigate the impacts of a multi-faceted education program on the environmental attitudes and behaviors of individual participants and their subsequent impacts within their communities. During the summer of 2004, semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with 24 participants in they EYLC program representing youth and adults from eight different locations and three different levels of leadership training. Individual stories were selected to answer the following questions: (1) What are the environmental attitudes and behaviors of program participants and do they correlate to values, knowledge, demographics or time spent with camps? (2) What types of barriers prevent them from having environmental attitudes and behaviors? (3) How has EYLC influenced their environmental attitudes and behaviors? (4) What impacts are the participants having within their communities? (5) What have been the participants’ biggest overall changes since beginning the EYLC program? Following the interviews, paper surveys were delivered personally and via email to the either locations; 43 out of approximately 100 surveys were returned by EYLC participants. The surveys measured environmental attitudes with the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP), values with Schwartz’s value scale, ascribed responsibility for environmental problems, frequency of environmental behaviors, and the impact of the leadership development program on these factors. Program participants were found to have strong environmental attitudes and to participate more frequently in environmental behaviors that are actively practiced in the program. All participants agreed that participation in the program, particularly spending time in nature and learning about environmental problems and solutions through hands-on education, enhanced their environmental sensitivity and action. Results from this study may inform international organizations about the most important factors for achieving attitude and behavior change in environmental capacity building programs.