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Title: Towards a holistic understanding of sustainability action : a life history approach
Author: Gnanapragasam, Alexander J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6500 8572
Awarding Body: University of St Andrews
Current Institution: University of St Andrews
Date of Award: 2016
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Sustainability challenges threaten society and the environment with both formal and grassroots initiatives to encourage sustainability action achieving limited success. Contemporary policy approaches to sustainability have focused on individual responsibility, promoting knowledge-deficit models of behaviour change that fail to take into account the context in which people live. This thesis employed a life history approach to holistically examine the relationships between experience, connection and sustainability action. The roles of experience and transformation in changing participants' connection to self, other people and the more-than-human natural world were investigated. A framework was developed from psychology and sociology literatures to holistically elucidate the context in which sustainability action takes place. Thirty-three participants were recruited from educational and environmental sectors across Scotland and England. Life history interview data were thematically analysed with emphasis placed on delineating experiences that participants described as formative, as well as identifying temporal trends both within individual lives and across the dataset. Experience was instrumental in the creation and reformation of the different ways of knowing required for both connection and action. Extended periods of time spent with people or nature were associated with holistic descriptions of connection. However, the role of infrastructure in supporting sustainability action should not be underestimated. The life history method illuminated the interplay between temporal changes at personal and societal levels. These findings promote the current research agenda into examining sustainability action within the broader context of the life course. Although connection is instrumental in imbuing experience with the meaning necessary to sustain action over a prolonged period, the wider context in which action takes place can supress this effect. If policy is to be conducive to sustainability, it should focus on creating and sustaining environments in which connection to the self, other people and the more-than-human natural world are enabled and nurtured.
Supervisor: Bebbington, Jan ; White, Rehema Sponsor: University of St Andrews ; Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF353.5S87G6