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School of Natural Resources Research Seminar Series

“Fight Back against the Zombies”: Narratives and Norms in Climate Change Education

Date: Time: 4:00 pm
Contact: George Limpert,
Presented by Caitlin Kirby, environmental social sciences researcher, SNR, UNL.

Facts about climate change are often ineffective in impacting students’ climate change beliefs or environmentally-related behaviors. Multiple theories of environmental behavior utilize norms, both personal and social, in fostering environmental behavior change. Science fiction writers may also attempt to sway individuals’ perceptions of climate change through imaginings of a future impacted by climate change. The impact of these fictional narratives on individuals’ climate change perceptions and related behaviors has not been widely studied. We examined the impact of 1) personal versus social norms and 2) fiction versus non-fiction climate change readings on undergraduate students’ climate change perceptions and behaviors. Students (n=88) enrolled in an online general education science course completed a pre-survey, five intervention readings and writing responses, and a post-survey. On average, students’ climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and behavioral intentions increased across all intervention groups. Trends in this exploratory research suggested that social norms and fiction writings are worth exploring as particularly effective ways to engage students in climate change discussions. Students’ written responses showed that they most often suggested vague behavior or solutions to environmental issues rather than specific behaviors. I will discuss the implications of these results in incorporating narratives, values, and norms in scientific courses on climate change and environmental issues.

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This event originated in SNR Seminars & Discussions.