Views of Nature and Environmental Concern in Iceland

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: Environmental concern in contemporary societies is a complex phenomenon which is shaped and influenced by a host of different factors. One of the most important of these is the interplay between culture and nature that has taken place during the course of a nation’s history and the various ?views of nature’ that such interplay has generated. Such views can e.g. manifest themselves in aesthetic judgments of natural scenery or, more generally, in the values that nature is seen to contain or carry. They form the base from which contemporary ideas, conceptions, and evaluations of nature are generated and debated.The five studies that together comprise this thesis explore the socio-cultural background of Icelandic environmentalism from a number of different perspectives. The first study concerns the depiction(s) of nature that can be found in the oldest literary works that have survived in Iceland. The second study deals with the first attempts by an Icelander to visualize nature in his homeland, using photographic media. The third study seeks to compare contemporary views of nature amongst Icelanders, e.g. concerning the appreciation of natural beauty, with those of Swedes and Danes. The fourth study reports the results of an extensive survey which probed the environmental values, knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of presentday Icelanders. The fifth study builds on this same survey but focuses on the public understanding and perceptions of sustainable development, and also on the connections between attitudes toward environmental and developmental issues.This overall thesis project was multi-disciplinary in nature, combining theory drawn from environmental philosophy, especially ethics and aesthetics, with the theories and methods of environmental sociology, politics and history. The empirical studies employed, furthermore sought to operationalize certain key theoretical constructs relating to views of nature, such as environmental value orientations and aesthetic appreciation of nature, and thus ?build bridges’ between the concerns, theories and methods of the humanities, on one side, and those of the social sciences, on the other.