On Environmental Grounds : Outdoor Recreation, Place Relations and Environmental Sustainability

Abstract: This thesis examines the relationship between outdoor recreation and environmental concern as part of the wider issue of environmental sustainability in late-modern societies. It includes studies of environmentalists’ (that is environmentally committed individuals’) preferences and motivations with regard to outdoor recreation, and covers the inquiries of whether and how outdoor recreation can influence levels of environmental concern.The questions addressed are how environmentalists engage in outdoor recreation, with what motives, and whether participation in outdoor recreation can influence levels of environmental concern. Empirically, the thesis is based on a mixed methods approach, including analyses of data from a national survey on outdoor recreation and a qualitative case study of the organization Nature and Youth Sweden (Fältbiologerna). Theoretically, it is based on the concepts of place, habitus and field.Study results show that environmentally committed individuals favor participation in appreciative activities in areas perceived as pristine, preferably away from urban environments. Motivations refer to these preferences, but also to aspects of discursive context, social identity and social position. These aspects are also found to be crucial regarding the influence of outdoor recreation on environmental concern. Thus, study results also show a lack of support for environmental concern as an automatic outcome of outdoor recreation. It is rather a combination of interconnected conditions referred to as: favorable place relations, adequate outdoor experience and appropriate social context.The thesis contributes to new knowledge on the relationships and connections between outdoor recreation and environmental sustainability. While the results are of importance with regard to planning for outdoor recreation and development of nature-based tourism, they are of particular interest for environmental organizations, schools and other institutions working for a more sustainable society.