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The Industrial Green Game: Implications for Environmental Design and Management
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SOME HYPOTHESES ABOUT PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS AND VALUES AS THEY RELATE TO INDUSTRIAL ECOLOGY
Relatively little work on public perceptions and values in the context of industrial ecology has been done, but several general hypotheses can be advanced about what may be found when that work is done. These hypothesis are based on my own work, which utilized unpublished data supplied by the anthropologist Willett Kempton.
The first hypothesis is that the public supports improving environmental performance but primarily frames the issue in moral terms (i.e., good versus evil) and in terms of command and control (i.e., forcing people to be good). Support for the environment is shown in national poll results, and we have seen signs of the good-versus-evil thinking pattern in our mental-model interviews. Willett Kempton has reported similar results from his ethnographic and survey studies.
The second hypothesis is that the public thinks of energy conservation as morally correct, a way to save money, and requiring sacrifice. Often the link between conservation and reduced emissions of pollutants or carbon dioxide is not made. Both Kempton and we at CMU have seen evidence for this view in our open- and closed-form studies.
A correlate to hypothesis 2 is that the public associates environmental protection with sacrifice. At least in this context, people do not recognize that alternative designs can result in similar or better services or products with much lower externalities. This is supported by unpublished survey data provided by Kempton (personal communication).
The third hypothesis is that the public does not clearly see taxes as a plausible vehicle for inducing desired environmental behaviors. The public believes that the price elasticity for goods such as gasoline is close to infinite. At least in this context, little understanding is shown of the difference between short- and long-run elasticity. We have seen hints of this in our various mental-model interview transcripts; there is clear evidence in our results on carbon taxes. Kempton et al. (1995) report specific findings that support the hypothesis in the context of fuel taxes.
A Dow Jones wire story (Goldman, 1994) reported on a survey of 22,516 readers who looked at 300 "green" advertisements that have run in 186 journals since 1991. They survey found that appeals to the general good can misfire and advised advertisers to be specific about products' benefits in terms of the consumer, not society in general, and exploit the inherent visual power of environmentalism.
A further commentary on market signals is that current residential energy bills send relatively few disaggregated market signals. Kempton and Layne (1994) studied customer use of information in such bills and noted more extensive