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Submitted to Environment and Behavior

By Mark Lubell


The literature on environmental activism has failed to produce a model of individual decisionmaking explicitly linked to the logic of collective action. To remedy this problem, this paper adapts the collective interest model developed by Finkel, Muller, and Opp (1989) to explain protest behavior, and argues environmental activism is a function of citizen beliefs about collective benefits, the ability to influence collective outcomes, and the selective costs/benefits of participation. I test the hypotheses of the collective interest model using data from a survey of 406 residents of a coastal watershed, and national data on 1,606 respondents from the 1993 General Social Survey Environment Battery. My findings corroborate several central propositions of the collective interest model, and provide a theoretical account of environmental activism that synthesizes many previous results. Environmental Activism as Collective Action “Think globally. Act locally”. Perhaps without knowing it, the coiners of this venerable call-to-arms captured the essence of environmental activism as collective action. Whether conceptualized as providing a clean environment, preventing the degradation of common-pool resources, or influencing the public policy process, environmental activism has public good characteristics. In particular, it is costly to exclude one person from enjoying the benefit

Year: 2011
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