University of the Basque Country (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN09 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 3772-3782
ISBN: 978-84-612-9801-3
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2009
Location: Barcelona ,Spain
1. Purpose

In the context of the increasing concern for our current development model’s sustainability and, in particular, for its negative externalities in the environment, the public administrations assume the need to use strategies of communication and educational policies directed to raise awareness among the citizens and push them to actively participate in the mitigation and the adjustment to the effects of the climatic change. However the efforts that are already being made by public agents in this direction, domestic and international surveys have shown a significant level of discrepancy between the perception of high environmental risks and the scepticism about the capability of individuals to effectively contribute to the mitigation of those negative effects with their everyday behaviour.
This research paper seeks to find an educational communication solution for this matter. Education represents an important dimension of corporate social responsibility that concerns, not only public institutions, but also private organizations, especially in what concerns the modification of actions and habits of the people affected by their activity. In particular, we seek the goal of educating citizens for their active involvement in the quest for solutions for the problems derived from the new social patterns that negatively affects the environment.

2. Methodology /Approach

This study has been performed under the research program of the UNESCO Chair of Sustainable Development and Environmental Education of the University of the Basque Country. We have researched into the main social representations and public opinion states at the population of the Urdaibai region (Biscay-Spain), where the chair has its main research program focus. We have used a comprehensive methodology, mixing both quantitative and qualitative techniques. Firstly, we have performed a survey on a significant sample of citizens from the population object of study. Secondly, we have performed a content analysis of the news on environmental topics published at the printing press with the highest print run rates of the region.

3. Findings

Mainly, we have confirmed two hypotheses. On the one hand, the communication strategies developed by the public administrations have not taken into account the high levels of complexity of their audience. Meaning by this, the complexity of the reception process of the different segments of the public, derived from the distinct previous perceptions of the environmental problems. On the other hand, we have measured the key role that the style of treatment of the current affairs at the media has in the shaping of social representations. Especially, related to the effects on perception that the recurrent catastrophic and spectacular treatment of the environmental disorders have in the media.

4. Originality/Value of paper

We have identified and diagnosed the factors which generate the discrepancy between perceptions and attitudes towards environmental issues in the population that has been researched, as shown in the section above. Derived from this, we have designed a new communication strategy that would contribute to mitigate the diagnosed discrepancy. From a holistic and propedeutic perspective, the aim of this research paper consists on identifying and promoting an educational communication initiative to incorporate scholars to the environmental sustainability culture.
innovation, communication, environmental information, social representations.