Science and the environment: Assessing cultural capacity for ecological modernization

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Ecological modernization is emerging as a new paradigm for the environmental improvement of advanced nations. Rather than emphasize the use of remedial technologies as has been customary since the 1970s, this approach reframes the relationship between economics and the environment to overcome the zero-sum antagonism of the earlier era. This transformation faces numerous obstacles, and ultimate success will depend on a wide range of predisposing national characteristics, including institutional design and economic organization. The current analysis focuses specifically on an often overlooked third factor, cultural endowment, examining the extent to which it will likely condition the capability of individual nations to meet these challenges. Particularly important cultural attributes for ecological modernization are a strong public commitment to science and a robust environmental consciousness. Using data from several cross-national sources, including the Euro-Barometer, the World Values Survey, and the International Social Survey Programme, this analysis assesses the cultural capacities of a sample of fifteen advanced nations. The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, because of widespread lay respect for science and extensive public endorsement of environmental protection, appear to have enhanced cultural potential to pursue ecological modernization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-167
Number of pages19
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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