Use of Negative and Positive Consequences to Compel Conservation Term Paper

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Psychology: Environmental Problems

Facing its worst drought in 40 years, the State of California took a number of measures to conserve water. It first used positive consequences to compel a 20% reduction in water usage by homes and businesses. The disappointing results led to the addition of negative consequences to compel conservation. In addition, California is now taking emergency measures against the oil and gas industry, which was previously exempt from some of the State's environmental laws. California has shown that an environmental policy must use positive and negative consequences, along with carefully given exemptions, in order to be most effective.

Water Control During Drought

Evaluate 2 Strategies for Promoting Positive Environmental Behavior

The State of California is currently enduring a 3-year drought that is its worst in 40 years and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future (Associated Press, 2014). Californians continued to use water with too little regard for the drought and a water crisis occurred as a result. In other words, Californians failed to support sustainability by maintaining a proper balance (sufficiently less water usage) with the environment (drought conditions) (Steg, van den Berg, & de Groot, 2012, p. 108). In order to encourage sustainability, California's Governor announced a State of Emergency in January 2014, directed state and local authorities to take measures to address the crisis and also requested that California's citizens reduce their water consumption by 20%. Several months later, the Governor continued the State of Emergency (State of California, 2014). California's authorities believed that Californians could be compelled to support sustainability and survive the lengthy drought by positive measures with positive results.

Several strategies were used to compel sustainability by homes and businesses and those measures were implemented on local levels by local water authorities. For example, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California used: monetary rebates for using high-efficiency equipment; a retrofit pilot program to help convert drinkable-water irrigation to recycled-water irrigation; monetary incentives for customized water efficiency, such as improvements in industrial processes, agriculture and landscape watering; monetary grants for community partnering programs focused on water conservation; free surveys to evaluate water usage and lessen it; educational programs about new technologies, devices and techniques for water conservation; well-publicized examples of Californians who were conscientiously conserving water; and widely-disseminated conservation tips for most conceivable indoor and outdoor uses of water (The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Friendly, 2014). The same or similar methods were used in California's nine water regions: North Coast, San Francisco, Central Coast, Los Angeles, Central Valley, Lahontan, Colorado River, Santa Ana and San Diego (Associated Press, 2014). In sum, as of early 2014, California imposed numerous positive strategies to alter the behavior of water consumers across the State and after several months of those strategies, conducted surveys to gauge the impact of those strategies.

The survey results of California's nine water regions for May 2014 were stunning: no region attained the desired 20% reduction and the State's overall water usage increased by 1% over usage in May 2013 (Associated Press, 2014). Some gains were made in that communities using Sacramento River water reduced usage by 13%, North Coast communities reduced water consumption by 12% and communities in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas reduced consumption by 5%; nevertheless, authorities were dismayed by the results (Associated Press, 2014). While the State's positive approach and consequences attained some desired results, they fell far short of their goal due to Californians' tepid response.

Given the ongoing water crisis, on July 15, 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board decided to add a measure with negative consequences: they voted 4-0 to impose fines of up to $500/day for wasting water, starting August 2014 (Associated Press, 2014). In addition, the Board released the survey results and made dire predictions that farmers' wells will run dry and California could literally run out of water in the near future (Associated Press, 2014). However, even as they imposed this measure, they immediately removed some of its teeth. Cities and water districts have considerable leeway in imposing the fines: they can issue warnings; impose the fine on repeat offenders only; or use a sliding scale that imposes fines up to $500 (Associated Press, 2014). Furthermore, the Board made it clear that if the fines fail to achieve the desired conservation results, the Board will consider greater restrictions on outdoor watering and may push for higher water rates for homes and businesses using more than their share of water (Associated Press, 2014).

b. Explain how positive and negative consequences can increase pro-environmental behavior. Provide examples.

The State of California is using both positive and negative consequences to increase pro-environmental behavior. The positive consequences of monetary rebates, incentives and grants, for several examples, are designed to help outweigh the immediate inconveniences of water conservation with immediate financial benefits (McCarty & Shrum, Spring 2001, p. 95). Meanwhile, the accompanying positive consequences of retrofitting assistance, spotlighting homes and businesses that admirably conserve water, and widespread educational programs use Social Marketing to engender the pro-social aim of water conservation across California to benefit present and future generations (Verdugo, October 2012, p. 663). The combination of Social Marketing and immediate financial benefits are calculated to outweigh the immediate inconveniences of conservation while convincing the population of immediate and future benefits of sustainability through water conservation.

When measures with positive consequences did not achieve their desired results, California's authorities also instituted measures with negative consequences: a $500/day fine for wasting water, widespread information about the devastating consequences of California's failure to achieve its conservation goals, and even tougher restrictions on the horizon. Here, California is using negative consequences of financial penalties, along with the emotions of guilt and shame for failing to adequately conserve water and fear of literally running out of water to motivate Californian's to increase their conservation efforts (Verdugo, October 2012, pp. 651-2). This negative psychology is often an important element of plans for sustainability through conservation because the emotional and financial discomfort imposed for failing to conserve motivate individuals to conserve (Verdugo, October 2012, p. 652).

c. Describe at least one positive and one negative example of how technological advances have impacted the environment.

California provides several positive examples of technological advances that have impacted the environment. The use of retrofitting to change irrigation and industrial systems from the use of potable water to recycled water (The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Friendly, 2014) saves drinkable water while maintaining irrigation and industrial systems. In addition, the State's Innovative Conservation Program identifies, evaluates and promotes new water-saving devices every other year (The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Friendly, 2014) in order to make conservation efforts increasingly effective. Clearly, California is making conscious technological advances to consistently aid and improve water conservation.

California also provides negative examples of technological advances impacting the environment. Fracking, which is high-pressure injection of fluid into the ground to break shale and release natural gas and oil (Lustgarten, 2014), is a technological advance widely used by the oil and gas industry. California previously exempted those industries from environmental protection laws and, as a result, the industries have intentionally polluted ground water through the injections of fracking waste into the ground (Lustgarten, 2014). In mid-July 2014, the ongoing drought and alarming water pollution caused by fracking compelled California authorities to immediately shut down 11 of those oil and gas injection sites to stop the pumping of fracking fluids and other toxic waste into the Central Valley's drinking water aquifers (Lustgarten, 2014).

d. Assess the influence of environmental policies.

California's environmental policies have mixed results. While the use of positive consequences to compel conservation caused some communities to conserve, the State's overall water usage actually increased 1% when comparing May 2014 to May 2013 (Associated Press, 2014). The subsequent use of negative consequences by fines, shame, guilt and fear, along with the threat of harsher measures in the future, may compel greater compliance through the documented effectiveness of negative consequences on individuals and communities (Verdugo, October 2012, p. 652). Simultaneously, California's exemption of the oil and gas industry have clearly caused alarming pollution to its potable water supply (Lustgarten, 2014), even as the State struggles to conserve water during its worst drought since the 1970's (Associated Press, 2014). California provides an excellent example of the need for policies with both positive and negative consequences, as well as carefully monitored exemptions to support sustainability.

3. Conclusion

The State of California has employed several strategies to cope with its worst drought in 40 years. The Governor declared a State of Emergency in January 2014 and urged homes and businesses to decrease their water consumption by 20%. The State used positive psychology by: implementing monetary rebates for using high-efficiency equipment; a retrofit pilot program to help convert drinkable-water irrigation to recycled-water irrigation; monetary incentives for customized water efficiency, such as improvements in industrial processes, agriculture and landscape watering; monetary grants for community partnering programs focused on water conservation; free surveys to evaluate water usage and lessen it;…[continue]

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