Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Dr. Abby Hickcox

Second Advisor

Dr. William Travis

Third Advisor

Dr. Benjamin Teitelbaum

Abstract

During the past several decades, a global discussion has grown about sustainability and how it can provide solutions to the world’s mounting environmental problems. One way to make sustainable implementation more successful is to examine the specific motivators for the environmental decisions of individuals and how they vary from place to place. In this thesis, I explore how environmental incentives that originate at different scales affect individuals, and how the individual’s specific cultural experience mediates those incentives. Iceland provides an interesting case study for examining sustainability motivators for individuals because its extensive development of renewable energy resources seems like the embodiment of global sustainability goals. Further, due to its small population and geographic remoteness, it is easy to assume that Iceland is culturally homogenous and therefore that widespread sustainable actions and beliefs exist. However, the incentives for sustainability in Iceland that stem from different scales are negotiated through the unique conditions of Icelandic culture. The specificity of Icelanders’ sustainability motivations demonstrates that we need to examine the individual experience of “sustainability” in order to determine how sustainable policies, practices, and ethics can be implemented and strengthened in places where people’s livelihoods are not immediately affected by environmental change.

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