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Little is known about environmental attitudes of South Africans. I aim to humanise research by actively collaborating with my participants.



The concept I base my initial ideas on pertains to the vital link that exists between the maintenance of healthy ecosystems and how these play an important role in human well-being and the formation of our identities both on a social and individual level. We form our identities by identifying with our in group characteristics established daily as well as the external social communities we associate with. A collective, joint attitude formation, hence shift in terms of introducing people to the consequences of climate change and advantages of pro-environmental behaviors is possible and I intend to investigate this phenomenon by actively collaborating and engaging with my research participants through the facilitation of multi-cultural focus groups with university students in the Gauteng province. In addition, to further promote a shift in environmental attitudes I intend to introduce the concept of humanizing my research practices in general so as to actively involve my participants throughout the entire research process as well as after the dissemination of my study's research results have been displayed.

Category of the action

Changing public perceptions on climate change

What actions do you propose?

I propose to address two under-researched and crucial topics, namely what some of the daily environmentally sustainable practices South African youths engage in are, reasons for this engagement as well as how as a researcher I could eventually with the knowledge gained from my focus group discussions on daily environmentally sustainable practices, implement an active dialogue and collaboration with my selected participants and the communities they live in, in order to develop more pro-environmental behaviors and actions within the South African context and humanise my future environmental research practices throughout.

My sample for the two focus groups will be purposively selected by means of distributing fliers, information sheets and brochures on campus notice boards, and will include and be limited to university students between the ages of 18 and 35 years, currently enrolled at either the University of Pretoria, UNISA or the University of the Witwatersrand with no specific language, cultural, ethnic or gender preferences.

The following questions form part of my interview schedule to be included in the focus group discussions:

A) Questions asked of every interviewee

i) On environmental sustainability

  •  What are some of the daily environmental sustainable practice you engage in?
  • What motivates or motivated you to start engaging in environmental sustainable practices?
  •  What are your views on littering?
  • Do you refrain from purchasing certain brands, products or engaging in certain activities and if so please indicate why?
  •  What do you understand by the term pro-environmental behavior?
  •  What would you define is the ideal society you would like to live in?
  •  What would you say are your most important virtues/values in leading a good life?
  • Would you be prepared to encourage others in your community to get more involved in pro-environmental behaviors?
  • What means of transport do you currently make use of?


ii) On the interviewees' workplace

a) “Please describe a typical day / week / event as a student”
b) “Please describe an illustrative atypical day / week / event as a student”

c) Where are you currently studying and for which degree, certificate, diploma?

d) How many hours do you spend at varsity each week?

iii) On interviewees' achievements

a) “What are some of your proudest achievements?”
b) “What are some of your persistent challenges?”

Of utmost importance and certainly my main aim is that this study provides me with the means necessary to create and maintain an active collaboration and engagement as well as a social action stance with my focus group participants, their communities as well as governmental, private and public business partners in terms of future South African and other African countries' pro-environmental behaviors and initiatives, which ultimately could result in improved health, social, psychological, environmental as well as additional human and natural benefits. I have also considered investigating how structural changes in terms of cleaner aesthetical presentation in Gauteng's cities could encourage and promote positive behavioral and attitude changes toward reducing the effects of climate change and in turn encourage the youth to engage in more pro-environmental attitudes and hence environmentally sustainable activities and practices. Ultimately, I intent to use a snowballing method through networking, to approach the promotion of an environmentally sustainable attitude shift by youths in South Africa, as so many youths and other South African citizens are already well on their way to living a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. In line with the networking I intend to encourage among my potential participants, it is my intention to, once my participants are more familiar with the concept of pro-environmental behaviors and practices, to encourage these youths to make use of their smartphones, currently so popular, as a means to serve as an additional tool in increasing their own views and actions concerning living more environmentally sustainably, through sourcing and joining existing initiatives and environmental movements and encouraging their own communities and society as a whole to get involved in pro-environmental initiatives, which could then result in smartphones as a global tool for taking further action against climate change and ultimately shifting our attitudes and behaviors to becoming and living more environmentally sustainable.

To conclude in this section, the youth are the drivers of our future and technology is the greatest tool by means of which a global shift in environmental attitudes and behaviors can be accomplished. A better understanding of what environmentally sustainable practices and attitudes mean would generally fuel the use of smartphones as tools to create more widespread and global awareness on climate change concerns, attitudes and initiatives.

Who will take these actions?

As a researcher and fellow environmental activist and nature enthusiast, I intend to actively engage with and collaborate with the individuals I intend to use as the participants for this proposed study, and in addition actively envelope my participants as well as the communities within which they reside in my social action stance on how we as equal human beings although we stem from a rather diverse cultural and historical background could engage in encouraging more pro-environmental behaviors throughout South Africa. This joint collaboration could ultimately result in an increased chance for our adaptation to climate change and its concerns that influence our everyday lives. As mentioned above, through means of networking, a snowballing effect might arise which could result in greater environmental awareness and hence an active encouragement by all the role players within this study as well as the outsiders that could be approached by my participants after the dissemination of my study's results to engage in more pro-environmental in other words more environmentally sustainable practices and behaviors that could ultimately result in the alleviation of or decreased negative effects of climate change.

Where will these actions be taken?

I intend to start off in the Gauteng province in South Africa, particularly focusing on youths who attend either the University of South Africa, University of Pretoria or Wits. In addition, once I have gained a clear understanding on the existing attitudes of university students on climate change and engaging in more pro-environmental behaviors, I intend to involve the communities that these students form part of, as well as public, private and government organisations throughout South Africa. This means that eventually I can include rural farming communities as well as the formal and informal sectors that service these. To elaborate, ultimately it is my intention to involve all persons and organisations that are affected directly and indirectly by the effects of climate, although it can be mentioned that it would practically be impossible not to include someone who apparently is not affected by the negative effects of climate change, considering that climate change affects the human and other populations as a whole.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

In terms of the aim of my proposal, namely gathering a rich account of the stories, perceptions and understandings by South African youths on living more environmentally sustainable and adopting more positive attitudes, I am not yet in a position to control and calculate estimated reduction rates of emissions as this is outside of my control. Once a shift in attitudes has taken place or is evident among the youths I approached during this study, I can attempt to establish a case study, survey or questionnaire through means of a quantitative study, which could provide me with a clearer understanding and idea of how emissions levels have been affected and reduced.

What are other key benefits?

  • Firstly I anticipate an attitude shift by the youths that formed part of my initial participant group and hence an encouragement and networking by those participants across the communities they live in to start living more sustainably and with care.
  • In addition this study serves to eventually educate individuals and communities on how to consume less and build more trees and communal vegetable gardens for purpose of self-sustainability. I have clearly seen this realize within my own community. Once I started growing fruit trees and vegetable patches in my drive way and on the pavements outside my property, neighbors followed in my footsteps, now our entire street of residence are partaking in an effort to maintain their curbside gardens.
  • Lastly, this study could ultimately serve as a great form of environmental and climate awareness and educate the South African community on the negative effects of climate change on all things living.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The current projected expenses pertaining to my proposed study amount to ZAR 28 353. These include the following:

  • Traveling: ZAR 1 000
  • Entertainment: ZAR 440
  • Printing: ZAR 1 164
  • Stationary: ZAR 825
  • Incentives: ZAR 1 680
  • Data Analysis: ZAR 6 244
  • University Tuition Fees: ZAR 17 000


  • Traveling costs included are for my traveling to and from Focus group meetings to be held once a week in three different venues, as well as to cover my travel fees to distribute fliers and brochures and to travel to the HPCSA to attain ethical clearance for my proposed study to commence.
  • The Entertainment costs refer to coffee, tea, snacks and napkins to be offered to the focus group participants during meetings.
  • Printing costs include four copies of this proposal to be printed, information sheets and brochure copies as well as copies of the dissemination on my research results and participant consent/confidentiality forms.
  • Stationary costs pertain to all the stationary that participants in the focus groups will make use of to give a rich account of their perceptions, stories and suggestions.
  • Under the Incentives category expenses relate to the small seedling packets, gardening starter kits, small organic food parcels, growing calendars as well as recycling information pamphlets to be distributed among all those who participated in the focus group discussions.
  • In terms of my data analysis expenses, I intend to make use of an external data transcriber, perhaps a translator as well as digital video and audio recording devices. Editing costs are also included in my budget.
  • Lastly, in order for me to commence with this study I am required to complete my Dissertation part of the Masters degree I am completing, of which the tuition fees amount to ZAR 17 000.


The barriers to and negative effects pertaining to this proposed study include but are not limited to:

  • Language Barriers
  • Socio-cultural and biological differences
  • Unrealistic Expectations by participants
  • Discontinued Participation

Time line

My data collection from the two focus groups consisting of eight members, will each be conducted over a period of at least one month, wherein meetings will take place once a week, with a once off short debriefing session at the end of the collection period. The data analysis period is currently estimated at one month and my audio recordings along with the focus group discussions and verbatim accounts will take approximately one month to transcribe, although with possible assistance from an external transcriber this time might be reduced significantly. Ultimately after following all the proposal outlines as well as including the ethical clearance and authorizations stage, I should have a clear outline of the results of my study in October 2015 at the latest.

Related proposals

Pro-Environmental Perceptions in the Soweto Township: An Exploratory Study.

In this proposed study, I attempted to explore some of the local pro-environmental perceptions and understandings adopted by poor and unemployed residents that reside in the Soweto Township in Gauteng, South Africa by describing and interpreting their experiences in a context-specific setting. The aim of this study was to address an under-researched population, namely the poor living in urban informal settlements. Due to an alarming increase in these populations as a result of migration to cities in search for employment opportunities, I deemed it necessary to investigate how informal settlers who are unemployed could be included in the workplace particularly by contributing towards an increase in pro-environmental, greener jobs and hence a shift in their attitudes and understanding of what climate change means to them and their communities using mainly a social action approach and engagement in my initiatives


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