Beyond proximate and distal causes of land-use change: Linking Individual Motivations to Deforestation in Colombia

Authors: Ximena Rueda*, Uniandes, Maria Velez, Uniandes, Lina Moros, Uniandes, Luz Rodriguez, U Javeriana
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Latin America, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Motivations; deforestation frontier; land-use-change; Colombia; agricultural expansion.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Coolidge, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Most of the literature on the causes of tropical deforestation has focused on the social, economic, cultural, and institutional factors that induce agents to change land uses. These have been recognized as the proximate and underlying causes of deforestation. Nevertheless, research exploring the psychological drivers of deforestation (i.e., motivations) is still scant, despite being crucial for understanding individual decision-making within social-ecological systems. In this article, we study the combined effect of structural and individual causes of deforestation, with particular emphasis on motivations, for a sample of rural households in Colombia’s foremost tropical deforestation frontier. To measure motivations, we implement a new instrument based on the Self-Determination Theory. Our findings show that, in addition to the structural and household drivers widely identified in the deforestation literature, intrinsic, guilt, and social motivations positively correlate with less self-reported deforestation. Also, a-motivated people are more likely to deforest. Extrinsic motives such as expected payments or expected fines do not seem to have an effect in the decision to clear the forest. These findings underscore the importance of including individual motivations for the design of environmental policies such as Payments for Ecosystem Services.

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