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Social norms in agri-environmental governance

Authors: Kira Sullivan-Wiley*, Pardee Center | Boston University
Topics: Behavioral Geography, Agricultural Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: agriculture, social norms, land management, review, conservation policy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual Track 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Environmental management is a social activity, with land uses often visible to neighbors and the results of management having effects beyond the spatial extent over which the management occurs. These environmental externalities can be negative (e.g., pollution) or positive (e.g., ecosystem service provision), forming a significant link between the interests of the manager and the interests of those affected. Interventions relating to land management, however, often address only the land manager’s on-land interests (e.g., on-farm soil quality) or household interests (e.g., income). This approach may fail to capture the ways in which land managers are embedded in social networks, knowledge networks, informal relationships, and subject to social norms. Much of Elinor Ostrom’s work has shown that under certain conditions, resource managers depending on common pool resources are strongly influenced by the social groups and dynamics, but the same level of theoretical rigor has not yet emerged in relation to private land management. The theory of planned behavior and other frameworks have made progress in linking social dynamics to management decisions, but these cases vary with respect to their treatment of norms and related social dynamics. This review paper examines how agri-environmental work to date has addressed the role of social norms in private land and resource use decisions. It looks at the ways in which this work documents, measures, and targets social norms relating to land use practices in both the global north and south. Trends in the literature as well as research gaps are highlighted.

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