Trouble in paradise: Does nature worship harm the environment?

September 11, 2012

Consumers nurture romantic ideas of nature by engaging in practices that are often harmful to the environment, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Could eco-friendly products provide a solution?

"Nature is often considered the ideal place to escape from everyday life. Consumers enjoy romantic escapes from culture in contexts as diverse as surfing, tropical island holidays, and the Burning Man festival. But by viewing nature as simply the opposite of culture, consumers often expedite the destruction of the experiences of nature they desire most," write authors Robin Canniford (University of Melbourne) and Avi Shankar (University of Bath).

Consumers preserve romantic ideas of nature as an escape from urban life and culture by hiding or purging elements of culture and social tensions from their experiences of nature. Paradoxically, these actions can harm the environment and subject the experiences of nature to increasing legal and commercial regulation.

For example, although the Maldives are frequently considered an island paradise, tourists have left behind so much waste that entire islands are being swamped by trash that is polluting the crystal blue sea tourists travel so far to experience. On Australia's Gold Coast, violence against other surfers has become such a common method of alleviating crowded experiences of nature that police have been drafted in to patrol the perfect sandy beaches in order to control the violence. Boat charters and private resorts that limit the number of consumers at certain locations in order to preserve an unspoiled experience of nature have subject these experiences to increased regulation and commercialization.

However, consumers are also aware of the fragility of nature and seek to alleviate potential damage with increasingly ecologically friendly consumer technologies.

"Rather than seeking to merely hide the fact that nature and culture are interdependent, consumers seek to advance practices that leave nature as untouched as possible. Demand for eco-friendly products offers an opportunity for outdoor equipment manufacturers and tourism service providers to help consumers enjoy nature in less damaging ways," the authors conclude.
-end-
Robin Canniford and Avi Shankar. "Purifying Practices: How Consumers Assemble Romantic Experiences of Nature." Journal of Consumer Research: February 2013. For more information, contact Robin Canniford (rcan@unimelb.edu.au) or visit http://ejcr.org/.

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Consumers Articles from Brightsurf:

When consumers trust AI recommendations--or resist them
The key factor in deciding how to incorporate AI recommenders is whether consumers are focused on the functional and practical aspects of a product (its utilitarian value) or on the experiential and sensory aspects of a product (its hedonic value).

Do consumers enjoy events more when commenting on them?
Generating content increases people's enjoyment of positive experiences.

Why consumers think pretty food is healthier
People tend to think that pretty-looking food is healthier (e.g., more nutrients, less fat) and more natural (e.g., purer, less processed) than ugly-looking versions of the same food.

How consumers responded to COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for laying out the different threats that consumers face, and that consumers must prepare themselves for a constantly shifting landscape moving forward.

Is less more? How consumers view sustainability claims
Communicating a product's reduced negative attribute might have unintended consequences if consumers approach it with the wrong mindset.

In the sharing economy, consumers see themselves as helpers
Whether you use a taxi or a rideshare app like Uber, you're still going to get a driver who will take you to your destination.

Helping consumers in a crisis
A new study shows that the central bank tool known as quantitative easing helped consumers substantially during the last big economic downturn -- a finding with clear relevance for today's pandemic-hit economy.

'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.

Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.

Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.

Read More: Consumers News and Consumers Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.