Private and civic actions as distinct types of individual engagement for transforming the exotic pet trade.

Published online
12 Oct 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Naito, R. & Zhao JiaYing & Naidoo, R. & Chan, K. M. A.
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In the pathway toward environmental sustainability, it is important that we understand how individuals can make a difference through diverse types of engagement. Theories suggest that transformative change toward a sustainable future requires individuals to engage in not only private actions (e.g. household energy saving, recycling) but also social-signalling and system-changing civic actions (e.g. opinion sharing, voting, petition signing and protesting). Yet, past research on pro-environmental behaviour has primarily focused on private actions, while overlooking individual contributions to facilitating widespread change through civic actions. We use the exotic pet trade as a focal case to understand how individuals may act to promote environmental sustainability through different patterns of engagement and what factors might explain these distinct patters of action. Results from an online survey about behavioural intentions in the United States (n = 527) revealed three types of individual action that could transform the exotic pet trade. Private actions clustered separately from civic actions. Within the category of civic actions, a distinction emerged between lower social-commitment actions and higher social-commitment actions, based on the perceived level of social engagement and personal efforts involved. We also found that each type of action was associated with unique factors, highlighting the importance of attitudes, perceived social norms, and relational values for variously promoting individual engagement among the U.S. public. Our findings suggest that these distinct types of action should be treated differently when designing future wildlife conservation campaigns and behaviour change interventions.

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