A Natural History of an Environmentalist: Identifying Influences on Pro-sustainability Behavior Through Biography and Autoethnography


  • Evangelos Manolas Democritus University of Thrace
  • John Hockey University of Gloucestershire
  • Michael Littledyke University of New England




autoethnography, biography, environmentalism, sustainability behavior


This natural history of an environmentalist uses autoethnography through biographical interview to investigate the contextual analysis of influences affecting active pro-sustainability behavior, which is interpreted as environmentalism. Education for sustainability categories of environmental, socio-cultural, political and economic factors were used to identify factors that interact to influence affective and cognitive domains, which affect environmentalist behavior. These influences in reality operated symbiotically but for purposes of analysis they have been portrayed sequentially. The portrayal of the autoethnographer's vocabulary of motives and identity theory applied to group commitment were used as analytic tools. The research methodology employed provides a strategy for investigating biography, which gives access to lived experience as a basis for understanding factors influencing environmentalism. Processes of metacognition and reflexivity, supported by critical engagement with co-researchers, provide access to deep analysis of the biography. Whilst it was not possible to make statistical generalizations from a single case study it was possible to make limited qualitative generalizations, or in other words "moderatum generalizations." Subsequent examination of the natural histories of other life-long environmentalists would certainly not reveal detailed similarities in terms of specific biographical occurrences. However, the abstract categories of influence outlined provide a useful template for further investigating the process of activist identity development which we know little about at the present time.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1301151


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Author Biographies

Evangelos Manolas, Democritus University of Thrace

Evangelos MANOLAS was born in Naxos, Greece, in 1961. He has received a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Sociology from the University of Essex (1983), a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Kent at Canterbury (1985) and a Philosophy Doctorate from the University of Aberdeen (1989). He is Assistant Professor in the Department of Forestry and Management of the Environment and Natural Resources at the Democritus University of Thrace. His research interests focus on environmental sociology and environmental-forest education.

John Hockey, University of Gloucestershire

John HOCKEY is a Research Fellow at the University of Gloucestershire, where he teaches research methodology to PhD students across all disciplines. He has published extensively in the sociologies of education, occupations and sport. His original research produced a pioneering ethnography of UK infantry ("Squaddies: Portrait of a Subculture," 1986, Exeter University Press). His current research interests are focused upon the sociology of the senses and phenomenological sociology as they are applied to sport and occupations. He was awarded a Sage prize for sociological innovation at the 2010 British Sociological Association Annual Conference, for a published work on the sociology of the senses.

Michael Littledyke, University of New England

Michael LITTLEDYKE has an extensive background in education, science and environmental activism. He coordinates distance learning online science and technology teacher education courses at the University of New England New South Wales, Australia. He was previously Faculty Research Director at the University of Gloucestershire, England, and has published extensively in education for sustainability and science and technology education, as well as drama in education as a tool for exploring social and environmental issues, and, earlier in his career, ecological entomology.




How to Cite

Manolas, E., Hockey, J., & Littledyke, M. (2013). A Natural History of an Environmentalist: Identifying Influences on Pro-sustainability Behavior Through Biography and Autoethnography. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-14.1.1838



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