As we have discussed in the section Environmental Attitudes, this website will try to explore the environmental attitudes of Singapore. In any one country, it is impossible to say that everyone endorses either Preservation attitudes or Utilization attitudes towards the natural environment.
We can, however, try to understand which attitude the country is tending more towards. We can also try to explain factors that may have played a role in influencing the establishment of such environmental attitudes.
Environmental Attitudes in Singapore
Singaporeans, on the whole, have pro environmental attitudes.
Tan et al. (1998) did a survey of 1256 secondary school and junior college students to understand the environmental attitudes of students in Singapore. It was found that students generally have positive attitudes towards environmental issues.
The Singapore Environmental Council (2001) conducted the first large-scale environmental study in Singapore. The survey results indicated that 85 percent of all respondents felt the conservation of nature parks and reserves was important whether or not there were visitors to these places.
In addition, almost 80% of the respondents indicated that we should not allocate less land for nature reserves so that more golf courses or roads can be built (Singapore Environment Council, 2001). This clearly indicates an environmental attitude leaning more towards Preservation as compared to Utilization.
Let’s take a look at more recent survey results of Singaporeans’ environmental attitudes.
In 2011, the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) commissioned a survey to gauge the levels of environmental attitudes, public awareness and behaviors towards issues surrounding climate change in Singapore. The survey sampled 1010 Singaporean residents aged 15 and above. The survey was conducted between October and December 2011.
85 percent of respondents indicated that they felt a part in taking action on climate change while 73 percent said they were concerned about climate change. 75 percent of respondents said they are motivated to preserve the environment for future generations. Clearly, this indicated a pro environmental attitude among Singaporeans (Tay, 2012).
While the results from these surveys show that Singaporeans’ environmental attitudes are generally positive and pro environmental, we must be cautious in equating this to pro environmental behaviors. As can be seen in the section Environmental Behaviors and Practices, there are many other factors contributing to pro environmental behavior.
But for now, let us take a look at some factors that may contribute to Singaporeans’ pro environmental attitudes or inclinations towards a Preservation type of attitude towards the natural environment.(Before proceeding, you can recap on the factors influencing Environmental Attitudes)
Level of Education
The more educated, it was found, are more concerned for the environment and place more emphasis on biocentric orientations than the less educated (Fransson & Gärling, 1999; Hines, Hungerford, & Tomera, 1987; Olofsson & Öhman, 2006; Theodori & Luloff, 2002; Vaske, Donnelly, Williams, & Jonker, 2001).
This could be due to the fact that the more educated have more access to environmental knowledge and have more capability to understand them. It was also pointed out by Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002) that the longer an individual’s education, the more extensive the knowledge about environmental issues.
Singapore’s literary rate, an education indicator, in 2011 is 96.1 percent while the percentage of people with Secondary School Qualifications or higher is 66.6 (Department of Statistics Singapore, 2012).
In Singapore, students get to learn about environmental issues in schools. Environmental education is incorporated into schools’ formal curriculum by the Ministry of Education (Ong, 2009).
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has also partnered schools to develop Environmental Education modules for students to learn about environmental issues like global warming and climate change (Mohandas, 2007).
Singaporeans are definitely well equipped to understand the environmental messages taught to them. Also, given that a majority of Singaporeans have education up to secondary school and beyond, it will mean that they would have had a fair amount of access to environmental knowledge too.
Hence, the level of education Singaporeans have may have played a role in the pro environmental attitudes they have towards the natural environment.
Studies have found that individuals with higher income have higher Environmental Attitudes scores as compared to those with lower incomes (Fransson & Gärling, 1999; Theodori & Luloff, 2002; Van Liere & Dunlap, 1980; Vaske et al., 2001).
Singapore is largely made up of middle class and only a small proportion of low-income people (Tan, 2004).
As such, this could translate into a possible explanation why Singaporeans have pro environmental attitudes in general.
As mentioned before, a future time perspective shared a positive relationship with Environmental Attitudes (Collins & Chambers, 2005; Ebreo & Vining, 2001; Joireman, Lasane, Bennett, Richards, & Solaimani, 2001; Joireman, Van Lange, & Van Vugt, 2004; Strathman, Gleicher, Boninger, & Edwards, 1994).
According to Hofstede (1991), long term orientation refers to a positive, dynamic and future-oriented culture associated with four positive Confucian values: persistence, ordering relationships by status and observing this order, thrift, and having a sense of shame. Many Asian societies including Singapore are ranked as more long-term oriented cultures.
Hence, having a long-term future perspective may be one factor contributing to Singapore’s pro environmental attitudes.
Knowledge of environmental issues
Knowledge is very important in predicting Environmental Attitudes (Diekmann & Preisendörfer, 1998; Hines, Hungerford, & Tomera, 1987; Kaiser F. G. & Fuhler, 2003; Lévy-Leboyer, Bonnes, Chase, & Ferreira-Marques, 1996; McFarlane & Hunt, 2006).
As mentioned above, schools in Singapore incorporate Environmental Education in their curriculum, which equips Singaporeans with the necessary knowledge of environmental issues.
In addition, the National Environment Agency (NEA) often organizes environmental campaigns to educate Singaporeans about environmental issues. Here are some examples of the campaigns NEA has held over the years:
Recycling Week 2011 Campaign
Bring your own bag day Campaign
Why waste plastic bags? Choose reusable bags campaign
Singapore Green One Campaign
Earth Hour Singapore
Therefore, Singaporeans definitely are well informed about environmental issues and threats.
While we have explored various factors that may have contributed to Singaporeans’ pro environmental attitudes, it is still important to see whether these attitudes translate into pro environmental behavior.