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Sociological analysis of Kibbuts members behaviour towards environmental issues.


Sociological  analysis  of  Kibbuts members  behaviour  towards environmental issues.

By David  Sugarman.


 Abstract:  This study examined the reason for the environmental attitude presented by different members of Kibbuts Ketora. It appears that although the Kibbuts presents itself as a “green”  Kibbuts, it’s members introduce a large varaiety of beliefs and ideas. The socialist mask of the environmental attitude does not seem to dominate, but a broader attitude that evolves from more deeper reasons concerning basic human behaviour. Family and friends, education and self-confidence are some of the factors involved. Urbanity and it’s openenting attitudes are of  importance too and dominate some of the attitudes presented by kibbuts members. The conclusions focuses on the manners of which it is advised to act upon in order to improve future environmental accomplishments.


               ף Different minds incline to different objects, one pursues,

                  The vast alone, the wonderful, the wild,

                  Another sighs for harmony, and grace

                  And gently beauty."

                                                            Mark Akenside {1744} The pleasures of Imagination.

1. Why write this paper ?

The purpose of this paper is to try and present a primary description of the Kibbuts attitude towards environmental issues. In addition there will be a brief  description of present sociological research of environmental behaviour. The idea of this project evolved during an internship conducted in Kibbuts Ketora concerning an environmental survey. The response of the Kibbuts members was for a certain extant surprising due to the fact that this Kibbuts has regarded itself as a “Green” Kibbuts and has been one of the  newly  ”Green Kibbuts” movement leaders. The attitude presented by the members viewed from a very positive and constructive attitude to negative and even distrustful.

In this paper I shall describe  themes that I suggest as influencing the environmental behaviour and try to present ways that the Kibbuts may consider to adopt.

          2. How to write it ?

A sociological analysis can be done in two channels: The Cultural channel, of values and believes, and the sociological channel, of the societies relation structure. A cultural analysis will try and understand the inter human relations through formulating an order and classification in organising the values and believes of the analysed  culture. A sociological view point will analyse the groups and organisations within the culture. But, separate between the society and its values.

There is no practical way to Within an organisation  there are groups which hold different sub-cultures. In which, in certain aspects be contravene, But , as long as all will accept a common cultural base of believes, values and ideology, the comprehensive of the organisation will not be harmed. A basic manner of broad acceptance must be among the members of the inspected society, which will be secured through the organisation ideology. All of the members who are opposing the this broad agreement are endangering the existence of this organisation.

          3. Primary  structure  analysis of the Kibbuts.

In Kibbuts Ketora  there are many groups who are originated from different  places and countries. There are the establishers of the Kibbuts , originated from the Army youth movement (נח"ל),there are immigrants from the USA and there are Israelis. In addition there are volunteers in the Kibbuts of European origin, a big group of youngsters of the army youth movement who are Israeli semi-religious oriented, and students of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies who. It can be agreed that the Kibbuts withholds a traditional Jewish attitude and manner. Another important aspect is the wide awareness to the environmental issues, that result in the establishment of the Arava institute of environmental studies. In line up with this set of different sociological modes is the distinction between those members who are urban oriented and those who are oriented from farming and other non-urban heritage. It is therefor clear that the variety of sub-cultural groups in the Kibbuts is remarkable. It seems as if the subject of environment is a binding topic in the Kibbuts but some of the attitudes presented are opposing this concept.

   The collective orientated settlements of the Kibbutsim begun in 1910. The first settlers were  young, mostly un-married, east & central Europe immigrants who  immigrated by themselves with now close family relatives.

   Property ownership in the Kibbuts is by all members, apart from very few personal belongings. The members are willing to point their effort and bend their demanding in order to achieve the broader goals of the community, and gain  self-achievement through their work  in  the community structure.

          4. Arguments.

A few of the arguments that were reported represent  attitudes that are similar to those that are represented in all other social groups. some of them are :

1. Nature

   A member of the Kibbuts was presented with a problem of  risking an endangered species by visiting  its  home environment which is situated near the Kibbuts. When presented with the fact that alarming signs for tourists are presented before reaching the place the member's answer  was that none of them was noticed. In addition when explained how injuring is the act of being in that specific environment, the member has answered that the place should be allowed to be approached only by the people living in the close region.

   The lack of understanding the ecological issue was obvious and so was the anthropocentric attitude of the nature and its habitants. It seems that the members eco-sociological  view is of  a metaphoric use of physical space for social space. The space is not used as a unit for itself, but it is always in relation to some contrast. Arava settlers has a meaning in relation to others (mainly urban),the Kibbuts members to the other nearby Kibbutsim, the species environment to the settlement. The notion of boundary is very important because to set bounds around a place or a person is both to relate it to something else and to set it apart.

2. Environment

   The attitude to different environmental problems , such as  pesticides and resolving issues such as composting have brought a  dis-agreement. The dis-acceptance worsens due to the fact that the arguments presented  by those who disagreed were based upon dis-belief in the issue presented  (composting) or  lack of interest.

   The composting team in the Kibbuts has initiated a composting questionnaire  Its results  have proved that some members of the Kibbuts have expressed an attitude of dis-agreement with the project, most of which were not from an environmental prospective but from an egocentric one. Some have expressed dis-belief that the project will work and some have written that it is useless and that it will not work. It may be important to recall the fact that composting is being done, already , in small scale , in the Kibbuts for a few years. Therefor this negative attitude is, in my opinion based  upon a few possibilities :

A] Ignorance – due to un-awareness to this project. It is even more

     surprising due to the fact that the Kibbuts is such a small


          B] Antagonism – due to internal politics and inter-social conflict within the Kibbuts. Such as arguments between different pressure  groups

              or individuals.

3. Management

    It was very clear, wile attending Kibbuts meetings that arguments over different issues such as the issue of pesticides have produced conflicts that evolved from lack of knowledge, ability to compromise and even narrow-mind to a curtain extant. For example at the meeting over Pesticides use, there was a long conversation were members expressed their ignorance over this matter whereas others expressed very firm ideas that were not always necessary and proved to create antagonism from opposing sides. It had rolled on to a “conversation of deaf” were each side was channelled in its thoughts and no levelling was possible. There were a few members who expressed ideas and adding that their knowledge was limited and that they were willing to acquire more knowledge , if possible and needed. It was also pointed out that the meeting was handled with the absence of the workers and managers of the inspected field. An interview with one of the inspected field managers has indicated that although the meetings discussion was over his direct line of interest, he does what ever he finds suitable to do, regardless to the meetings decision. It is therefor clear that in such a social organisation of equality the balance of power and the clarity of line of decision is different from other social organisation were the tree of power is clear.

4. Personal feeling

   It was pointed out by a Kibbuts member, that holds pro-environmental attitude, member that: "…with all the respect to the different environmental projects such as composting and reuse, one has the right after many years in the Kibbuts to do what one’s feel like after a day’s work, and let others who are more close to the subject make it run and succeed". It is evident that the member is sensing an invasion to its privacy and influence over self control of private life and action.


          5. Influencing forces

It is clear today to all modern societies that the nature should no longer be defeated but preserved and treated with great care and thoughtfulness. But the correct prospective is different from one social structure to another and within miscellaneous groups in that society.

Nature & the Individual

   At the heart of some attitudes  is the contrasting symbolism of nature for the individual consciousness. For the classicists, the nature personified and encouraged old-fashioned remains of a more savage order. For the romantics, individual, salvation lay in exposing the repressed elements of our mind because there lay the authentic, the positive features of our individuality which could balance out the artificiality of our lives.


   By living in a semi-socialist manner of an equal sharing community, the Kibbuts and its members are striving to avoid the characteristics of the urban and its varieties way of life. the pro-urban argument of the ability of social aggregation to create more possibilities than the some of the individuals is viewed by the Kibbuts members as an ability of their own. The reason is , as they probably see it, is that the cities have developed into concrete jungles where the weight of numbers and thick densities of population have created an unfamiliar environment were we are all strangers, all part of a lonely crowd.

   The city is the modern equivalent of the medieval forest populated by demons. They suspect that urban society can not prospect and respect nature in the correct manner as they do. The consistent criticism of the city bring into focus morality, fear of the mob, fear of disease and fear of crime. The Kibbuts members account these themes as though they do not exist within them, but some, un-fortunately do.  Crime, morality and disease do exist in the Kibbuts society, though in lower percent than in the urban societies  Though it seems as if  the characteristics of behaviour towards environment and the nature are very similar whether it is the Kibbuts member’s view or the “city boy”`s  view.

   What about the suburbs ? They are used to refer to a whole set of alternative values:  Family, stability, security, a place were people settle down, raise children, become part of a community. Criticism is covering a concern with the view of dis-orderly nature in the suburbs. They are neither urban nor rural and this offends the tastes of those who prefer stable and separate existence and social categories. Suburbs are seen as a zone of uncertainty between the two motifs  of town and country. They inhabited a blurry position in the social world. They are neither very rich nor very poor, neither upper nor working class (a description which might be suitable in describing the economical position of the Kibbuts members).

    A feminism critique visions the suburbs as a place of female imprisonment. The separate homes all require regular inputs of modern female labour. For some, the symbol of women’s isolation to the domestic world of home worker, child bearer and baby minder.


   The socialist ideology of the Kibbuts has some influence on the environmental judgement of it’s members. It is not a leading argument due to the fact that there are other concerning points. But the belief that the Capitalistic vision of the nature and it’s environment has been gaining an increased involvement of socialistic parties. The fear is of the monitory attitude towards the environment, labelling everything with $, pollution, nature, clean air and water etc.

   Capitalism is associated with money, pollution, materialism and alienation and therefor the destruction of nature and by gaining more profit thus degrading our ecological health. It is difficult to frame in the social pattern of  Kibbuts Ketora  a firm eco-social attitude. The variety of opinions and beliefs appears to resemble other societies with a less social vision, and therefor I suggest that the ideology is an influencing argument of less significance.

            6. Recycling behaviour.

At the present part of the paper a summery of reviews, studies and research results will be presented. There were no studies found regarding recycling behaviour in Israel or in the Kibbuts movement. Therefor the conclusions out of this chapter must be related to in a very careful manner. It is probable that some of the results would be similar, but the variables that are influenced from the environment of the inspected community are difficult to separate from the entire results . Consequently, it is important to try and indicate  the most meaningful data and conclusions presented in these papers.



          Commingled curbside recycling is a system where household residents put all recyclable materials in one container. It is a new form of recycling that has been initiated to decrease the amount of household waste sent to landfills. Relevant recycling knowledge is the most the most significant predictor of the  of observed recycling behaviour, and content-specific motivations for or against recycling discriminated between frequent and infrequent recyclers.

Environmental Attitudes

  Much of the past behavioural science research on environmental issues has studied general environmental concern rather that attitudes toward more specific environmental topics . A high sense of  personal efficacy, specifically in regard to helping solve environmental problems, has been found to be positively related to pro-environmental behaviour.


   Another important variable is reasons for recycling. Reasons for recycling included receipt of payments, decreased cost of garbage collection, conservation of resources, reduction of litter, conservation of energy, decreased landfill use, money raised for charities, and pressure from friends and family. Reasons against recycling include – not enough recyclables used at home, no storage space, materials attract pests, no pickup available, no time to prepare materials, and no drop-off sites. It is  clear that both parties are concerned with environmental issues which drive their position, but non-recyclers are more concerned with financial incentives to recycle, rewards for recycling, and with matters of personal convenience. Most studies concerned with recycling have not studied clear perceptions or motives that may lead to recycling behaviour.


   Demographic variables such as education, income and age are often associated with recycling behaviour. Wiegel (1977) reported that participation in recycling was related to liberal social, economic, and religious philosophies, higher education and higher occupation status. Several studies and reviews have documented the fact that well educated people with higher income, and those who are younger  are more environmentally concerned. Un-strengthening is the conclusion by Van Liere and Dunlap (1980) that demographics had limited value for predicting environmental concern and that environmental concern could be best studied in terms of more specific environmental issues (e.g. reuse, recycling).

   Hornik suggest that the social influence of neighbours, friends, and family members can extend the recycling behaviours. In addition demographic variables are weakly correlated with the criterion variable. As recycling becomes more diffused throughout the population and accepted by more types of consumers, researchers will be even less likely to find meaningful differences among recyclers and non-recyclers across demographic segments of the population. Their analysis suggests that the scholars have overemphasised the analysis of consumer demographics while neglecting the consumer predictors. Recycling programs should be planned and designed with intrinsic/extrinsic motivators.

A Review of BEHAVIOURAL programs to Increase recycling

   The authors reported that the prompting techniques were equally effective in increasing returnable purchase above those made during the no-prompt condition. Specifically, by simply giving a handbill forced along increased returnable purchases as much as 25%. However the authors reported that the immediate effectiveness was short-lived.

   The results indicated significant effect for the groups of   (1).Survey, Verbal prompt, Written prompt and  (2).Verbal prompt, Written prompt. Both presented at least 80% participation and differed from the untreated controls as well as the other treatment groups ( S, V, W, S&V, S&W).


   This intervention strategy involves obtaining promises or agreements from people to recycle for a specified time period.  There were  a few studies conducted in this field. One of them done by Katsev and Perdini (1987-1988) compared  the use of written commitment and rewards to increase newspaper recycling. Specifically four groups were compared: (a) control  (b) written commitment, (c) rewards, (d) written commitment plus rewards. They found that recycling participation rates and the amount of paper recycled increased at least 18% and 161%, respectively, for all groups that made a commitment, received rewards, or both when compared to the control groups during a 5 – week treatment period. The authors added that some persistence of recycling behaviour beyond the specific commitment period was observed in the studied cases.

   In general, the strongest effects were found when the promise to recycle was in the form of a signed statement and referred to the individual’s own behaviour.

Environmental Alteration

   Environmental-alteration techniques have been found to increase recycling behaviour. For example adding more recycling containers to a particular area, changing pickup schedules. Several experiments (e.g. Luyben % Beily (1979)) have found that adding additional recycling containers to those already present significantly increased recycling. Environmental-alteration techniques are relatively easy to implement and making recycling more convenient ( adding cans , changing schedules) has consistently been found to increase recycling behaviour. Making trash receptacles more attractive or distinctive has been proved to decrease littering ( Geller 1982). Environmental – alteration techniques may be expensive to initiate, but this is a one-time or, at least, infrequent cost. Further, such interventions may be expected to result in lasting changes in behaviour due to the intervention remain in place.

Goal setting

  Goal setting, as a main technique, was found in two experiments done in this subject, as an important tool to increase recycling. ( Hamad, Bettinger, Cooper and Semb 1980-1, McCaul and Kopp 1982).


   Results of  studies indicated (Katsev & Mishima1992)  that feedback was successful in increasing paper recycling approximately 77% above baseline levels and led to some maintenance of recycling during the follow-up. Becker (1978) found that goal setting  combined  with feedback produced a greater reduction in energy consumption than when feedback was not given with goal setting or when neither feedback nor goal setting was present. Geller & Needelman (1992) pointed out that goal setting plus feedback may not be as applying rewards for behaviour change.


   Hamad (1977) found that reward was more effective than verbal information about the recycling program in increasing newspaper recycling among elementary school students. But participation is found to be higher in lottery conditions. Jacobs & Baily (1982-3) found that lottery prises produce more participation in newspaper recycling program than any other conditions. (E.g. paying market rate for each pound of paper to be recycled). There are problems with this method. First , the problem of low declining participation while the intervention is terminated. The second involves the cost of reward-based interventions as compared to the actual value of the recyclables collected.  However, some of these costs may be offset with the use of lotteries to dispense rewards, as opposed to giving individual, immediate rewards for recycling.


   These  are of course for not-recycling. Studies have witnessed  that in  a examined population, the majority  have decreased their number of trash cans per week from a few to only one.


A  Test of Household Recycling and Composting Intentions

  A study done by Taylor & Todd (1995), had the aim of developing and testing an integrative model in order to explain individual intentions to engage in waste management behaviour. Following, are the main findings of the study. They can aggregate to a sound and  broader understanding of the Kibbuts members approach towards the different environmental problems.

Belief Structures

   In general, more favourable attitudes toward recycling and composting will result when perceived relative advantages are high and perceived  complexity is low.

   Normative influences are analogous to the social influences found to be important factors of environmental behaviour. These normative influences can be decomposed. Such decomposition can be based on the expected influence of the referent groups. The authors suggest that both internal social influences, such as family and external influences , such as friends and neighbours, may be important positions of subjective norm for recycling and composting. It is expected that subjective norm and subsequent intention will be stronger when these groups want an individual to engage in recycling and composting. However, because recycling and composting are household activities, it is possible that internal influences may dominate (Gransin & Olsen 1991).

   Compatibility corresponds to the effort, inconveniences, and values variables in environmental research. In general, the more compatible recycling and composting are with an individuals values and daily routine, the stronger will be noticed behavioural control and the following intention to engage in recycling and composting. Furthermore, it is expected that higher levels of self-efficacy to lead to stronger perceived behavioural control and later intention to recycle and compost.


   Intention to recycle was positively influenced by attitude and followed behavioural control but was negatively influenced by subjective norm. The reason for this result is unclear to the authors. They suggest that the negative reaction to the influence of others which causes the individual to “rebel” against these influences. Complexity did not affect attitude, even though recycling was perceived to be moderately complex. This may be due, as they suggest, to the overwhelming influence of relative advantage. Although,, on average recycling was not perceived as being compatible with people’s daily routine or lifestyle, this did not lessen  the control they felt over they behaviour. This suggests that, given the adequate knowledge, people may be willing to overcome personal inconvenience to realise the more global benefits of recycling.


   Intention was positively influenced by attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioural control.

A strange result has occurred during the study. Whereas efficacy and resource-facilitating conditions were positively related to perceived behavioural control, compatibility was negatively related. It indicates that the more compatible composting is with one’s lifestyle, the less control one feels over the decision to compost. An interpretation could be that when an individual is faced with serious impediments to perform a socially desirable behaviour such as composting, that individual may be better able to rationalise the decision not to compost and thus experience a sense of control over his decision. By contrast, in the absence of impediments, one may feel compelled to compost and thus feel limited personal control over his decision. This concept is harmonious with the idea of psychological reactance whereby individuals will attempt to regain control over their behaviour whenever that control  is threatened (Brehm, 1981).


1. Social pressure to engage behaviours such as composting and recycling, may be important early in program development, but such interventions may actually have opposing affects once  programs are well established.

2. Complexity is discounted by recyclers but not by composters. This indicates that efforts should be made to reduce complexity early in the diffusion of an environmental program, but that importance of complexity as a determinant of attitude may diminish over time.

3. An individual will feel compelled to perform a behaviour because of its importance to the society. Any inconvenience may provide the individual with an easy excuse not to compost. Therefor it is important that such inconveniences be minimised.

          7. Concluding comments.

It is important to notice that a major concern with behavioural approach to improve  pro-environmental behaviour is, in general, the lack of evidence for long term effects. Most of the research in applied behaviour change has had difficulties in finding interventions or treatment programs that encourage behaviour to be maintained after interventions have been concluded.

   As for the Kibbuts prospective, It may be suggested to view two routes of performance. First, the level of work and second the level of the individual/ family. The first route – the  Kibbuts has been conducting for a few years small scale projects of composting. They are initiated by private members and through co-ordination between working branches in the Kibbuts. A program of reuse(nylon in the dates)  has failed. The composting initiative has brought up reactions that were surprising. It is now surprising less due to the fact that some of the influencing factors were mantioned. It enables to understand better why such attitude were represented, and through them combine a program which will benefit all parties involved.  The second route is the manner of re-socialisation. It is a method that needs to be considered when planing future performance. It can be done by two ways:  (a) by the young and middle generation  (b) by increasing the self awareness of the Kibbuts society. Leeming, Porter, Dwyer, Cobern, and Oliver (in the press) indicated that parents of children involved in a curriculum emphasising active participation in environmental activities exhibit more pro-environmental behaviours than parents of children who are not. Hence children seem to be successful as “agents” advocating environmental change in others.


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