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Collaborative environment

A New Zealand study reveals that people who tend to cooperate - also tend to be more environmentally friendly. All together, for the sake of the planet?

The research findings showed that those who cooperated in the games were more likely to report pro-environmental behavior. Illustration: depositphotos.com
The research findings showed that those who cooperated in the games were more likely to report pro-environmental behavior. Illustration: depositphotos.com

From a young age we are taught to work cooperatively: to play with the other children in kindergarten, to write a paper at school together with other students and even to risk ourselves for others in the army. However, in today's society, which sanctifies individualism, some of us tend to cooperate less than others.

A New Zealand study shows that our tendency to act together with others has a surprising connection to our environmental perceptions: according to his findings, people who work for the environment and who believe in the climate crisis - are more inclined to cooperate.

In the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, about 900 participants took part in a variety of social games that forced them to choose between prioritizing the common good - and maximizing their personal profit. For example, in one game, the male and female participants were given points (which were converted into money at the end of the game), and they could choose how many of them would be donated to a common pool, the amount of which is multiplied and divided equally between four players - and how much to keep for themselves. It should be noted that during the games, there was no mention of the climate crisis in the "field".

The research findings showed that those who cooperated in the games were more likely to report pro-environmental behavior - that is, environmental people also tend to cooperate more. These participants also supported the country's Green Party more than non-participants.

Furthermore, according to the study, those who cooperated were also more likely to believe in the climate crisis. According to the researchers, it is easier to justify non-cooperative behavior by refusing to admit that there is a social dilemma in advance - that is, if I convince myself that the climate crisis does not exist, I can avoid cooperating in order to act to mitigate it.

"There is definitely a logic in the connection between belief in collective work and the willingness to deal with the climate crisis and even believe in its existence," says Prof. Danny Rabinowitz, an anthropologist and environmental researcher, head of the master's program in social and policy aspects of climate change at Tel Aviv University. "The willingness to participate in efforts to reduce emissions, which include changes in everyday life - is based on people's ability to imagine and determine that other people also act like them. Many times, people don't get involved because they assume that others won't participate in the process."

The politics of cooperation

What affects Our tendency to cooperate? Rabinovitz says that the first sociologists, such as Max Weber and Emil Durkheim, claimed that the tendency to cooperate lies in all human beings - although it does not exist in the same form in everyone. "The willingness to cooperate starts from a young age, and develops when you live in a system that takes seriously the ability of each individual to contribute to joint decision-making," he says. "It prepares us for a life where we believe that such a thing is possible."

However, in Rabinowitz's view, the willingness to have collaborations Mainly related to the social behavior patterns in which we actually live, beyond the innate human nature. "The families in which we grow up and the political culture in which we live largely determine our ability to cooperate - and our belief that this is even possible," he says.

According to Rabinowitz, the connection between cooperation and the attitude to the climate crisis also goes through political affiliation. "A series of studies conducted at Yale University found a connection between gender, political and educational identity and belief in the climate crisis," he says. "According to the studies, young Democratic women expressed the most confidence in the crisis and the need to act - and white Republican men are the most skeptical about it. What characterizes such men is a simplistic reference to the American ethos of individualism, which mainly considers what a person does by himself over the collective."

According to Rabinowitz, the situation is better in Israel. "One of the first things the current Netanyahu government did was make a very ambitious statement for a significant reduction of greenhouse gases," he says. Rabinovitz emphasizes that such a statement of intentions from a right-wing conservative government is beautiful - even though after the statement, the government made every possible mistake on the issue, especially with regard to the practical implementation.

Realize the consequences of the climate crisis on our lives

It should be noted that one of the issues that make it difficult to act against the climate crisis - including the creation of cooperation on the issue - is the fact that the effects of actions that people take in the present can only turn out to be significant decades from now. According to Rabinowitz, one of the essential and effective tools for increasing activity against the climate crisis is to realize the practical impact of the crisis on our lives. "If you had asked a middle-class Israeli six months ago how much he thought it was possible to collaborate with a very large group of people to bring about political change, the answer would have been tens of percent lower than today - following the legal revolution and the events surrounding it."

According to him, just as the events of the legal revolution led different population groups to perceive the legal issue as one that could affect their lives - and caused them to act, and with extensive cooperation, a similar thing can happen with the climate crisis. "The perception of risk can change", he concludes.

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