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“Walking the talk” in land management: Structural factors influencing pro-environmental intention-action links in a tropical watershed

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Edgar Espinoza-Cisneros, Majed Akhter

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-344
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
PublishedOct 2020

King's Authors


In this paper, we examine structural factors conditioning the adoption of pro-environmental practices in land management. While the thinking-action relationship has been widely studied in psychology, there is a need to further investigate, from a geographical perspective, how structure shortens or widens the gap between pro-environmental intentions and actions in land management. In filling this need, we examine the structural factors reported to influence this intention-action link in a Costa Rican watershed recently designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its social-ecological importance. To this end, we draw on intensive fieldwork and land manager interview data. Research design was informed by theoretical and conceptual insights from social psychology, land systems science and political ecology. Results suggest a strong influence of diverse structural factors on the pro-environmental intention-action connection in land use in this social-ecological system, both as a facilitating and/or constraining force. More salient is the marked gap between intentions and actions among managers, largely influenced by market dynamics and incentive structures, land tenure policies, perceptions about government institutional performance, and deficient extension networks. These results highlight the need to “clear the way” for pro-environmental intentions to materialize into actions through selective structural measures, especially in social-ecological landscapes facing dire needs to reduce ecological impacts of productive systems.

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