Environmental citizenship and citizen-consumer: Individual actor´s role in the environmental question
Turku Center for Cild and Youth Research University of Turku, Finland Turku, Finland
The concepts of consumer and citizen have spread in wide use in the contemporary political, societal, and public debate. This has had a straight influence on the discourse related to the environment-individual relationship. Despite the quite customary concept "citizen-consumer" the notion is problematic in many sense. What makes it problematic is that consumption and consumerism targets to a selfish maximization of utility while citizenship is connected to a promotion of collective good (e.g. sound environment) and responsible choice. This paper focuses on the notions of citizen-consumer supported by empirical results from consumption patterns in general and especially from energy consumption. The aim of the paper is thus, to ponder whether the concept of citizen-consumer is able to form a basis to another concept - that of environmental citizenship - in the contemporary consumer capitalism. This aim is approached empirically with the help of two statistical data. First, Flash Eurobarometer 123 (2002, "Perception of Sustainable Development and Environmental Concerns of European"), are based on 7533 respondents and collected in 15 EU countries. The second data, Flash Eurobarometer 65.2 (2006, e.g. energy questions) are collected from 29 EU countries and are formed of 29 220 respondents. The analysis test the explanation power of ecological foot print as a macro-level independent variable and also micro-level variables are used to explain citizen-consumer and environmental citizenship as it comes to responsible consumption choices. Knowing that there are national variations in the ecological foot print helps to understand national differences related to environmental issues and shed light to possibilities to act in a responsible way. The preliminary results point out that the nations under comparison share a common positive attitude towards environmental issues. However, when explanatory variables are brought into the analysis the situation changes and both ecological foot print and micro-level variables have influence on energy consumption.