Environmental Attitudes and Knowledge of Alabama Coastal Residents: A Baseline for Developing Sustainable Coastal Management Strategies
J. Steven Picou, Cecelia Formichella, G. David Johnson and Keith Nicholls
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
University of South Alabama, Mobile AL 36688
Since the 1960's, environmental issues increasingly have become major concerns among members of the US population. Environmental awareness among Americans was heightened with the publishing of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962, the first televised oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1967 and increased dramatically in the late 1980s with the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Despite these concerns about the environment, Arcury and others have concluded that environmental knowledge among American is actually quite low. For managers, these findings are particularly problematic since the successful regulation of the environment depends on the population having a considerable degree of environmental knowledge. While policy is implemented to preserve a particular resource, it is the activities of humans who utilize the resource, in essence, which are managed. Consequently, the willingness of the human population to accept and comply with regulatory policy is contingent upon the amount of information or environmental knowledge they have about the condition of the resource under question and the necessity of regulations. As Arcury (1990, p.303) points out: "If a future for positive and effective environmental policy is to be ensured, greater effort must be directed to finding and implementing tactics to increase public knowledge." Given these conclusions at the national level, it follows that the continued health and vitality of the Alabama coastal zone is associated with the current environmental knowledge of Mobile and Baldwin county residents. In this research, we propose to collect information from coastal county residents of Alabama which will assess their environmental knowledge and attitudes.  Specifically, this research will focus on coastal residents' general environmental knowledge as well as their specific awareness about the coastal zone and its future, its health and the major stakeholders who utilize the resources of the coastal zone of Alabama. This research will provide baseline information on environmental knowledge and attitudes of residents of the Coastal Alabama region. Once these baseline observations are collected, questions from the survey can be repeated for new samples in subsequent years. 

A random sample of 1000 adult residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties will be selected by random digit dialing. To measure environmental attitudes, items from known and previously tested environmental scales such as the New Environmental Paradigm scale, Environmental Concern scale and Awareness of Consequences scale will be used. To measure environmental knowledge, we will utilize items developed by the Council on Environmental Quality (1980). In addition, we will also develop survey questions which will address issues specific to the coastal zone of Alabama region as outlined in the statement of the problem. The analysis will focus on comparing environmental attitudes and knowledge levels between those who actively utilize the resources of the coastal zone with those who do not and between those who utilize the coastal zone for economic reasons with those who utilize it for recreational reasons. We will also examine the relationship between environmental attitudes/ knowledge and age, social class, race and ethnicity and gender.