Abstract: Banning the use of firecrackers in Delhi was a regulation initiated by the government as part of an effort to curb air pollution in the city and improve public health. However, it's questionable whether the policy was effective in achieving these objectives. Environmental issues are a result of unsustainable consumption practices. In the case of firecrackers, demand for the products is not decreasing and people continue to buy and use the products regardless of the adverse impact it has on the environment. It requires a systemic change in behaviour to address this issue effectively. The banning of firecrackers is unlikely to lead to behavioural change unless there are significant changes in the underlying factors like one's socioeconomic background, level of education, gender, and level of environmental awareness that drive the demand for these products. In this essay, we review the literature on environmental behaviours from the perspective of the theory of planned behaviour and argue that enforcement measures alone are unlikely to have a significant impact on the prevalence of such behaviours unless the policies are combined with other strategies that address the structural factors driving the demand for firecrackers.
The use of firecrackers during Diwali celebrations in India has become a symbol of culture and tradition. However, the widespread use of firecrackers during the festival is harmful to the environment and has a negative impact on the health of citizens living in New Delhi and the surrounding areas. In a bid to improve air quality in the city and reduce health hazards associated with the use of firecrackers, the Delhi Government instituted a ban on the sale and use of firecrackers in October 2017. While the ban is likely to have a positive impact on public health and the environment by reducing levels of air pollution in the city, it is unlikely to have a long-term impact on the prevalence of anti-environmental behaviours such as excessive consumption and waste generation unless they are accompanied by other measures that address the underlying socioeconomic factors that drive the demand for firecrackers. Firecrackers cause significant environmental damage by releasing toxic chemicals(elements and metals). In India, this has led to an increase in the number of respiratory disorders among people living in urban areas.
According to Air Quality and Health in Cities: A State Of Global Air Report, Delhi has the second highest PM 2.5-linked deaths worldwide among the most populated cities, with 264,930 deaths.(1) On an average day, the air quality in Delhi is so poor that it ranks among the worst in the world in terms of particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations.(2) The government of India has responded to this crisis by introducing policies designed to reduce the levels of pollution by encouraging people to use public transport instead of private vehicles; banning construction activities that result in the emission of pollutants, and restricting the use of firecrackers during certain times of the year. Since 2017, the government has banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi during the Diwali and Kharif seasons.
There are multiple factors that cause air pollution in Delhi and consequently aggravate the problem. In addition to firecrackers, other factors include vehicular traffic, construction activities, industrial activity, and more. The long-term impact of these factors on the health of residents cannot be ascertained at the moment and therefore it is unclear whether the firecracker ban will help reduce the impact of air pollution in Delhi. People's attitudes and behaviours play a key role in determining their response to environmental issues and therefore it is important to examine the effect of psychological factors on attitudes towards the environment and pollution.
Psychological barriers to pro-environmental behaviour have been widely investigated. One of the most important factors in determining people's environmental attitudes is their ability to understand the cause-and-effect relationship between their behaviour and the environment. Research has shown that people tend to favour actions with low personal costs but high societal benefits over actions with high personal costs but low societal benefits. This is referred to as the cost/benefit trade-off effect. The availability of information and resources and the availability of time are two other major factors that influence a person's willingness to engage in environmentally-friendly behaviours. If a person perceives a lack of the knowledge or resources required to implement environmentally friendly behaviour then he or she will be less likely to implement it. In addition, time constraints also play an important role in determining an individual's decision to partake in environmentally-friendly behaviours.
Another behaviour to consider is the hedonic pleasure from the momentary gratification of lighting firecrackers, instead of the long-term environmental impacts. Attitudes towards environmental issues and pollution are important indicators of social values and environmental concern among individuals. A wide range of studies has shown a strong correlation between attitude and behavioural intention regarding specific environmental issues such as littering, conserving electricity, and recycling household waste. Several studies have shown that attitude formation towards a specific issue is associated with one's socioeconomic background, level of education, sex, and level of environmental awareness. Attitudes are also influenced by gender, age, and culture. For example, women tend to be more concerned about environmental problems than men. Furthermore, the younger generation is generally more environmentally conscious than the older generation. Finally, it has been shown that attitudes and perceptions towards environmental issues are affected by the media.
Cognitive dissonance theory and its impact on pro-environment behaviour:
Cognitive dissonance theory explains how people might perceive the use of firecrackers to be harmless even though they know that it is bad for the environment and puts their health at risk. When the ban on firecrackers was imposed in 2017, many people decided to ignore this rule and continue to use firecrackers for celebration purposes. Instead of reducing their use of these products, they chose to resort to the black market and purchased them illegally. This showed that they were concerned about the impact that the ban would have on their festive celebrations, which led them to continue purchasing firecrackers. By refusing to give up the use of these products despite the ban, we learn more about how individuals rationalise their actions and justify their behaviour. However, this also shows how attitudes towards the environment can be influenced by social, and cultural factors and can influence an individual's decision to use environmentally friendly products. Therefore, it is important to consider the social and cultural factors that play a part in the decision to adopt environmentally friendly practices in order to improve our impact on the environment in the future.
The perceived magnitude of the problem and the importance placed on one's own behaviour are both important factors in determining a person's level of activity in response to climate change. However, these are two distinct constructs which cannot be readily integrated to assess how much people are concerned about the impacts of climate change on their lifestyle and to what extent they would be willing to reduce their carbon emissions in order to achieve environmental sustainability. There have been several attempts to examine how individuals rationalize the cognitive dissonance between their environmental awareness and the maintenance of environmentally unfriendly behaviours. One research study elicits two main barriers in participants: considering the change as unnecessary and perceiving to lack of knowledge about how to change.
People’s concerns about climate change have been shown to be related to their willingness to take personal action to reduce its impacts by reducing their carbon footprints. This has led many governments around the world to introduce policies that encourage people to adopt environmentally sustainable practices in their homes and offices. Although these efforts have been very successful in promoting behavioural change among the general public, there has been relatively little progress in encouraging individuals to take action to reduce their carbon footprints in their daily lives. This is particularly true among individuals who are less concerned about global warming because they have already adopted sustainable practices in their day-to-day activities, or because they have other competing priorities in their lives that prevent them from changing their consumption patterns. At the same time, studies have shown that people who are more motivated by concerns about global warming are more likely to adopt more sustainable behaviours if they are provided with information and resources that will help them make practical choices aimed at reducing their carbon emissions.
Through the preliminary review provided here, it is apparent that social norms play an important role in determining a person's willingness to protect the environment. In order to improve our ability to persuade the public to take action towards environmental protection, it is important to understand the factors that shape people's perceptions of environmental issues and their attitudes toward protecting the environment. Further research in this area could lead to the development of more effective strategies for promoting the adoption of environmentally-friendly practices by the public.
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Francoeur, V., & Paillé, P. (2022). Green Behaviors in the Workplace: Nature, Complexity, and Trends. Springer Nature. https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=7v5kEAAAQBAJ
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