Cultural Diversity and Attitudes Toward Marine Wildlife
California's coastal zone is an important economic as well as environmental resource. Residents of urban areas near the ocean make use of coastal resources through recreational facilities and ecological attractions. Coastal urbanized areas are increasingly characterized by a diverse population consisting of individuals from a wide variety of socioeconomic levels, people of color and recent immigrants, and both inner city and suburban residents. Within the urban coastal zone population subgroups may have distinctly different attitudes toward the environment. These differences may be due to diverse cultural traditions with respect to nature/society relationships as well as social class and demographic differences.
Research on the implications of cultural diversity for managing the urban-wildlife interface supports the rise of reports from ecologists and coastal park land managers of environmental problems linked to culture-specific traditions and diverse attitudes. Moreover, this increasing heterogeneity in coastal cities with resulting diverse cultural attitudes and practices towards nature in general, and towards animals, coupled with a lack of understanding of differing nature-society traditions produce social repercussions as well. Cross-cultural conflict (often manifest as racialization) can occur as a result of differing attitudes about appropriate practices and attitudes toward animals.
This study examines the relationship between cultural diversity and attitudes toward marine wildlife. Los Angeles science museum visitors were surveyed to learn about attitudes toward marine wildlife among a culturally diverse sample of local residents. A conceptual framework linking global, local, and individual level influences in attitude formation was developed; a submodel emphasizing individual-level factors in forming attitudes towards marine wildlife was employed in survey instrument development. Analysis revealed linkages between respondent knowledge of , preferences for, and interactions with marine wildlife, and particular attitudes towards animals. While socioeconomic and demographic links were also found with attitudes, notably, some systematic differences were also found in attitudes held by respondents sharing cultural characteristics such as race/ethnicity, language, religion, and immigrant status. Relationships were also evident between attitudes towards animals and respondents' tolerance for ways of treating animals specific to particular cultural groups. Differences in cultural attitudes towards marine wildlife were shown to exist and warrant further research.
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