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Scenario Planning for Sustainable Dark Skies: Altering Mental Models and Environmental Attitudes Through Scenario Planning
Abstract and Figures
Recent research within the field of natural resource management has been devoted to studying the cognitive structures, called mental models, that guide people’s thoughts, actions, and decision-making. Artificial lighting threatens the sustainability of pristine night skies around the world and is growing worldwide at an average rate of six-percent per year. Despite these trends, stakeholders’ mental models of night skies have been unexplored. This study will address this gap by eliciting stakeholders’ mental models of dark skies. Scenario planning has become a pervasive tool across diverse sectors to analyze complex systems for making decisions under uncertainty. The theory of scenario planning hypothesizes that scenario planning contributes to learning and improves upon participants’ mental models. However, there have been scant empirical studies attempting to investigate these two claims. Stakeholders’ mental models of dark skies were mapped while simultaneously testing the hypotheses that participation in scenario planning results in more complex mental models and alters environmental attitudes. Twenty-one Arizona stakeholders participated in one of two workshops during September 2016. Three identical surveys were given to measure knowledge, environmental attitudes and mental model change during the workshops. Knowledge gain peaked during the introductory lecture and continued to increase during the workshop. Scenario planning increased participants’ environmental attitudes from anthropocentric to nature-centered and was found to have a significant positive impact on dark sky advocates’ change in mental model complexity. The most prominent drivers affecting dark skies were identified using social network analysis of the pre and post mental models. The most prominent concepts were altered significantly from pre to post workshop suggesting that scenario planning may aid practitioners in understanding exogenous factors to their area of expertise. These findings have critical theoretical and managerial implications of mental model alteration, environmental attitudes, and the future of Arizona’s night skies. A revised theoretical framework is offered to include environmental attitudes into the theory of scenario planning and a conceptual framework was created to illustrate the most salient drivers affecting or being affected by dark skies
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