Written Paper

Validation of an Environmental Distress Scale  [2006]

Higginbotham, Nick Connor, Linda Albrecht, Glenn Freeman, Sonia et al.

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The study aimed to validate the Environmental Distress Scale (EDS), a new index of the bio–psycho–social cost of ecosystem disturbance. Informed by qualitative fieldwork in the open-cut mining area of Australia’s Upper Hunter Valley, the EDS combines dimensions of hazard perception, threat appraisal, felt impact of changes, “solastalgia” (loss of solace), and environmental action. EDS discriminant validity was tested by randomly mailing the instrument to Upper Hunter residents living in a high disturbance open-cut mining area and to a comparable sample in a nearby farming area; 203 respondents returned the survey (41% response rate). As predicted, the high disturbance group had significantly higher environmental distress scores across all six EDS subscales, including solastalgia. Psychometric analyses found the EDS subscales were highly intercorrelated (r = 0.36–0.83), and they demonstrated both strong internal consistency reliability (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.79–0.96) and test–retest reliability (ICC = 0.67–0.73). Descriptively, the high disturbance group experienced greater exposure to dust, landscape changes, vibrations, loss of flora and fauna, and building damage, as well as greater fear of asthma and other physical illnesses due to local pollution. The EDS successfully measured and validated Albrecht’s innovative concept of “solastalgia”—the sense of distress people experience when valued environments are negatively transformed. While the EDS addresses t
he power and mining industries, it can be adapted as a general tool to appraise the distress arising from people’s lived experience of the desolation of their home and environment. Ideally, it can be used as an aid for those working to ameliorate that distress and restore ecosystem health.

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ISSN : 1612-9202