and Environment (NRE 560, SW 710 [Social Work] and UP 560 [Urban Planning])
course examines human-environment interactions from the perspective of environmental
psychology. It builds on two main themes. First, that environmental problems
are fundamentally people problems requiring an understanding of how people
think, what they care about, and the conditions under which they act most
reasonably. Second, that human behavior is best understood when studied in
the context of the environment, both present and evolutionary. The course
develops an information processing model of human nature and then uses this
model to study human decision making, the settings in which humans function
best, how they cope with non-preferred settings, how they might pursue their
psychological well being on a resource finite, and increasingly fragile, planet.
A culminating theme is the psychology of well being and the promotion of environmental
stewardship behavior. The objective of the course is for students to leave
with a model of human behavior that applies to a wide variety of environmental
situations. (Fall term)
Psychology of Environmental Stewardship (NRE 561)
of the enduring challenges of crafting a sustainable society is to create
one in which we will all want to live. An austere existence may prove to
be an ecologically necessity. But it is unlikely that people will eagerly
pursue such a somber life if it is promoted merely as an unfortunate necessity
of survival. The issue here is how to frame such a future so that people
not only accept it but actually look forward to it as an adventure. This
is primarily a behavioral, not a political nor technological, challenge. Two forms of stewardship are argued as essential parts of a sustainable
society, one with an external focus - individual conservation behavior -
and one with an internal focus - mental attention management and restoration.
Their potential interaction is fascinating to contemplate.
course develops approaches to promoting conservation behavior with a focus
on achieving durable change. The course uses current research in the fields
of environmental and social psychology to examine, critique and expand on
models of human behavior. Students come to understand that humans normally
require both informational and motivational interventions before they are
willing and able to alter their behavior and further that only certain types
of interventions result in long-lasting behavior change. (Winter term)
Behavior Seminar (NRE 661)
- An advanced
graduate seminar that examines research on promoting conservation and stewardship
behavior among individual citizens. The focus is on emerging research themes
focusing most closely on recently published materials and manuscripts. The
course is a setting for developing researchable questions and exploring divergent
behavior change paradigms. The objectives of the course are for students to
learn to carefully critique current work, to formulate their own strategies
for effective behavioral interventions, and to begin preparing their own empirical
research. The course is a participative, high-interaction experience. Classes
explore the week's readings and their implications for behavioral researchers
and program managers. The role of discussion leader is rotated. Students select
topics of interest and, in cooperation with the instructor, create a selection
of relevant readings and facilitate a discussion of the topic. (Fall term)
- Localization Seminar (NRE 662 and NRE 701)
LOCALIZATION SEMINAR: ADAPTATIONS FOR THE COMING DOWNSHIFT
The future form of life patterns, settlements, and societies may differ substantially from what most of us have come to expect. Among our many possibilities is a future involving highly localized lives. Presumably the material standard of consumption in such a society would be substantially lower than that of the present. Possibly the sense of well-being will be greater.
A premise of this effort is that air emissions will need to drop by well over 85% in the industrialized nations. This will likely require a comparable drop in overall natural resource usage. We will explore the implications of this 85% drop, envision a successful accommodation to the drop, and design the transition to such a future.
Localization is well underway, albeit invisible to the global managers and techno-optimists. What it lacks is a unifying theme, a framework for coping with emerging biophysical constraints. This seminar builds such a framework, preliminary as it necessarily must be.
The seminar assumes that a fundamental departure from recent life patterns will occur and that much about the transition will be hard. Fortunately, humans’ desire for a stable, secure and familiar existence turns out not to be a status quo bias but rather a cognitive map bias, and cognitive maps can be altered. To aid alteration, the framework we develop during the seminar assumes that a multitude of small experiments will be conducted, quickly and simultaneously, and some will fail. And yet adjusting to austerity can be satisfying in a way present generations have forgotten or never experienced. Localization is thus a dynamic, ongoing and long-term process that, paradoxically for many, can bring out the best in people. (Co-taught with Professor Princen).
The seminar’s structure
The seminar readings work through the nuances of the topic positing that, while historical insights exist, a downshift of this sort is unprecedented. Successful approaches will be those that engage people and institutions in their own discovery of how to transition rapidly and well. Small experiments are needed, many of them, starting now.
- The first section outlines the context of localization and the need and inevitability of making a transition. This material will help students to envision positive future scenarios, some quite familiar, others novel.
- The next section outlines ways to organize, govern, and provision ourselves under a more austere existence. Some look to our agrarian past, others to new patterns of exchange and ownership structure.
- The third section explores human needs and strengths, and the conditions that enable reasonable and satisfying behavior. Throughout, brief but positive case studies are presented.
LOCSEM 1 (Autumn 2008)
LOCSEM 2 (Winter 2009)
LOCSEM 3 (Autumn 2009)
LOCSEM 4 (Autumn 2010)