Some time ago, I heard this statement: "The economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment." It's been attributed to Gaylord Nelson, (The Bankruptcy Files) and Herman Daly (Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development). It's one of those statements that, upon examination, makes real sense.

For many years at the University of Lethbridge I taught a course called Environmental Psychology. Environmental psychology is the study of the two-way relationships between environment and human behaviour. There are, first, theoretical constructs such as environmental perception and spatial cognition, personal space, territoriality, crowding, and privacy. These constructs have implications for design and use of private and public buildings, and urban and natural areas, and for environmental behaviour in such areas as crime, conservation, pollution, and stress.

As I often say to people: if you think of the environmental problems humanity faces, they all arise from human behaviour. And which discipline specializes in analysing and understanding human behaviour? Psychology. This is not to say that psychologists have a monopoly on understanding human behaviour, however, we do have some unique perspectives to offer that are often ignored by other fields.

Here are some links to recent documents about what psychology can say about environmental problems:
  • This book, Psychology for a Better World: Strategies to Inspire Sustainability is for people who believe it is worth trying to make a world in which both our species and the ecological systems we are part of can flourish. The book is based on the latest research in psychology and is jam packed with action strategies. It offers new ways to think about how people interact in social settings, why we are tempted to stick with what we know, and how the same characteristics that currently keep us hooked into unsustainable practices can be used to move us forward. The final chapter is a guide to help you analyse what you are doing to contribute towards a better world, and how you can be more effective while simultaneously increasing your personal wellbeing. Click on the link to either download an electronic version of the book for your E-book reader (PDF), or purchase a hard copy.