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Our three offerings this month range from practical to persuasion to big data. I can personally testify to the validity of the first report, on how real-time information on bus arrivals impacts users. I was a regular bus rider when I lived in Washington, DC, and well remember when the real time system was installed. It made using the bus feel much more reliable (even though it really wasn’t!). I don’t know if more people began using the bus, but the whole experience was greatly improved.
In the next piece, renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini says it is social evidence that influences behavior change: “If this is what people around you have decided is a good choice, it’s a great shortcut for you to determine what’s a good choice.” This points to the power of culture, which, after all, is what everyone around us is doing, our combined habits, as Peter Senge has noted. As the habits of those around us change, i.e., as their culture changes, we key off that: “If ‘my people’ are buying Subarus this year, maybe that’s the car I should buy.” If this is so, how can we accelerate the cultural shifts now beginning, and ramp up their pace from linear to exponential?
The third piece suggests how this acceleration might be encouraged. MIT computational social scientist Alex Pentland’s findings using “big data” confirm the teachings of the Buddha and all the great wisdom teachers, namely that we are wired to seek the well-being of others and to deepen our ties to them. This flies in the face of the “ME” culture Madison Avenue would have us believe is our real driver. It suggests promising ways that may accelerate a shift toward enhanced collective well-being.
Thank you for being part of our community and our work together. While each of us may only be able to make a small difference (though many of you make a very large difference), remember the wise words of Garrison neighbor Pete Seeger: “Be wary of great leaders. Hope that there are many small leaders.”
John K. McIlwain
Director, Climate, Mind, and Behavior
This month we share two articles, a movie, Blue Gold, and a timely collection of articles in a journal. The first two articles focus on the practicalities of how best to approach people about climate change and preparing for it, from understanding the five basic steps we all go through as we come to terms with the impact of climate change and how best to meet us at each stage, to how to best tell the story of the changing climate. The movie is an example of an effective way to tell one aspect of this story. The issue of the journal Nature Climate Change looks at the reasons for the wide gap between the public and experts when it comes to accepting the reality of climate change.
Part of the reason for this gap, I believe, is that we have gotten as much public attention to and acceptance of climate change as we can using fear, telling people all the awful things that are happening or about to happen. My experience is that people are actually running for cover now, overwhelmed by the news and the scare stories. I know I have to take a deep breath each time a new article or book comes along detailing what is unfolding before I can read it.
I am taken by the suggestions of some that it might be more powerful to begin developing a practical vision of what a truly sustainable world might be, based on a culture of sustainable, shared prosperity and an economy based on realistic limits instead of constant growth. This is no easy task, to be sure, but parts and aspects are emerging. Can we collect these, add to them, and in time develop the outlines of the world we aspire for our children to live in? It has to be practical, achievable over time, and appealing to a large majority of people. Hard as it may be to do this, there is no substitute for the power of hope and possibility in the human heart.
Here at Garrison, we are busy planning for 2014 and beyond. We have plans for a cities and climate change symposium in May funded by the Kresge Foundation. This will be invitation only. The next Climate, Buildings and Behavior symposium is scheduled for October 7 to 9, 2014. As in the past, it is for those in the building and real estate industry. We will continue to work more closely with the hubs and find ways to provide them more support and a closer relationship with them. Other plans are afoot – stay tuned.
John K. McIlwain
Director, Climate, Mind, and Behavior
The University of Rhode Island’s Climate Change Collaborative is actively using the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change in their climate change adaptation work. The theory is a platform from which to build programs that have a better chance of actually achieving behavior change, and their explanation of its use is refreshingly straightforward and practitioner oriented. For instance, the model outlines five stages of behavior change that can help tailor communications strategies: “a homeowner in the first stage, Precontemplation, has not even considered preparing yet. Mailing that individual a flier with a long list of things to do to mitigate storm damage will likely overwhelm him or her. A sheet of information about the impacts of flooding, with local photos and two or three actions to consider taking, may encourage someone in Precontemplation to start thinking about changing.”
During our June, 2013 Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium Beth Karlin, of UC Irvine’s Transformational Media Lab, spoke about the power of documentary films to motivate behavior change when specific actions are explicitly invited. An example of this was provided at our September 2013 Climate, Buildings and Behavior Symposium when Resident Engagement Specialist Erica Brabon of Steven Winters Associates mentioned engaging young adults in water conservation by asking them to watch the film Blue Gold. This simple act got many of the would-be water conservationists to install aerators on their home faucets. The film is available in its entirety on YouTube and may prove to be a useful tool in your work.
The journal Nature Climate Change has curated recent and archived research, opinions and letters on the topic of ‘Public and experts' views about climate change.’ In this collection of interesting articles is one by our colleague Elke Weber of Columbia University's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, entitled "Seeing is Believing." Here's the abstract:
Most people will start suspecting that a coin is not fair if it overwhelmingly comes up 'heads' in toss after toss. The fact that the public in the USA or UK is less likely to believe in a changing climate than climate scientists has been attributed to the abstract statistical nature of climate change, making it a phenomenon difficult to 'see'. This would suggest that belief, together with willingness to mitigate, will increase if and when the public personally experiences the manifestations of climate change — a prediction that has received some support. Alternative explanations of such results turn the connection between personal experience and climate change belief around, suggesting that stronger beliefs in climate change may make it more likely that people will look for — and thus see — evidence supporting it.
Letting people know when their bus will arrive – before they are standing at the stop – provides a boost in rider satisfaction, and may encourage more public transport use. Smartphone apps and real-time internet, text or voicemail updates that track bus routes allow riders to plan ahead and avoid long waiting periods at the bus stop. The technology that enables this kind of direct-to-rider data sharing is relatively inexpensive and has caught on widely, although not uniformly, throughout the country. Researchers at Washington University developed one such popular tool, OneBusAway. It is available in Atlanta, New York, Tampa and Puget Sound. This university-transit system collaboration has yielded some research on best implementation practices that is valuable for regional transportation planners working with application developers. For instance, most riders accept about a five-minute inaccuracy window for the data; inaccuracies beyond this result in less user satisfaction. By working closely with developers, transit agencies can find, relay and help solve prediction errors more quickly, leading to more accuracy, and ultimately more public transit users.
In this Issue: Connecting Social & Ecological Transformation with Personal Transformation | Post-Sandy: Rebuild By Design | Widespread Dietary Behavior Change is Integral to Land-Based Greenhouse Gas Mitigation
In this newsletter, we share three articles on aspects of the relationship between behavior change and climate change: one regarding spirituality, another on post-Sandy resiliency and the last on a needed, global diet shift.
It is noteworthy that some of the design and research projects proposed under HUD’s post-Sandy Rebuild by Design program are centered around our behavior. This points to an under-reported shift in thinking about the human reaction to climate change, namely that five years ago - when CMB began - most of the talk about behavior was over changing laws to change behavior. Today, the understanding of how to help human behavior evolve is far more subtle, sophisticated and powerful. And even the federal government has begun to understand this, a promising sign despite its paralysis on climate change generally.
There is still much to be learned, and the challenge of climate change is now far more visible than it was five years ago, but much progress has been made. CMB has made a contribution to this growing understanding and we are now challenged to push the thinking, research and understanding even further. Part of this involves growing the role of the hubs in Denver, Seattle, Charlotte, New York City and Boston, and our new Manager of Community Partnerships, Melissa Everett, is working with the leadership of the hubs to develop strategic plans for each of them.
Jonathan Rowson, Director of The Social Brain Centre at the RSA, gave a talk in mid-October that helps forge the link between personal transformation, spirituality and social/ecological transformation. He says, “The crux of my pitch was that we have lost sight of the essential link between personal and social transformation, and that we need spiritual perspectives, practices and experiences to bring that link back to our attention… In my opening remarks, I introduced a core distinction to encapsulate a common theme among different forms of spirituality (e.g. religious spirituality, ‘spiritual but not religious,’ secular spirituality) namely the distinction between our ground (the basic facts of our existence) and our place (our social standing) and suggested that many of our existing social and ecological problems stem from getting distracted by a fixation with our place, and losing sight of our ground.” The full video is available to watch or listen to online, and is his recap of the talk is on his blog.
Rebuild by Design is project/competition under the President’s HUD Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Taskforce. At the end of October the ten design teams involved in the competition unveiled over forty potential opportunities for creating a more resilient New York and New Jersey coastline. The design ideas range from highly technical fixes to very integrated social resiliency projects. Those that integrate behavior change and community support are highlighted below, but it is worth checking them all out to see the range of ideas being put forward to forge post-Sandy resiliency.
Social and Scientific Strategies for Communication as Learning About Risk: the Hudson River (Hoboken/Manhattan) design opportunity is positioned around a greater ecological awareness in the Hudson River area that could create a framework for building conditions for the future. With a greater understanding of coastal ecologies, public projects and design challenges can be met with an informed view, and possibly be shared across political and municipal boundaries.
Tidal Society: Eco-economic Relationships within the Urban Ocean: the Jamaica Bay/Rockaway design opportunity is to seek out the relationships of residents to the waterfront, and provide a coastal strategy that fortifies the ecological and social relationships.
Living with the Creek: Options for Monmouth County Watersheds: the proposal is to create a connection between low-lying, low-opportunity towns and high and dry, high and maximum opportunity towns with affordable housing obligations, by playing up existing natural connections and leveraging them to create social connections. Creeks know no political boundaries, but the people who live in the communities surrounding them certainly do. Despite sharing watershed, in a “home rule” state like New Jersey, each town has the right to basically plan and provide services solely in its own self-interest. This has facilitated uneven development patterns.
A recent article in Global Change Biology highlights the systemic interconnection between human behavior and climate change in the agricultural sector. The paper concludes that a widespread shifting of diets is a real means to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions on the ‘demand-side’ of the agricultural equation.
Abstract: Feeding 9–10 billion people by 2050 and preventing dangerous climate change are two of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Both challenges must be met while reducing the impact of land management on ecosystem services that deliver vital goods and services, and support human health and well-being. Few studies to date have considered the interactions between these challenges. In this study we briefly outline the challenges, review the supply- and demand-side climate mitigation potential available in the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector and options for delivering food security. We briefly outline some of the synergies and trade-offs afforded by mitigation practices, before presenting an assessment of the mitigation potential possible in the AFOLU sector under possible future scenarios in which demand-side measures co-deliver to aid food security. We conclude that while supply-side mitigation measures, such as changes in land management, might either enhance or negatively impact food security, demand-side mitigation measures, such as reduced waste or demand for livestock products, should benefit both food security and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation. Demand-side measures offer a greater potential (1.5–15.6 Gt CO2-eq. yr 1) in meeting both challenges than do supply-side measures (1.5–4.3 Gt CO2-eq. yr1 at carbon prices between 20 and 100 US$ tCO2-eq. yr1), but given the enormity of challenges, all options need to be considered. Supply-side measures should be implemented immediately, focusing on those that allow the production of more agricultural product per unit of input. For demand-side measures, given the difficulties in their implementation and lag in their effectiveness, policy should be introduced quickly, and should aim to co-deliver to other policy agenda, such as improving environmental quality or improving dietary health. These problems facing humanity in the 21st Century are extremely challenging, and policy that addresses multiple objectives is required now more than ever.
Article citation: Smith, P., Haberl, H., Popp, A., Erb, K., Lauk, C., Harper, R., … Rose, S. (2013). How much land-based greenhouse gas mitigation can be achieved without compromising food security and environmental goals? Global Change Biology, 19(8), 2285–2302. doi:10.1111/gcb.12160
“Think more like Madison Avenue!” – that’s an admonition from a recent Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium participant that many agreed with. Crafting and delivering specific behavior and climate change messages would be much easier with the help of professional advertising agencies, but few program budgets can afford one. There is, however, a wealth of available social psychology literature on persuasion. Renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini wrote the book on harnessing social norms to influence behavior. He distills his insights into six “weapons of influence:” Reciprocity, Commitment, Social Proof, Authority, Liking and Scarcity. Cialdini’s research is behind the success of energy efficiency darling Opower and the well-known hotel ‘towel studies.’ He argues that it is not social pressure so much as social evidence that influences behavior change: “If this is what people around you have decided is a good choice, it’s a great shortcut for you to determine what’s a good choice.” Cialdini recently gave a briefing to Congress, organized by the National Research Council. His informative presentation is linked below.
We had an excellent Climate, Buildings and Behavior symposium that included a “hands-on” activity and energy usage analysis using the Garrison Institute building as a model. We told stories of times when things did not work out as planned in designing, developing and operating green buildings, and how closely observing actual results is key to successful feedback loops. It was an interactive time together that highlighted the importance of close mindful observation and clear, systemic analysis and feedback. There were great talks; the one by Peter Senge is highlighted below. Check out the CBB web pages for more talks as we post them.
During his keynote address at September’s Climate, Buildings and Behavior Symposium, Peter Senge inspired us to read his favorite book on leadership, Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. The 1977 book followed Greenleaf’s 1970 essay Servant Leader; together they laid out a new mode of organizational leadership based on creativity, empathy, intuition and above all, service. Peter reminded us that climate change work will take centuries and the stamina for this work will only come from being compassionate to ourselves. Here's a salient excerpt in this vein from Greenleaf’s original 1970 essay:
A king once asked Confucius’ advice on what to do about the large number of thieves. Confucius answered, “If you, sir, were not covetous, although you should reward them to do it, they would not steal.” This advice places an enormous burden on those who are favored by the rules, and it establishes how old is the notion that the servant views any problem in the world as in here, inside oneself, not out there. And if a flaw in the world is to be remedied, to the servant the process of change starts in here, in the servant, not out there. This is a difficult concept for that busybody, modern man. So it is with joy. Joy is inward, it is generated inside. It is not found outside and brought in. It is for those who accept the world as it is, part good, part bad, and who identify with the good by adding a little island of serenity to it (p.25).
The Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) at Northwestern University offers a wealth of resources for anyone interested in helping build and strengthen community - a critical factor in creating the resilience needed to withstand and thrive given the challenges of our changing climate. ABCD has gathered community stories from many of its partners and features them on their website as a resource from which other communities can learn. They also provide examples of asset-mapping tools so that community groups and organizations can borrow from the experiences of others doing asset-based community development work.
Creating the conditions for a learning organization in any sector - whether it’s ENGOs, cities or construction, requires building in the mechanisms to learn from mistakes. Prof. Patricia Carillo at Loughboro University has been researching and writing on lessons learned and knowledge management for over a decade. While her focus is the construction industry, the premise and roadmap can be adapted for wider applicability.
The construction industry is highly competitive, with its clients demanding continuous improvement and highly innovative construction projects that are delivered to key performance indicators such as less time, reduced costs, high quality and fewer accidents. Capturing and disseminating lessons learned is one way of fostering project learning which in turn can contribute positively to continuous improvement. This paper proposes a roadmap that can foster project learning by addressing the challenges of capturing useful lessons learned and disseminating these in an effective manner. The roadmap addresses the needs of both corporate and site teams for (1) identifying what is relevant, (2) the processes that should be adopted, (3) the content and format of lessons learned, (4) the types of repositories, (5) the dissemination mechanisms and (6) the feedback loops. Each of these stages is accompanied by checklists to provide examples of typical tools.
A computational social scientist from MIT, Alex Pentland, suggests that since big data allows researchers to gather massive amounts of seemingly objective information on human behavior, it is positioned to give the social sciences a new level of precision and to eventually efface the distinction between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ sciences. He believes that by analyzing trends in large data sets, the social sciences’ once-tricky problem of “subjectivity” all but disappears as the numbers reveal the “social physics” underlying our choices. Through a series of “groundbreaking experiments” that use cutting-edge methods to follow the trail of “digital breadcrumbs” to re-create social networks, Pentland finds that “humans respond much more powerfully to social incentives that involve rewarding others and strengthening the ties that bind than incentives that involve only their own economic self-interest.” The finding supports what many other social and behavioral science research methods have already picked up. While the results may not be novel, the technique certainly demands attention, not least of all for the privacy implications it raises.
In this Issue: Announcements | Highlights from the 2013 Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium | 2013 Climate, Buildings and Behavior Symposium | Three Human Values that Will Change the Climate Conversation | Good Reads – Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back
A lot has been happening since you last heard from us. In addition to two very successful symposia and a series of excellent hub meetings, Dr. Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez has resigned as Director of the Climate, Mind and Behavior Program. Karen has done an extraordinary job growing the program. Under her leadership more people than ever have been able to join us here for our symposia series. In addition, our research and hubs have also grown. John K. McIlwain will serve as the Interim Director while we look for the program's next Director.
Moving forward, we plan to be in regular communication with you. In order to be as useful as possible and to help us in our planning, please take two minutes to fill out a short survey that will help us develop the future content of the e-news:
The 2013 Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium focused on Variation and Diversity in Sustainability and Climate Work – here are some highlights from the Symposium with links to the video presentations. Please share widely!
We will be dealing with climate change for a long time, says Harvard Environmental Institute director Dan Schrag- we are locked into a growing degree of change and we need to be thinking about responding to this as a long term social movement. A social movement that Gerald Torres of University of Texas suggests can be built around seemingly uncommon and unexpected allies. These can be hyper-local groups but are just as likely to form across county, state or national lines. Jennifer Hirsch, an applied anthropologist from Chicago, argues that these local-global connections are the way to rally people to act in the face of what is too often assumed to be an abstract or distant issue. The challenge here is to encourage and support pro-environmental behaviors for the long-haul while recognizing that cultures are disparate, intertwined and always shifting in ways appropriate to their own heritages. National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, Wade Davis’, keynote address helps us challenge hegemonic cultural thinking to dive deep into the beauty of Earth’s human diversity.
You can watch more videos from the 2013 Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium here.
Join us from Sept 18th-20th for the 2013 Climate, Buildings and Behavior Symposium - Deepening Feedback Loops: Using Real Life Lessons Learned to Improve Outcomes. This year’s Symposium will be highly participatory, allowing professionals and researchers from across the buildings continuum to participate in “hands-on” exercises, share lessons learned and create individual action plans to support sustainable building design, construction, operation and occupancy.
Earlier in 2013, the Climate, Mind and Behavior Initiative’s Pacific Northwest Hub held a workshop on climate change communications strategies. Betsy Taylor of Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions launched the workshop, “Communicating a winning narrative on climate and clean energy,” with a terminology clarification that may be news to most of us: People connect the term “climate disruption” with human factors more so than they do with the term “climate change.” The nuances of our terminology and the pictures we paint are incredibly important at this stage of the climate challenge, so Taylor suggested a three-part flow of talking points, which included:
• Responsibility: As in “We Must.” This speaks to the human need to act for the sake of our children, aka family values.
• Patriotic Pride: As in “We Can.” This connects with our American ingenuity, our “of course we are able” core.
• Accountability: As in “We Will.” This represents the American tendency to distrust and to want to counter the “big” institutions (like oil industry), to “put people back in charge of our democracy.”
You can read the full post here.
This book focuses on resilience and the ability of people, communities, and systems to maintain their core purpose and integrity amid unforeseen shocks and surprises. By encouraging adaptation, agility, and cooperation, this new approach can not only help us weather disruptions, but also bring us to a different way of engaging with the world.
For more information, see the Resilience website.
This month’s newsletter covers a broad span from the very practical to the deeply theoretical, and to global US policy. It is a reminder of how complex and comprehensive the issues of climate change are and how broad ranging our thinking needs to be in order to find the levers to move seven billion people to a sustainable balance with nature.
The first item links to a practical review of research on how to engage people to address our environmental challenges, expertly prepared by The National Audubon Society and partners.
The next piece links to a more theoretical discussion of the implications of the idea of the Anthropocene, the name given to the current geologic era in which humans have become the principal agents of planetary change. It’s accompanied by a complementary link to Bruno Latour’s recent lectures on the “Political Theology of Nature.”
The final item links to a recent article in Foreign Policy by Patrick Doherty of the New America Foundation. He argues for a US Grand Strategy based on walkable communities, sustainable economics and multilateral diplomacy, which, he says, are the future of American power.
These pieces point to a big question, namely, is there an inherent conflict between the fundamental premises of our current culture and our relationship with the natural world? We are, of course, a part of the natural world, but is our culture an effort to deny this obvious fact? It seems that we have for too long attempted the impossible, to step outside of the influences and limitations of nature.
If there is an inherent conflict, can we evolve today’s culture to allow us to embrace nature with all of its wonders, its limitations and its fearful unpredictability? Cultures do evolve, led most often, according to philosopher Richard Rorty, by artists, poets and writers who sense a new meme emerging and give it the language and images needed to bring it into being.
It is my belief that we need to continue taking practical albeit small steps toward a more efficient and sustainable world, while recognizing that these are necessary but not sufficient to bring us into a real balance with nature. We need a deeper change in how we live on and relate to the planet. This requires global thinking and a reframing of our culture, a process both artistic and spiritual, for it is the artists and poets who often most deeply sense the profound wisdoms of spiritual paths.
John K. McIlwain
Director, Climate, Mind, and Behavior
The National Audubon Society, in partnership with government and academic researchers and a host of prominent conservation institutions, recently created a user-friendly guide to understanding how environmental behavior change occurs. It handily summarizes research on understanding, changing and reinforcing pro-environmental behavior. It’s written in an accessible question-and-answer format, and for those who want to delve further, each section cites key published research. Some of the questions addressed are: Can children influence their parents’ environmental behaviors? (Yes, think ‘pester power’); Does knowledge lead to action? (A necessary but incomplete motivator); and, Is the messenger as important as the message? (In many cases, yes, and the crux is trustworthiness). This guide is one of four in a series created to aid practitioners in conservation engagement. The series, or toolkit, also covers issues of diversity and the power of storytelling along with offering a host of illustrative case studies.
In certain circles, talk of the Anthropocene has been igniting new paths of understanding humanity’s interaction with the world and how we think about that interaction as a basis for ‘political’ action. The Anthropocene is an unofficial term for a new geological era in which humans have become the principal agents transforming planetary systems. It was coined in the early 1980s by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer and popularized by Nobel Laureate chemist Paul Crutzen, whose work showed human activity depleting the planet’s ozone layer, and who perceived a trend going back to the early 1800s intimately linking humans to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Thinking through the Anthropocene demands new ways of approaching the problematic but stubbornly persistent nature/culture binary. This past October, two prominent French intellectuals, Bruno Latour and Phillipe Descola, debated its political (and academic) implications at the University of British Columbia. Drawing on “anthropology, science studies, and other allied disciplines, these two thinkers discuss[ed] their views on how intervention in the natural world has not only transformed planetary ecosystems, but also the very ideas and models we use to think about the planet as a whole.” The talk, which took place at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, is dense but rewarding. It’s available online and well worth a listen.
Few would argue that the US can carry on business as usual. Our economics are depressed, outdated, and unsustainable; environmental resources are polluted, stretched thin or corrupted; our social system continues to stratify – in short, our society is in crisis. In a piece for Foreign Policy, Patrick Doherty of the New America Foundation reckons that the US has operated historically either as “Empire America” or “Fortress America,” and that neither extreme is sustainable. He argues that the US needs a new “grand strategy… a generation's plan to create the global conditions necessary for the country to pursue the great purposes set forth in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution.” How might we do that? He says “the task is clear: The United States must lead the global transition to sustainability.” What follows in his essay involves American exceptionalism, exploiting novel demands, carbon markets, a revolution in resource productivity, walkable cities, healthcare and retirement income for all - and this is just a preamble to the “clear task.” While such sweeping policy agendas may at first appear outside the remit of behavior change, clearly the discussion he is sparking is intended to change behavior on a very large scale. His argument will provoke reflection and good conversation.
In this Issue: Calendar of Events |Announcements|Crowd-Sourced Strategies for Engaging Multi-Family Housing Residents in Recycling | Survey Shows American Voters Support Climate Action and Politicians Could Benefit | Meta-analysis of Pro-environmental Behavior Experiments | New Books | Resources
The CMB Symposium date has been changed and will now be held June 10-12th, 2013. The change was made to coordinate with the Sustainable Consumption Research Action Initiative (SCORAI) conference on The Future of Consumerism and Well-being in a World of Ecological Constraints that will be held the latter part of that week at Clark University in Worchester, MA. The SCORAI conference (June 12-14) will focus on developing an improved understanding of the complex factors driving prevalent consumerist lifestyles in the wealthiest nations. Its aim is to generate insights into how to transition to alternative ways of pursuing individual and societal well-being in a technological society cognizant of ecological limits. The conference also hopes to build on recent advances in the field to establish a vibrant, global research community focused on sustainable consumption.
CMB network members represent a storehouse of valuable information and ideas. When asked for their thoughts and recommendations about effective strategies for creating a community committed to recycling, CMB network members responded en masse. We’ve posted the complete collection of responses on our website, and here is a short summary of some of the ideas they contained.
Multi-family housing communities face a unique set of obstacles when it comes to encouraging recycling. Since multi-family homes tend to be smaller, finding space for in-unit recycling is often difficult. Some CMB network members recommended built-in recycling stations in units; others suggested multiple recycling stations on each floor. Reuse of clothing, furniture and other items can be encouraged with on-site donation programs or by establishing pick-up days for the Salvation Army or other charities.
Often one of the toughest challenges for residents is knowing what can and can’t be recycled. Adequate labeling is critical for ensuring that recyclables end up in the right containers, keeping in mind that multi-lingual labels may be useful. Conspicuous labels that include pictures rather than text can help people quickly identify which items belong in specific recycling containers. Lastly, placing trash and recycling containers close together and emptied helps keep recyclables out of the general trash and vice versa.
Getting people motivated and engaged is also important. Many people in the CMB community expressed strong support for the establishment of green teams and for getting children involved in recycling. Green teams are typically led by tenants and are often associated with high levels of resident autonomy and participation that results in creative solutions and persistent programs. Involving kids has also proven effective and different programs have engaged them in a range of ways, from painting murals at the recycling signage areas to playing guessing games about which item goes in which recycling bin. Reaching children is also an effective way of reaching other family members. For example, educating children about food waste generated in their homes and composting at local parks, farmers’ markets or farms and may help get their families to participate in composting programs.
Information about recycling has also been turned into games and friendly competitions to make learning and practicing fun and engaging. Some examples used in a senior housing building involved the use of trivia, bingo, movies and giveaways in ‘ecology parties.’
A final strategy used by one CMB network member helped people recognize their role in the larger waste and materials system by organizing visits to on-site recycling facilities and by providing residents with feedback about their progress toward the community’s waste diversion and recycling goals.
Thanks to all the CMB network members who responded. Your suggestions can help build better recycling programs, and stronger and more interactive communities. A complete version of all the responses is posted here.
As November elections draw near, research from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication suggests that there is a net benefit to political candidates who choose to take a pro-climate stand. A recent YPCCC survey of registered voters assessed potential benefits and harms that candidates might face at both the national level and in ten key swing states. The results show that candidates are more likely to benefit by talking about and supporting action to reduce global warming. Among the key findings of the survey:
-A majority of all registered voters (55%) say they will consider candidates' views on global warming when deciding how to vote.
- Among these climate change issue voters, large majorities (94%) believe global warming is happening and support action by the US to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs. Also, a large majority of registered voters (88%) support action to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs.
- Independents lean toward “climate action” and look more like Democrats than
Republicans on this issue.
- A pro-climate action position wins votes among Democrats and Independents, and has little negative impact with Republican voters.
- Policies to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels and promote renewable energy are favored by a majority of registered voters across party lines. Among registered voters, 91% of Democrats, 80% of Independents and 74% of Republicans support funding more research on renewable energy sources.
Across party lines, the results indicated high percentages of Americans favor policies that reduce America’s reliance on fossil fuels and promote renewable energy. For example, a majority of registered voters regardless of party affiliation support holding the fossil fuel industry responsible for "all the hidden costs we pay for citizens who get sick from polluted air and water, military costs to maintain our access to foreign oil and the environmental costs of spills and accidents." A majority of registered Democrats, Independents and Republicans support regulating CO2 as a pollutant. Such findings may herald increased receptiveness of the voting public to recognize and tackle the problem of climate change, including national level policy solutions.
For more information on the study, please see the following web link.
What types of interventions actually help increase pro-environmental behaviors? It’s well known that there is no single silver-bullet strategy or treatment that is effective for inducing all types of pro-environmental behaviors. Instead, researchers Osbaldiston and Schott suggest that a more effective approach is to match particular target behaviors with particular intervention strategies. They recommend practitioners start by selecting the behavior they wish to target and then – using the information presented in the meta-review – 1) select the appropriate lead strategy (given the characteristics of the target behavior), and subsequently 2) identify the set of supporting strategies that work well in combination with the lead strategy.
In general, the results of the meta-review found that certain types of environmental behaviors, such as recycling in public spaces, water conservation or curbside recycling, could be achieved with strategies that require minimal levels of participant engagement. Other behaviors, such as conserving home energy or gasoline required strategies that relied on higher levels of engagement.
Among low-level engagement strategies, most focused on removing obstacles that prevented people from achieving a pro-environmental behavior. Overall, four specific low-level engagement strategies were identified by the authors: 1) making the behavior easy or convenient for would-be participants, 2) providing participants with prompts, 3) providing justifications and 4) providing instructions. These types of strategies have been effective in promoting a variety of relatively easy-to-achieve behaviors. For example, many public recycling programs have successfully increased recycling rates by making recycling easier, e.g. by having the proper recycling containers available where recyclables are generated, or posting clear instructions about which items can be recycled and which cannot.
Higher-level engagement strategies, such as the use of feedback, commitments and goal setting were found to be particularly effective for behaviors involving more forethought and effort, such as reducing home energy or gasoline consumption. And combining several high-level engagement strategies was especially important for especially high-effort behaviors, such as purchasing energy efficient appliances or fuel-efficient cars.
The study also identified three moderate-level engagement strategies including the use of economic and non-economic rewards, social modeling and cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance strategies access preexisting beliefs or attitudes and attempt to make participants behave in ways that are consistent with those beliefs to reduce the dissonance. “Foot in the door” treatments, where experimenters asked participants to engage in a small act first and subsequently asked them to engage in a larger act, also fall into this category.
The research suggests that moderate-level engagement strategies tend to be most effective for behaviors that span the middle ground from moderate to higher levels of forethought, such as water conservation, curbside recycling and home energy conservation.
The research also unwittingly revealed a relationship between the level of participant engagement and whether the target behavior was public or private. The findings suggest that public behaviors such as public recycling, water conservation and curbside recycling require lower-level engagement strategies, while private behaviors such as home energy conservation and gasoline conservation require higher levels of participant engagement.
When considering support strategies, the researchers found that certain pairs of strategies worked particularly well when applied in combination. Among the notable paired strategies identified by the authors were:
A copy of the full journal article can be found here.
Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution
Leslie E. Sponsel (University of Hawai`i) Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger 2012 (July)
This foundational book provides a unique historical, cross-cultural context for understanding and advancing the ongoing spiritual ecology revolution, considering indigenous and Asian religious traditions as well as Western ones. For more information and ordering click here.
America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy
James Gustave Speth (Vermont Law School) Yale University Press, 2012 (September)
In this third volume of his award-winning American Crisis series, Gus Speth looks unsparingly at the sea of troubles in which the United States now finds itself, charts a course through the discouragement and despair commonly felt today and envisions an attractive and plausible future that we can still realize.
America the Possible identifies a dozen features of the American political economy—the country's basic operating system—where transformative change is essential. It spells out the specific changes that are needed to move toward a new political economy, one in which the true priority is to sustain people and planet. Supported by a compelling "theory of change" that explains how systems change can come to America, the book also presents a vision of political, social and economic life in a renewed America, envisioning a future that will be well worth fighting for. For more information and ordering, click here.
Navigating Environmental Attitudes
Thomas A. Heberlein (University of Wisconsin) Oxford University Press, 2012 (August)
The environment, and how humans affect it, is more of a concern now than ever. We are constantly told that halting climate change requires raising awareness, changing attitudes, and finally altering behaviors among the general public - and fast. New information, attitudes and actions, it is conventionally assumed, will necessarily follow one from the other. But this ignores much of what is known about attitudes in general and environmental attitudes specifically, namely, that there is a huge gap between what we say and what we do.
Solving environmental problems requires a scientific understanding of public attitudes. Like rocks in a swollen river, attitudes often lie beneath the surface-hard to see, and even harder to move or change. In Navigating Environmental Attitudes, Thomas Heberlein helps us read the rapids and negotiate their hidden obstacles, defining what attitudes are, and how they change and influence behavior. Rather than necessarily trying to change public attitudes, we need to design solutions and policies with them in mind. He illustrates these points by parsing the work of Aldo Leopold, while tying social psychology to real-world behaviors throughout the book.
Bringing together theory and practice, Navigating Environmental Attitudes provides a realistic understanding of why and how attitudes matter when it comes to environmental problems; and how, by balancing natural with social science, we can step back from false assumptions and unproductive, frustrating programs, and work to foster successful, effective environmental action. For more information and ordering, click here.
Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., & Hmielowski, J.D. (2012) Climate Change in the American Mind: Public Support for Climate & Energy Policies in March 2012. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., & Hmielowski, J. D. (2012) Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in March 2012. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
Krosnick, J., MacInnis, B., & Villar, A. (2011). The Impact of Candidates’ Statements about Climate Change on Electoral Success in 2010: Experimental Evidence.
Osbaldiston, R., and Schott, J. (2012) Environmental Sustainability and Behavioral Science: A Meta-Analysis of Proenvironmental Behavior Experiments. Environment and Behavior 2012 44: 257 DOI: 10.1177/0013916511402673
These and many other research articles on behavior and climate change are available in the CMB Resource Library.