The Climate, Mind and Behavior Program has received generous support from the Surdna Foundation and the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation.
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As spring struggles to come to the Hudson Valley, we are busy preparing for the upcoming Climate, Cities and Behavior symposium, offered in partnership with the Kresge Foundation. It is by invitation only and will convene local government representatives and service providers from around the country to address how they can be most effective at helping municipalities take action on climate change.
In October, we will have our sixth annual Climate, Buildings and Behavior symposium. Its theme will be “The Well-Behaved Building: Developing Community, Well-Being and Resilience in Buildings.”
We are not holding a Climate, Mind and Behavior symposium this year but we anticipate holding one next year. In the meantime, we are exploring new programs and new ways to convene conversations and extend our reach online. As these plans develop, we’ll share them with you.
As you’ll see below, we have two very serious pieces for you and then a fun one. The first is a review of how values impact communication concerning climate change.
The second describes Mindy Fullilove’s book on urban climate inequalities, which can be acute since low-income neighborhoods are often located in the parts of a city that are most exposed to extreme climate events and have the least resources to deal with them.
But save some time for the third piece, a delightful video about teaching scientists to communicate better. M*A*S*H fans will get to see Alan Alda working with scientists to make their talks more effective -- something all of us who are trying to reach out on climate change need to do.
It’s my belief that the message of profound interconnectivity at the heart of the world’s wisdom traditions is seeping back into the collective consciousness, and it’s my hope that this is happening fast enough to make the difference we need. As always, we feel deep gratitude for all you do every day on behalf of the planet and the multitude of peoples and beings on it. But as hard as you work for the benefit of all, remember to care for yourself as well!
John K. McIlwain
Director, Climate, Mind, and Behavior
A new open-access article in the journal WIREs Climate Change offers the first comprehensive overview of research on human values in the context of climate change engagement. The authors review both peer-reviewed research and civil society publications to highlight some key issues and suggest communication strategies. They find that coupling “values around security or freedom with self-transcending values like concern for the welfare of others is one possible way of resolving the tension between the social marketing and ‘common cause’ approaches to campaigning and making best use of the available academic evidence.” And, in the context of crafting an engagement strategy, “if attempts to engage the public more effectively on climate change are to utilize insights from research on human values, these insights would be best applied in more participatory, group level, situations. In fact, there is evidence that deliberative processes themselves promote more altruistic evaluations of environmental issues like climate change.”
“Resilience” irks Mindy Fullilove, professor of social psychology at Columbia University. She’s concerned that the trendy buzzword shrouds continued complicity in the marginalization and de facto segregation of communities of color in our cities. Saying a community is “resilient” can be coded, meaning they can handle it, so it’s OK. "It's OK for them to work two-three jobs, with terrible transportation, no safety net, no health care," she writes. But clearly, it’s not OK. In her recent book Urban Alchemy, and in blog posts around her Main Street NJ project, Fullilove digs deep to expose the reality of main streets across her home state of New Jersey, and lays out nine steps to addressing inequality in what she calls “the sorted-out city.” It’s a rigorous approach to building hope and change in communities torn by retrenched segregation and violence.
We’ve all sat through deadly boring, impenetrable, confusing talks given by smart, engaged researchers that left us wondering how the delivery went so wrong. The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University is doing a great public service by helping scientists and other researchers communicate with clarity. It gives workshops for researchers all over the country, using improvisational theater games to help them connect with audiences outside their disciplines. “The goal of teaching scientists improv is not to turn them into actors,” the Center’s webpage says, “but to free them to talk about their work more spontaneously and directly, to pay dynamic attention to their listeners and to connect personally with their audience.” Testimonials and some great before- and after- video clips attest to the success of the workshops, which Alan Alda leads.
Climate, Mind and Behavior Leadership Council:
Dina Biscotti, UC Davis
Uwe Brandes, Urban Land Institute
Marilyn Cornelius, Stanford University
Jeff Domanski, Princeton University
Becky Ford, University of Otago, New Zealand
Ruth Greenspan-Bell, Woodrow Wilson Intl Center for Scholars
Lauren Kubiak, Natural Resources Defense Council
Skip Laitner, ACEEE
Nils Moe, Urban Sustainability Directors Network
Phil Payne, Gingko Residential
Roger Platt, USGBC
Jonathan Rose, Garrison Institute Board Member
Kurt Roth, Fraunhofer Institute
Jonathan Rowson, RSA
Rachael Shwom, Rutgers University
Jennifer Tabanico, Action Research
Jason Twill, Lend Lease (Australia)