The Pathways program builds on the Garrison Institute’s two decades of pioneering work exploring how morals, ethics, and insights from behavioral sciences inform how we meet environmental challenges. 

In 2003 we launched the Hudson River Project, a series of dialogues that brought scientists, spiritual leaders, and artists together to develop a common language of care for the river, the Hudson Valley region, and its biodiversity. Our Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB) program, launched in 2008, drew on behavioral sciences to generate new thinking about behavior-driven climate solutions and propose ways of shifting environmentally impactful behaviors at scale.

Understanding mental models and frameworks that enable systems change and how they can be applied to shift behaviors has always been part of the Garrison Institute’s core expertise. Pathways draws on it to develop and disseminate mental models for promoting planetary health. To learn more, see our recent report on the 2020 Pathways to Planetary Health Symposium: Ethics in the Age of the Anthropocene.


In 2008, the Institute launched its Climate, Mind and Behavior program, integrating recent findings from the behavioral and social sciences, evolutionary theory, and psychology about the drivers of human behavior, in order to generate new thinking about behavioral-driven climate solutions. The program integrated contemplative traditions, academic research, and practical applications to propose ways of shifting environmentally impactful behaviors at scale. The Institute built networks of sustainability leaders in over 100 cities, many states, and several federal agencies, who continue to collaborate and apply these learnings, developing practical behavioral strategies for reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions.

In partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), we developed a “behavioral wedge” model, identifying how personal actions and attitudinal shifts could curb energy consumption and reduce annual U.S. GHG emissions by a gigaton. Our partners continue to collaborate and apply CMB learnings today. CMB’s successor, the Garrison Institute Pathways to Planetary Health program, also applies them by developing new mental models and ethical frameworks for meeting environmental challenges.