» Social Dimensions

Identifying and Improving Green Spaces on a College Campus: A Photovoice Study

Research suggests that a large percent of college students experience stress due to the demands of college life. Campus health professionals use a wide range of interventions to reduce student stress; however, the ability of green spaces on campuses to alleviate stress is often lacking in college health programs and related research. In this study, photovoice methodology was used to conduct a community-based participatory research project in order to identify and improve campus green spaces that students frequent for stress relief. Participants included 45 undergraduate students enrolled in an emotional health course. Students were instructed to take photos that addressed two open-ended questions: (1) What green spaces on campus do you visit to alleviate stress? (2) How could the green spaces on campus be improved for alleviating stress? Afterward, students analyzed and placed their photos into distinct themes. Results showed that students enjoyed green spaces that featured both man-made structures (e.g., swings, fountains, benches) and exclusively natural areas (e.g., magnolia trees, campus parks). Students indicated that campus areas in need of improvement for alleviating stress included trash cans, areas lacking landscaping, piles of cigarette butts, and a dilapidated campus tower. Spaces that helped alleviate stress and spaces that needed improvement were both reflective of Attention Restoration Theory. At the culmination of the project, the students shared their findings with the campus community at a photo exhibit. During the exhibit, students’ voices were heard by campus administrators in positions of authority (e.g., chancellor, director of Facilities Operations, grounds crew supervisor). Read More

In and Of the Wilderness: Ecological Connection Through Participation in Nature

Ecopsychologists theorize that a sense of connection to nonhuman nature inspires empathy that should lead to proenvironmental behavior. Widely used measures of connectedness to nature consist largely of items we suspect may be endorsed by individuals who feel affectively or spiritually connected to nature yet rarely, if ever, subjectively experience their fundamental physical interdependence with the larger ecosystem. In this paper, we borrow the phrase ‘‘participation in nature’’ (PIN; Elpel, 1999) to refer to activities that involve unmediated intimate interaction with, and immersion in, the wild ecosystem for the purpose of meeting one’s basic survival needs. We suggest that these activities represent a form of corporeal connection to nature that is not captured by existing conceptualizations and measures. To explore the relationship between PIN, existing measures of connectedness to nature, and environmental behavior, we surveyed 50 participants at a weeklong earth-living skills gathering, some of whom participate in nature as a lifestyle. As predicted, PIN was significantly positively correlated with connection measures and, like other forms of connection, predicted self-reported environmental decision making. Importantly, regression analyses revealed PIN to be the only significant predictor of green decision making for this particular sample; thus, we consider it a valuable addition to the ecological connection construct. Results of this study and other researchers’ recent work point to the importance of conceptually and operationally teasing apart affective, cognitive, and behavioral connections to nature. Key Words: Ecopsychology— Measurement—Connectedness to nature—Primitive skills—Quantitative research Read More

Nature Transformed: The Environment in American History

Nature Transformed: The Environment in American History explores the relationship between the ways men and women have thought about their surroundings and the ways they have acted toward them. It asks how Native Americans conceptualized nature and saw themselves in it and how they lived and are now living upon the land. It studies the shifts in perception that transformed nature from wilderness to ecosystem and considers how these transformations affected the forests, plains, and deserts of North America. Nature Transformed enables teachers to show their students how the forces that shaped the American landscape also shaped the American past. Read More

Engaging with energy reduction: Does a climate change frame have the potential for achieving broader sustainable behavior

Reducing energy use is key in meeting ambitious climate change targets being set around the world. This research considers the psychological impact, and potential for behavioural spillover, resulting from receiving energy information framed in terms of financial costs or the environment. We utilised an online tool in order to present undergraduate participants with an energy display simulation of their own energy use and presented energy use in terms of kilowatt-hours, carbon dioxide (CO2), or costs. Study 1 found increased motivations to save energy for climate change reasons and some indications that environmental behaviour might increase after participants received CO2 information compared to alternatives. Study 2 found that CO2 information increased climate change salience, which mediated effects observed on environmental behaviour intentions. Data suggest that highlighting climate change in relation to energy savings may be useful for promoting broader environmental behaviour. Read More

Indigenous Nations' Responses to Climate Change

The most promising avenues for Indigenous climate-change advocacy appear to bypass the established global system of sovereign states by asserting Native sovereignty in other areas. By not including the settler states, the Treaty of Indigenous Nations recognizes that the sovereignty of First Nations does not stem from its relationship with a federal government but is rather inherent and stems from its existence before the arrival of the colonial powers. The treaty also recognizes that the powers of Indigenous nations are not simply legally confined within the Western system of laws but are also social, economic, cultural, and spiritual. Even if the United States, Canada, and other countries are not responsive to Indigenous concerns, tribal leadership has a responsibility to safeguard the health and well-being of the tribal community by working with other Indigenous peoples, allies, and neighbors. Read More

World Social Science Report 2013: Changing Global Environments

This World Social Science Report examines the social dynamics of the Anthropocene and provides an overall vision to make sense of it. Environmental issues must no longer be seen as peripheral or impacting externally on societies. Quite the contrary, environmental change is interconnected with a multitude of other crises, risks and vulnerabilities which confront every society today. These must be understood together in order to be addressed together. The social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development are a single agenda. Water, forests, cities, agriculture, transport, housing, energy – in each of these processes of contemporary society, aspects of the environment are intertwined with human values, beliefs and behaviour. We shape our environment as it shapes us. Read More

Macroeconomics and the Environment

This module presents an expanded circular flow analysis that takes the biosphere into account. It reviews critiques and alternatives to GNP/GDP, emphasizing natural resource and environmental as well as social sustainability, then discusses the implications of long-term growth of population and economic output, contrasting the goal of economic growth with the goal of sustainable development. The student reading consists of 35 pages which includes discussion questions, glossary, references, and problems. Exercise answers are available to instructors. Read More

Understanding Society and Natural Resources

In this edited volume, which is now available in entirety online, leading scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds wrestle with social science integration opportunities and challenges. This book explores the growing concern of how best to achieve effective integration of the social science disciplines as a means for furthering natural resource social science and environmental problem solving. The chapters provide an overview of the history, vision, advances, examples, and methods that could lead to integration. Read More

Cities for Living

A 25-page report on the design and improvement of urban life through sustainable technology and innovation. Read More

Green Schools

greenschools is 501(c) 3 Charitable Organization, whose mission is to create Greener & Healthier learning environments through education and awareness. We make the connections between having healthy bodies and a healthy planet. Read More


EERL's mission is to be the best possible online collection of environmental and energy sustainability resources for community college educators and for their students. The resources are also available for practitioners and the public.


EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.

Contact ATEEC 563.441.4087 or by email ateec@eicc.edu