» Environmental psychology

Crash Course Videos

Fantastic online videos for students and teachers on subjects such as: Astronomy, Anatomy & Physiology, Biology, Ecology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, U.S. History, World History, Economics, and U.S. Government and Politics. Read More

Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: A New Strategy for the Climate Movement

The climate crisis is an unprecedented emergency. It is, far and away, the United States’ top national security threat, public health threat, and moral emergency. Humanity is careening towards the deaths of billions of people, millions of species, and the collapse of organized civilization. States under severe climate stress, such as Syria, are already starting to fail, bringing chaos, violence, and misery to the region and political instability to Europe. America’s political system is also starting to convulse as the two-party system is showing signs of fragility. How we react to the climate crisis will shape centuries and millennia to come. Given the stakes, and the extremely short timetable, it is imperative that we strive to maximize the efficacy of our actions — from ourselves as individuals, from our nation, from the global community of nations, and from the organizations that are trying to avert this catastrophe. In this paper, I will introduce the concept of “emergency mode” which is how individuals and groups function optimally during an existential or moral crisis — often achieving great feats through intensely focused motivation. I will argue that the goal of the climate movement must be to lead the public out of “normal” mode and into emergency mode. This has huge implications for the climate movement’s communication style, advocacy, and strategy. Because emergency mode is contagious, the best strategy is for climate activists and organizations to go into emergency mode themselves, and communicate about the climate emergency, the need for emergency mobilization, and the fact that they are in emergency mode, as clearly and emphatically as possible. Read More

Watch your language: Power words at the human–nature interface

Words are integral to thinking and communicating. Words also carry old baggage. The Anthropocene necessitates new thinking and communication at the human–nature interface. Words like progress, natural, and thresholds are pervasive in both scientific and policy discourse, but carry baggage that will likely slow understanding of the Anthropocene and appropriate adaptation. The dynamic systems thinking with emergent properties of ecology needs to replace the efficiency and growth framework of economics. Diversity and resilience are productive and less historically burdened words. Read More

The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System Is Not Adequately Prepared

The American mental health community, counselors, trauma specialists and first responders are not even close to being prepared to handle scale and intensity of impacts that will arise from the harsher conditions and disasters that global warming will unleash. It is not that we haven’t experienced natural disasters before, but the scientific data show that what lies ahead will be bigger, more frequent, and more extreme than we have ever known. There are even broader implications, many of them beyond our shores. As climate related disasters and burdens spread across the world, the U.S. military will increasingly be called upon to help keep order. Service members will be faced with stressful, even horrifying conditions. They will see people – the young, the old, the innocent – suffer terribly. Back home their families will experience the ripple effects, suffering vicariously and experiencing their own disruptions in finances, relationships and child-rearing. There will be the disorders from the immediate trauma, and in some cases chronic psychological disorders will follow. Read More

Psychology and Nature Videos

These are a series of brief Youtube videos made to introduce the world of environmental psychology to new psychology students and designed to be accessible and approachable for the general public. They were created by Thomas Joseph Doherty, Psy.D., Director, Ecopsychology Certificate Program, Lewis and Clark Graduate School. Read More

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

Operationalizing the social-ecological systems framework to assess sustainability

Environmental governance is more effective when the scales of ecological processes are well matched with the human institutions charged with managing human–environment interactions. The social-ecological systems (SESs) framework provides guidance on how to assess the social and ecological dimensions that contribute to sustainable resource use and management, but rarely if ever has been operationalized for multiple localities in a spatially explicit, quantitative manner. Here, we use the case of small-scale fisheries in Baja California Sur, Mexico, to identify distinct SES regions and test key aspects of coupled SESs theory. Regions that exhibit greater potential for social-ecological sustainability in one dimension do not necessarily exhibit it in others, highlighting the importance of integrative, coupled system analyses when implementing spatial planning and other ecosystem-based strategies. Read More

Fostering Reasonableness: Supportive Environments for Bringing out our Best

We humans are difficult animals. We are the source of environmental degradation, the culprits of resource decline. We are reluctant to trust and easily angered. However, we are also the source of inspiration, compassion, and creative solutions. What brings out the reasonable side of our capacity? The Reasonable Person Model (RPM) offers a simple framework for considering essential ingredients in how people, at their best, deal with one another and the resources on which we all rely. RPM is a hopeful and engaging framework that helps us understand and address a wide diversity of issues. The 20 chapters of Fostering Reasonableness provide the conceptual foundations of the framework and applications examining contexts as diverse as a region, organization, the classroom, finding common ground in resource planning, education in the prison environment, greening in the inner city. Our collective hope in putting the book together is to encourage a way of seeing, a way of understanding and examining circumstances that might lead to more wholesome, adaptive, and effective means of addressing the big and little issues that depend on humanity’s reasonableness. 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

The Changing Effect of Economic Development on the Consumption-Based Carbon Intensity of Well-Being, 1990–2008

Recent sustainability science research focuses on tradeoffs between human well-being and stress placed on the environment from fossil fuel consumption, a relationship known as the carbon intensity of well-being (CIWB). In this study we assess how the effect of economic development on consumption-based CIWB—a ratio of consumption-based carbon dioxide emissions to average life expectancy—changed from 1990 to 2008 for 69 nations throughout the world. We examine the effect of development on consumption-based CIWB for the overall sample as well as for smaller samples restricted to mostly high-income OECD nations, Non-OECD nations, and more nuanced regional samples of Non-OECD nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We find that the effect of economic development on CIWB increased through time for the overall sample. However, analyses of the Non-OECD and OECD samples indicate that while the effect of development on CIWB increased from null to a moderate level for the Non-OECD nations, the effect of economic development was much larger, relatively stable through time, and more unsustainable for the OECD nations. Additional findings reveal important regional differences for Non-OECD nations. In the early 1990s, increased development led to a reduction in CIWB for Non-OECD nations in Africa, but in more recent years the relationship changed, becoming less sustainable. For the samples of Non-OECD nations in Asia and Latin America, we find that economic development increased consumption-based CIWB, and increasingly so throughout the 19 year period of study. Read More


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