Arguably, an effective response to the problem of global warming will necessitate that as a species, we radically change our behaviour. For example, we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Of course, this is old news, but what is new (or perhaps simply more authoritative) news is that we actually have to make these changes or risk extinction. Basic psychological theories offer insights into the many factors that shape human behaviour. Behaviourists highlight the importance of various types of rewards and punishments, social psychologists emphasise the importance of interpersonal and societal variables, and evolutionary psychologists refer to the impact of evolutionary pressures (not that these approaches are mutually exclusive). Evolution has primed us to behave in ways which ensure our own survival, and therefore, the survival of our genes in future generations. This can be seen all around us in the way we live our lives. We care most for our own family members and place great importance on the wellbeing of those that we love. It is no accident that our most powerful feelings relate to intimate and familial relationships. If, as a species, we are to effectively tackle global warming then we must work with what we know about human nature. What we know now, suggests that individuals are unlikely to change their behaviour unless there is a real, impending and proximal problem. However, if we wait until such time as climate change begins to affect people in this way, it may be too late. Arguably, social scientists need to work together and with government bodies to develop behaviour change strategies that have a sound scientific basis. This paper makes some suggestions about such strategies based on our current understanding of human psychology.
|Keywords:||Psychology, Human Nature, Global Warming|
Senior lecturer, Clinical psychology, The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
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