Environment and Human Behavior: A Critical Analysis of ‘Psychology in an Age of Ecological Crisis’

Today, more than ever before, global situations and activities are reorganizing people’s affiliations with their daily environments in nearly all civilizations across the world.

The global conditions have had obvious psychological ramifications on nearly all aspects of human nature, not mentioning the fact these activities have critically influenced individuals’ cognitive, psychosocial, behavioral, spiritual, and emotional capacities (Greenfield, 2004). For example, the rapid rise of the internet and globalization has critically affected how individuals interact with each other, and how they interrelate to the immediate environment.

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Presently, more people prefer to communicate with their family, friends, and peers using wired computers or wireless technology, perilously exposing their psychosocial and emotional growth to unhealthy developmental patterns (Greenfield, 2004).

In the article ‘Psychology in an Age of Ecological Crisis,’ Stokols et al (2009) traces the influence of the global and environmental conditions on people’s cognition, behavioral patterns, and well being

In summary, this article examines the quick changes occurring in the structure and constitution of “human environments at both local and global levels and the implications of these changes for personal and public health” (Stokols et al, 2009, p. 181).

Specifically, the researchers concentrate their efforts on evaluating the roles and functions that psychological research and practice can play in facilitating people, institutions, and communities to efficiently manage compounded sources of environmental change, including collaborating effectively towards curtailing their negative influences on population health issues and societal cohesion.

The researchers are of the opinion that critical analyses of psychological phenomena are indispensable if we have to understand the conduits through which individuals perceive, experience, and react to worldwide threats in the context of their individual behavioral situations and local communities.

There is a mounting substantiation, for example, that US soldiers coming from battlefronts in Iraq and Afghanistan are psychologically affected by the environmental influences of the war, not to mention the fact that such physical and environmental influences have indelibly taken a toll on the soldiers’ subjective well-being (Bell et al, 2005).

The study remains committed to the fact that “psychological processes such as environmental cognition, information processing, stress, and coping play key roles in determining how global conditions impinge on individuals’ psyche and behavior in the context of their daily lives” (Stokols et al, 2009, p. 181). In equal measure, the sources of problems affecting people at a global level and the generation of strategies to remodel them are all intimately allied to psychological and behavioral processes.

For example, climate change and depletion of ozone layer must never be explained in terms of atmospheric chemistry only; rather, they have to be comprehended also as offshoots of individual behavior and motivation that have ultimately led to adverse environmental changes. According to the researchers, the solutions to such global problems absolutely depend on the ways in which people and political leaders identify these threats and commence collective efforts to resolve them.

In this regard, the identification and mobilization of psychological and situational conditions that facilitates individuals to move away “from anxiety and passivity in the face of global threats toward constructive collaborative action” is of paramount importance (Stokols et al, 2009, p. 182).

In analysis, it is imperative to note that the technological, political, geo-physical and social forces witnessed in today’s ever changing global environment has had a profound influence on the field of environmental psychology.

The world as we know it today can be equated to an era filled with technological hazards, depleted natural resources, and persistent threat of both political and armed conflicts (Stokols et al, 2009). According to Greenfield (2004), everybody, including a school child, is now in the know that scientific and technological progressions have immense potential for both good and evil.

A critic would therefore need to understand the role of environmental psychology in facilitating people, institutions, and communities to efficiently manage the multifaceted sources of conflict brought by such factors in both individual and community contexts.

According to Bell et al (2005), environmental psychology is principally concerned with environments as the context of individual actions and behavior.

Our moods, actions, and behavior are significant only if they can be well comprehended in terms of their context, that is, in terms of the environment, which is the key determinant in deciding which human actions are possible and how challenging or successful such actions can be.

The article agrees with this line of thinking when it argues that transformative changes in human actions and behavior in the 21st century are largely attributable to particular technological, political, environmental and social forces (Stokols et al, 2009).

For example, the rapid materialization of the internet, wireless gadgets, and digital communications technologies have acted to reinforce the fact that environmental influences on human behavior, actions, attitudes, worldviews, and moods are all-encompassing and important.

Environmental psychology also concerns itself with evaluating the ramifications of human actions and behavior on the environment (Bell, 2005). The basic presupposition is that behavior and environment reciprocally influence each other.

According to the article, psychological procedures such as emotional stress and environmental cognition plays fundamental functions in determining how typical situations impinge on people’s psyche, actions, and behavior as they negotiate their daily activities (Stokols et all, 2009). For example, the issue of global warming has had a profound effect on behavior and mindsets of individuals and political leaders if the recent Copenhagen meeting on environment is anything to go by.

Air pollution and economic recessions are major causes of concern in the world today. Yet, according to the article, because human actions and behavior, either individually or collectively, causes such issues to arise, it is only reasonable that modification of human actions and behavior will present one of the best channels to curtail such adversarial activities.

Environmental psychology shares the same view as it argues that “principles of learning, motivation, perception, attitude formation, and social interaction” can be vehemently used to show why individuals engage in counterproductive behavior, especially in relation to the environment.

Reference List

Bell, P.A., Greene, T., Fisher, J., & Baum, A.S. (2005). Environmental Psychology, 5th

Ed. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN: 0805860886

Greenfield, S. (2004). Tomorrow’s people: How 21st century technology is changing the way we think and feel. London: Penguin books

Stokols, D., Mizra, S., Rumerstrom, M.G., & Hipp, J.A. (2009). Psychology in an age of ecology crisis. American Psychologist, Vol. 64, Issue 3, pp. 181-193. Retrieved March 5 2010 from Ebscohost Database

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