In this chapter we examine how the physical environment effects wellbeing, and how our wellbeing effects our responses to the environment. We begin by identifying which aspects of the physical environment can enhance our individual and collective wellbeing, and how we can use this knowledge to optimise flourishing. Evidence is summarised for the health and wellbeing benefits of the natural environment, and we identify which features of the built environment maximise human thriving. We then examine how the science of wellbeing can be harnessed to protect nature, maintain diversity and healthy ecosystems and mitigate climate change. Building on the positive psychology principle of Identifying what’s working not only what’s wrong, we provide case studies of successful initiatives to promote the sustainability of local and global ecosystems. When sustainable action is fuelled by positive motivations of care, compassion, pride and love it can inspire others, and provide the ultimate opportunity to express our humanity. We describe how the science of positive psychology and behaviour change can be harnessed to minimise the human impact on global warming to ensure the healthy survival of our planet into the future. We describe the value of Indigenous knowledge and youth leadership in the road ahead.

David Attenborough (2020) We need IMMEDIATE action to stop extinction crisis. BBC.

George MacKerron (2019) Mappiness – How space and time impact our well-being. World Government Summit

Greta Thunberg (2018) The Disarming Case to Act Now on Climate Change. TED.

Jonica Newby (2021) discussing Beyond Climate GriefAbbeys Bookshop, Sydney.

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (2018) Who Are Global Warming’s Six Americas?

Nic Marks (2010) The Happy Planet Index. TED.

1: From Moral to Market Sentiments
2. From Credit Crisis to Resilience
3. From Covid Crisis to Renaissance
4. From Climate Crisis to Real Prosperity

Jimmy Carter (1994) An outdoor journal: Adventures and reflections. p.10. University of Arkansas Press.

How physical surroundings affect our wellbeing

The natural environment
Does nature promote healing?
Benefits of green surroundings for low-income groups

The built environment

The global environment

How positive psychology can contribute to a flourishing environment

Financial case for sustainability

Reasons to be hopeful

Can indigenous thinking save the world?

Young people are the future