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 Grief. Abbeys Bookshop, Sydney.
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (2018) Who Are Global Warming’s Six Americas?
Nic Marks (2010) The Happy Planet Index. TED.
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Download transcripts of the lectures:
- Tyson Yunkaporta (2021) Tyson Yunkaporta looking at the world through an Indigenous lens. ABC Australia, Big Ideas, 24 February 2021.
- Why we’re drawn to nature (2021) Greater Good Science Centre.
- Art, Climate, Transition (ACT) Arts Admin: Exploring ecology, climate change and social transition.
- The World Economic Forum (2020) The built environment has a huge role to play in improving health and wellbeing
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- Women’s Climate Congress
- Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
- The Rapid Transition Alliance
- Bill Gates (2021) How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. Penguin RandomHouse.
- Niki Harré (2011/2018) Psychology for a Better World: Working with People to Save the Planet. Auckland University Press
- Tim Kasser (2011) Ecological Challenges, Materialistic Values, and Social Change. In Robert Biswas-Diener (Ed.), Positive Psychology as Social Change (pp. 89-108). Springer.
- Alice Munro, Tammy Boyce & Michael Marmot (2020) Sustainable health equity: achieving a net-zero UK. Institute of Health Equity.
- Jonica Newby (2021) Beyond Climate Grief: A journey of love, snow, fire and an enchanted beer can. NewSouth Books.
- Australian Conservation Foundation: Narrative Handbook: How to tell compelling stories to move people to action.
- Ashley Dawson (2020) People’s Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons. OR Books.
- Christiana Figueres & Tom Rivett-Carna (2020) The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf.
Jimmy Carter (1994) An outdoor journal: Adventures and reflections. p.10. University of Arkansas Press.
How physical surroundings affect our wellbeing
The natural environment
- Catherine Ryan, William Browning, Joseph Clancy, Scott Andrews & Namita Kallianpurkar (2014) Biophilic design patterns: emerging nature-based parameters for health and well-being in the built environment. ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, 8(2), 62-76
- Valerie Gladwell, Daniel Brown, Jo Barton, Mika Tarvainen, Pekka Kuoppa, Jules Pretty, JM Suddaby & Gavin Sandercock (2012) The effects of views of nature on autonomic control. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112(9), 3379-86
- Chanuki Illushka Seresinhe, Tobias Preis, George MacKerron & Helen Susannah Moat (2019) Happiness is greater in more scenic locations. Scientific reports, 9(1), 4498
- Christopher Gidlow, Marc Jones, Gemma Hurst, Daniel Masterson, David Clark-Carter, Mika Tarvainen, Graham Smith & Mark Nieuwenhuijsen (2016) Where to put your best foot forward: Psycho-physiological responses to walking in natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 45.
Does nature promote healing?
- Roger Ulrich (1984) View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224(4647), 420-1.
- Ming Kuo, Michael Barnes & Catherine Jordan (2019) Do experiences with nature promote learning? Converging evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 305.
- Kim Ferguson, Rochelle Cassells, Jack MacAllister & Gary Evans (2013). The physical environment and child development: An international review. International Journal of Psychology, 48(4), 437-468.
- Chanuki Illushka Seresinhe, Tobias Preis & Helen Susannah Moat (2015) Quantifying the impact of scenic environments on health. Scientific reports, 5(1), 1-9.
- Sjerp de Vries, Sonja van Dillen, Peter Groenewegen & Peter Spreeuwenberg (2013) Streetscape greenery and health: Stress, social cohesion and physical activity as mediators. Social Science & Medicine, 94, 26-33.
- Mathew White, Ian Alcock, James Grellier, Benedict Wheeler, Terry Hartig, Sara Warber, Angie Bone, Michael Depledge & Lora Fleming (2019) Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-11.
- Gregory Bratman, Gretchen Daily, Benjamin Levy & James Gross (2015) The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, 41-50.
- Ruth Ann Atchley, David Strayer & Paul Atchley (2012) Creativity in the wild: Improving creative reasoning through immersion in natural settings. PloS one, 7(12), e51474.
- Colin Capaldi, Raelyne Dopko & John Zelenski (2014) The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 976.
- M. A. Leavell, J. A. Leiferman, M. Gascon, F. Braddick, J. C. Gonzalez & J. S. Litt (2019) Nature-based social prescribing in urban settings to improve social connectedness and mental well-being: a review. Current Environmental Health Reports, 6(4), 297-308.
- Bryan Lufkin (2020) What outdoor space tells us about inequality. BBC Worklife.
Benefits of green surroundings for low-income groups
- Frances Kuo (2003) Social aspects of urban forestry: The role of arboriculture in a healthy social ecology. Journal of Arboriculture, 29, 148-155.
- Sandra Bogar & Kirsten Beyer (2016) Green space, violence, and crime: a systematic review. Trauma, violence, & abuse, 17(2), 160-171.
The built environment
- United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2018) 68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, says UN. & World Urbanization Prospects: 2018 Revision. UN.
- Oliver Gruebner, Michael Rapp, Mazda Adli, Ulrike Kluge, Sandro Galea & Andreas Heinz (2017) Cities and mental health. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 114(8), 121.
- Nattavudh Powdthavee & Andrew Oswald (2020) Is there a link between air pollution and impaired memory? Evidence on 34,000 English citizens. Ecological Economics, 169, 106485.
- Yousef Al horr, Mohammed Arif, Martha Katafygiotou, Ahmed Mazroei, Amit Kaushik & Esam Elsarrag (2016) Impact of indoor environmental quality on occupant well-being and comfort: A review of the literature. International Journal of Sustainable Built Environment, 5(1), 1-11.
- Pavel Wargocki, David Wyon, Jan Sundell, Geo Clausen & Ole Fanger (2000) The effects of outdoor air supply rate in an office on perceived air quality, sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms and productivity. Indoor Air, 10, 222-236.
- Jagjit Singh (1996) Impact of indoor air pollution on health, comfort and productivity of the occupants. Aerobiologia, 12(1), 121-127.
- UK Green Building Council (2016) Health and Wellbeing in Homes: July 2016. World Green Building Council.
- Charles Hall & Melinda Knuth (2019) An Update of the Literature Supporting the Well-Being Benefits of Plants: A Review of the Emotional and Mental Health Benefits of Plants. Journal of Environmental Horticulture, 37(1), 30–38.
- D Armson, Pete Stringer & Roland Ennos (2012) The effect of tree shade and grass on surface and globe temperatures in an urban area. Urban Forestry, 11(3).
- Stefan Gössling, Marcel Schröder, Philipp Späth & Tim Freytag (2016) Urban space distribution and sustainable transport. Transport Reviews, 36(5), 659-679.
- Laura Laker (2020) Milan announces ambitious scheme to reduce car use after lockdown. The Guardian, 21 April 2020.
- Brian Doucet & Robin Mazumder (2020) COVID-19 cyclists: Expanding bike lane network can lead to more inclusive cities. The Conversation.
The global environment
- Christina Nunez (2019) Carbon dioxide levels are at a record high. Here’s what you need to know. National Geographic, 13 May 2019.
- Wojciech Stanek, Alicia Valero, Guiomar Calvo & Lucyna Czarnowska (2017) Resources. Production. Depletion. In Wojciech Stanek (Ed.), Thermodynamics for Sustainable Management of Natural Resources, (7-36). Springer.
- Robert McSweeney (2014) Deforestation in the tropics affects climate around the world, study finds. Carbon Brief
- Deborah Lawrence & Karen Vandecar (2015) Effects of tropical deforestation on climate and agriculture. Nature climate change, 5(1), 27-36.
- Richard Houghton (2005) Tropical deforestation as a source of greenhouse gas emissions. Tropical deforestation and climate change, p 13. The Rainforest Coalition.
- National Research Council of the National Academies (2014) Arctic matters: the global connection to changes in the Arctic, p.4. National Academies Press.
- Christina Nunez (2019) Sea level rise explained. National Geographic, 19 February 2019.
Hans-Otto Pörtner, Deborah Roberts, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Panmao Zhai, Melinda Tignor, Elvira Poloczanska, Katja Mintenbeck, Andrés Alegría, Maike Nicolai, Andrew Okem, Jan Petzold, Bardhyl Rama & Nora Weyer (Eds.) (2019) IPCC special report on the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
- Christina Nunez (2019) Deforestation Explained. National Geographic, 7 February 2019.
- Peter Macreadie, Daniel Nielsen, Jeffrey Kelleway, Trisha Atwood, Justin Seymour, Katherina Petrou, Rod Connolly, Alexandra Thomson, Stacey Trevathan‐Tackett & Peter Ralph (2017) Can we manage coastal ecosystems to sequester more blue carbon? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 15(4), 206-213.
- Sourav Mukherjee, Ahosk Mishra & Kevin Trenberth (2018) Climate change and drought: a perspective on drought indices. Current Climate Change Reports, 4(2), 145-163.
- Samuel Myers, Matthew Smith, Sarah Guth, Christopher Golden, Bapu Vaitla, Nathaniel Mueller, Alan Dangour & Peter Huybers (2017) Climate change and global food systems: potential impacts on food security and undernutrition. Annual review of public health, 38(1), 259-277.
- Marcus Arcanjo (2018) Climate migration: A growing global crisis. Climate Institute.
- Donna Lu (2020) Analysis confirms that climate change is making wildfires worse. New Scientist, 14 January 2020.
- Matthew Jones, Adam Smith, Richard Betts, Josep Canadell, Colin Prentice & Corinne Le Quéré (2020) Climate change increases risk of wildfires. ScienceBrief Review, 116, 117.
- Orly Ashenfelter & Karl Storchmann (2016) Climate change and wine: A review of the economic implications. Journal of Wine Economics, 11(1), 105.
- Cheikh Mbow, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Luis Gustav Barioni, Tim Benton, Mario Herrero, Murukesan Krishnapillai, Emma Liwenga, Prajal Pradhan, Marta Rivera-Ferre, Tek Sapkota, Francesco Tubiello & Yinlong Xu (2019) IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land: Executive Summary: Chapter 5: food security. IPCC.
- Susan Clayton, Christie Manning, Kirra Krygsman & Meighen Speiser (2017) Mental health and our changing climate: Impacts, implications, and guidance. American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica.
- Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, Geoff Feinberg & Seth Rosenthal (2018) Climate change in the American mind: October 2015.Yale University and George Mason University.
How positive psychology can contribute to a flourishing environment
- Ilona De Hooge, Marcel Zeelenberg & Seger Breugelmans (2011) A functionalist account of shame-induced behaviour. Cognition and Emotion, 25(5), 939–946.
- Aaron Weidman, Jessica Tracy & Andrew Elliot (2016) The benefits of following your pride: Authentic pride promotes achievement. Journal of Personality, 84(5), 607-622.
- Lisa Anne Williams & David DeSteno (2008) Pride and perseverance: The motivational role of pride. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(6), 1007–1017.
- Vanessa Patrick, HaeEun Helen Chun & Deborah Macinnis (2009) Affective forecasting and self-control: Why anticipating pride wins over anticipating shame in a self-regulation context. Journal of Consumer Psychology.
- Susan Jacobson, Nia Morales, Beida Chen, Rebecca Soodeen, Michael Moulton & Eakta Jain (2019) Love or Loss: Effective message framing to promote environmental conservation. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 18(3), 252-265.
- Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone (2012) Active hope: How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy. New World Library.
- Sonja Geiger, Paul Grossman & Ulf Schrader (2019) Mindfulness and sustainability: correlation or causation? Current Opinion in Psychology, 28, 23-27.
- Daniel Fischer, Laura Stanszus, Sonja Geiger, Paul Grossman & Ulf Schrader (2017) Mindfulness and sustainable consumption: A systematic literature review of research approaches and findings. Journal of Cleaner Production, 162, 544-558. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652617311769
- Tim Kasser (2017) Living both well and sustainably: a review of the literature, with some reflections on future research, interventions and policy. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 375(2095), 20160369.
- Stefan Pfattheicher, Claudia Sassenrath & Simon Schindler (2016) Feelings for the suffering of others and the environment: Compassion fosters proenvironmental tendencies. Environment and Behavior, 48(7), 929-945.
- John Cook, Naomi Oreskes, Peter Doran, William Anderegg, Bart Verheggen, Ed Maibach, Stuart Carlton, Stephan Lewandowsky, Andrew Skuce, Sarah Green, Dana Nuccitelli, Peter Jacobs, Mark Richardson, Bärbel Winkler, Rob Painting & Ken Rice (2016) Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. Environmental Research Letters, 11(4), 048002.
Financial case for sustainability
- International Labour Organisation (ILO) (2018) Greening with Jobs: World Employment Social Outlook 2018.
- Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) (2019) Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience.
- Mary Robinson (2018) Climate justice: Hope, resilience, and the fight for a sustainable future. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
- UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Reasons to be hopeful
- 2040 movie
- Ruth Maclean (2018) The great African regreening: millions of ‘magical’ new trees bring renewal. The Guardian, 16 August 2018.
- Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2018) Singapore’s Voluntary National Review Report to the 2018 UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Republic of Singapore.
- Sustainable Singapore (2015) Our Home, Our Environment, Our Future: Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015. Republic of Singapore, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources & Ministry of National Development.
- Climate Reality Project (2017) The Alliance for Climate Protection®: Five Sustainable Cities Making a Difference for the Planet.
- Zander Venter, Kristin Aunan, Sourangsu Chowdhury & Jos Lelieveld (2020) COVID-19 lockdowns cause global air pollution declines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(32), 18984-18990.
Can indigenous thinking save the world?
- Eva Gurria (2017) Celebrating indigenous peoples as nature’s stewards. United Nations Development Programme
- Tyson Yunkaporta (2019) Sand talk: How Indigenous thinking can save the world. Text Publishing.
Young people are the future
- Nicole Ardoin, Alison Bowers, Noelle Wyman Roth & Nicole Holthuis (2018) Environmental education and K-12 student outcomes: A review and analysis of research. The Journal of Environmental Education, 49(1), 1-17.
- UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- FridaysForFuture (FFF)
- Jane Goodall (2019) Dr Jane Goodall speaks about threats to biodiversity following U.N. report. The Jane Goodall Institute