Approaching Nature, ‘Sustainability’ and Ecological Crises from a Critical Social Psychological Perspective

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This article considers the potential contribution of critical social psychology to the study of the relationship between humans and nature, particularly in terms of the role of human activities in ecological degradation. That human behaviour is having a profound impact on global climate and related phenomena has garnered broad scientific consensus and is communicated to the public in increasingly sophisticated ways. Psychology has been increasingly drawn upon by policy makers, pressure groups and related institutions in this context, in the hope of understanding, predicting and shaping behaviour and lifestyles towards more sustainable ends. In the past few decades, cognitive behaviourist models have dominated research and policy agendas concerned with identifying barriers to, and/or promoting ‘environmentally sustainable’ or ‘pro-environmental’ behaviour. Yet despite the emergence of critical work, to date, there has been very little work in this field explicitly under the banner of critical social psychology. In this article, a brief outline of some of the tenets of critical social psychology is followed by a consideration of how these principles have been taken up in existing cross-disciplinary critical approaches to the interrelated issues of environment, sustainability and human behaviour and the potential contribution of critical social psychology in these areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-262
Number of pages12
JournalSocial & Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2014

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    Matthew Adams (Editor) & Susana Batel (Editor)

    31 Mar 2016

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