Topics Related to Environmental Issues

Environmental Sustainability and Behaviour Change

In 2014 the special topic for this subject will be behaviour change for sustainability. It is perhaps obvious that many human behaviours impact negatively on our environment. Behavioural change, thus, is pivotal to ensuring a more environmentally sustainable future. However the question of behavioural change is vexed. Some argue that humans are ‘naturally’ greedy and selfish, others suggest that we are ‘puppets’ - the victims of the social structures engendered by capitalism, and yet others trust that right behaviour will follow from correct knowledge about environmental problems. These and other views of behaviour set up particular change strategies. The above examples suggest that key to changing behaviour can be found in providing people with incentives that will lead them to “choose” different behaviours, transformation of social structures, or the provision of environmental education. . This subject examines the question of behavioural change from a number of disciplinary perspectives so that their purported differences can be understood and reconciled. Studies from the disciplines of psychological, sociological, behavioural economics and marketing are used to problematise behavioural change. These perspectives provide a basis for understanding how behavioural change is constructed as a problem and the change strategies particular constructions engender. Students will be given an opportunity to critically assess one of these behavioural change paradigms and then work with fellow students to construct, test and evaluate a behaviour change strategy that leads to more environmentally sustainable behaviour in their home, workplace or the university.

On completion of this subject, students will be able to:

  • evaluate the ways that different theoretical perspectives inform behaviour change strategies; and
  • integrate knowledge from across disciplines to propose strategies for encouraging sustainable behaviour;
  • design and evaluate behaviour change strategies.

Topics include:

  • defining behaviour;
  • perspectives on behaviour from psychology, marketing, behavioural economics, and sociology;
  • strategies for promoting more sustainable behaviour proposed by psychology, marketing, behavioural economics, and sociology;
  • issues in integrating disciplinary perspectives on behaviour and change;
  • opportunities for interdisciplinary approaches to behaviour change; and
  • evaluating behaviour change strategies.

Intended learning outcomes

  • Gain advanced analytical skills related to contemporary environmental issues.
  • Become familiar with current debates in contemporary environmental issues relating to this subject.
  • Expand their knowledge of environmental theories.
  • Research an individual topic in the specialised area of study of this subject.

Generic skills

  • Independent research on topics relevant to the subject.
  • Participate successfully in group discussions.
  • Further develop their critical thinking through readings, class discussions, collaboration and assessment.

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