Human Identity and Environmental Challenges
Despite some important successes, the efforts of the environmental movement have thus far failed to activate the kinds of personal and social changes necessary to meet the many ecological challenges we face. A growing body of psychological research suggests that if these efforts incorporated more knowledge about human identity (including our values, our sense of social identity, and the ways we cope when threatened), greater progress toward a more sustainable world might be forthcoming. This keynote will focus primarily on research documenting how the strong priority placed on extrinsic, materialistic values (for money, image, and status) can undermine pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. Strategies science educators could utilize to promote sustainability via attention to this particular aspect of human identity will be addressed.
After receiving his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Rochester, Tim Kasser accepted a position at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he is currently Professor and Chair of Psychology. He has authored over seventy scientific articles and book chapters on materialism, values, goals, and quality of life, sustainable development and wellbeing as a policy aim, among other topics. Tim is also the author of The High Price of Materialism (MIT Press, 2002), co-editor of Psychology and Consumer Culture (APA, 2004) and co-author of Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity (WWF-UK, 2009). He spends a good deal of his time working with activist groups that try to protect children from commercialization and that encourage a more “inwardly rich” lifestyle than what is offered by consumerism. Tim lives with his wife, two sons, and assorted animals in the Western Illinois countryside.