What is a Climate and Environmental Psychologist?

Climate and environmental psychologists explore the interrelationships between the community and the environment. They may study both natural environments, such as parks and public spaces, and artificial environments, such as residences and businesses. They usually explore how climates and environmental phenomenon impact behavior, such as influencing crime, and promote well-being, such as art-based spaces.

The Environmental Roots of This Psychology

This field of science started during the 1960s and has its own official division of the American Psychological Association (APA). This field deals with behaviors and their relations to the physical environment, which includes objects, plants, animals and people. Environmental psychology does not focus on the interpersonal processes between people, which is the focus on social psychology, nor does it focus on the internal processes of individuals, which is the focus of traditional psychology. Environmental psychology employs a systems approach that holistically studies how organisms adapt to their surroundings. These organisms are humans and their ecosystem is the community and physical surroundings. More psychologists are studying climate changes and environmental impacts because the public is more concerned about sustainability, global warming, pollution problems, population growth, corporate social responsibility and natural resource conservation.

Environmental Psychology Branches

Environmental psychology has two main sub-fields: eco-psychology and conservation psychology. Eco-psychology focuses on the connections between social degradation and environmental destruction. For instance, it focuses on how poor business practices contribute to poverty and inequality. Eco-psychology views human psychological well-being directly connected to environmental well-being. The ultimate goal is to mutually heal people and nature together. Eco-psychologists may research emotional responses to natural disasters, environmental disasters and global climate change. Besides academic researchers, other eco-psychologists are therapists who use outdoor activities and experiences for counseling. This may be referred to as outdoor, adventure or wilderness therapy. It is quite popular for couples, delinquent teens, recovery addicts and even minimum security convicts. These psychologists may also work for private firms who provide their expertise to industry organizations and government agencies on how to reduce stress, improve productivity and increase employee satisfaction.

The Second Branch of the Tree

The second scientific branch of environmental psychology focuses on attitudes and behaviors connected with nature. Conservation psychologists explore the development and changing of environmental attitudes. For instance, they may study the psychology of sustainability, nature conservation and social responsibility. Their research is used to understand how and why people value nature in order to cultivate better environmental ethics and attitudes. These psychologists may study how to cultivate sustainable attitudes among CEOs of corporations with poor environmental records. Many business leaders now understand the commercial value of environmental responsibility for marketing and public relations efforts. Consequently, they may hire conservation psychologists as consultants who conduct internal experiments to learn how to change encourage positive habits and better attitudes. They may also consult with companies regarding housing development, urban planning and architectural activities.

Related Resource: What is a Community Psychologist?

All of these psychologists will most likely expand their professional knowledge in their field of expertise. This means that a psychologist who studies the sick building phenomena will be trained in residential and commercial architecture design and planning. Climate and environmental psychologists must understand the life, social and environmental sciences to be successful in their fields. This interdisciplinary field includes sociology, psychology, architecture, geography and environmental studies.