Monday, September 20, 2010

Contributing to Sustainability

In case I hadn't mentioned it yet, I am a Behavior Analyst by profession.
Without an extra title or some background information, it makes my area of expertise rather vague. Do I work for the police? Am I a psychologist? Do I work with troubled youth? Am I analyzing everyone I meet, all the time? Can I provide some advice about a spouse, sibling or child with problem behaviors?

That's just a few of the questions I get when I tell people my job title and I have to say, I don't blame them for being unsure of what to expect. Behavior is a very broad field and their are behavior analysts involved in just about every area of behavior. The more I think about it however, the more I am surprised that most of us are involved in special education and developmental disabilities, particularly Autism.

Not that our field isn't extremely successful in this area or that we have a lack of work in this field, but why aren't more of us involved in environmental behavior change or sustainability education? Don't we as "behavior experts" have the best solutions on how to change human behavior from this linear lifestyle to a more sustainable lifestyle? Can't we as behavior scientists contribute by providing ways to evoke the behavior change necessary to be more sustainable?

Turns out I wasn't the only one with this question and as of this Summer I am part of a group called Behavior Analysis for Sustainable Societies. We're just getting started, so I'm not quite sure what direction we're going in, but I'm glad to see the Behavior Analysis community get together and fill this gap. I'm actually quite curious to see what we achieve. Do we tackle it globally, locally? Do we start with the individual? Or do we focus on governments and corporations?

How do you change an entire community of individual thinkers?

The task seems daunting, but the second I say that I hear the Maldives Minister of Housing's voice in my head. At a talk he gave today with the Vice President of the Maldives he said, when we decided to go to the moon, I'm pretty sure we didn't know how to do it, but we said we would and we did. He continued by saying that he wasn't exactly sure how the Maldives were going to become carbon neutral, but that they are committed to getting there in the next 10 years.

And in many ways he is right. We may not know how to change the behavior of billions of people, but as behavior analysts, we know behavior, and we are committing ourselves to applying that to sustainability. You don't have to be a environmentalist, conservationist, tree hugger or scientist to care about sustainability. You don't have to be from an island like the Maldives where your survival depends on climate change's path. All you need is the realization that sustainability isn't worse than what you live in now and the determination to apply your skills to building a more sustainable future.

So here's my question to you...what field do you work in and how can you contribute to sustainability?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Change requires less talk, more action

Today I decided to send President Obama a message. I don't know if my voice will actually make a difference, but I do know that if I don't use it, it never will. And that got me to thinking....how many of us just stand by watching things happen because we don't think our voices will be heard?

It's time we put an end to that mindset and start shifting towards action.

Shifting towards change.

It's the reason I was excited about Obama becoming President and it is also the reason I decided to contact him today. Change requires action and I was extremely disappointed when Obama's administration recently displayed a big lack of action.

In case you're not aware of 350.org, they are an international organization focusing on inspiring people to find solutions to our climate change crisis. They are called 350, because that is the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere that scientists believe is the safe limit for humanity. Whether you agree with them on that number or not, if you believe in the need for change and action with regards to our environment, you should support 350.org.

Which leads me back to my letter to President Obama...On 10/10/10 350.org is organizing a global work party, a day to get to work on something that will help deal with global warming. Over 150 countries are participating with everything from planting trees to fixing bicycles to putting up solar panels, a task the President of the Maldives graciously took on and our President declined.

Yes, that's right, "our President declined." U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon encourages "everyone to do his or her part to be part of the solution to the climate challenge," President Nasheed is getting on his roof to install solar panels, but President Obama turned down the FREE solar panels offered to the White House by Bill McKibben and 350.org.

The solar panels offered to the White House were solar panels that had been on the White House roof when Carter was President. They were a perfect way for Obama and his White House to stop talking change and start making change....and they turned them down. Thousands, no, millions of people are taking action and creating change on 10/10/10, but President Obama will continue deliberating. Deliberation is good, but there really is no more time for deliberation and there is no need for deliberation, it is time to set an example and embrace clean energy.

And that is exactly what I wrote President Obama tonight. I don't think he'll read my letter. I don't even know if anyone will read it, but if anything I will be counted amongst the "people writing about climate change, energy and the environment." And if enough of us write and if that group becomes large enough, then they will have no choice but to listen to us.

I will also be part of the 10/10/10 work party, not just because we need change, but because I want change and I've learned that change doesn't happen if I stand by watching.

Change starts with me. Change starts with you.

Please check out the global work party and find an event near you. There are thousands of events in over 150 countries, so I'm pretty sure you can find one in your area.

And don't just stop there, write President Obama, write your senators, get involved in your local community. Don't just sit around and wait for change. Be change.


Ideas on how to start change locally:
*Climate change is our big issue, sustainability is the solution!
*Write your senators on issues that are important to you. Many organizations (like the ones I mention below) will send you information about things going on and provide simple ways for you to take action and have your voice heard.
*You can also friend/like/support a lot of them on facebook.
*Change your power source to wind power or another clean energy source (many companies offer this for only a few dollars more per month)
*Donate time or money to a local or global organization like Greenpeace, Wildlife Conservation Network, Brita Climate Ride, *Slow Food USA, local Land Trusts, Energy programs and Sustainability Offices
*Get out of your car and ride your bike!
*Know what you eat. Purchase local and organic
*Support local small businesses
*Plant your own garden with your kids, neighbors or some friends
*Volunteer at a local farm
*Volunteer at or start a local community garden
*Educate yourself!

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