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?

No comments:

Post a Comment