Over the past 30 years, there has been a growing recognition amongst environmental advocates, resource managers, policymakers and researchers that the underlying cause of most environmental, conservation and sustainability issues is human behavior. As NRC and ENVIRSCI majors, you have received extensive technical training in how natural systems operate yet relatively little training when it comes to influencing or understanding how people make environmental decisions that affect those natural systems. Recognizing the fundamental role that human decision-making plays in shaping the environment reveals a new set of tools and approaches for both understanding the challenges we face and confronting those challenges effectively. We will spend the semester exploring the underlying factors that drive environmental decisions, the key challenges that environmental issues pose for decision makers, and insights from the behavioral, social and communications sciences into designing effective environmental behavior change campaigns and strategies. In doing so, we will gain a greater appreciation for the importance of focusing on people when our aim, ultimately, is to protect the natural world.
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