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Why Should Ecologists Know Psychology?


How to bring together positions and views of psychologists and ecologists, integrate these sciences for a goal common to all mankind – preservation and evolution of life on the Earth?

Psychologists deal with the human being as such, reflection of reality in individual mentality, without paying too much attention to what is going on around. Ecologists are concerned with the process of interaction between human beings and nature, however, they at times consider this interaction only from the point of view of nature, or from the point of view of an “ideal man” without taking into account pschology of real people. It is always useful to make a step forward towards each other. Why this is required is discussed by the ecologist and the psychologist from their viewpoints.

Igor Chestin, Ph. D. (Biology), Director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of Russia articulated three problems, which ecologists are apparently unable to solve without psychologists’ help. “Firstly, all ecological problems on the Earth have been created by men. And we are busy with reclaiming consequences of human activity. However, all people inhabiting the planet have initial positive motivation. It is hard to believe that a person would wake up in the morning and think out what kind of villainy to perform today, what to contaminate or destroy. The human being strives for good but it turns out bad for some reason? Why?”

The second problem was described by Igor Chestin by the example of hystory of nature conservation movement. In the course of time, the attitude of the society, authorities and business changed as regards to conservancy issues. The 80s of the last century were the worldwide peak of environmental movement, mass protests and demonstrations. This period reached its culmination at the 1992 UNO Conference, when all major international environmental agreements were signed. Then the period of decline followed not only in Russia (the deepest downturn took place in 2000), but also in other economically successful countries. The power was taken over by people who did not include nature conservation in their priority lists. Why? Ecologists do not have the answer.

Psychology of people is also underlying populations’ support of ecologists. The WWF, Greenpeace and other organizations are seeking to attract individual advocates. However, this does not work out perfectly well... If compared with the Netherlands, where every fifth family actually supports the WWF, in Russia, the number of nature conservation advocates makes thousands. Although, it seems that people are interested and the money involved is not that much.

Psychologist Nadezhda Vladislavova, Doctor of Science (Psychology), Professor, Moscow Psychological University, considers environmental problems in the context of human values. What is value from psychologists’ viewpoint? These are the merits and objects that that are particularly appealing to a person. When we apply to a person to induce he/she to do or not to do something, we appeal to his/her system of values. This would not work out otherwise. For the majority of people such words as nature and earth are valuable. But not for everybody. Therefore, it is necessary to find convincing words within other system of values. By the way, psychologists distinguish now seven systems of values.

One of the currently prevailing systems of values implies that a person is anxious to live well “here and now”. Practical mind and entrepreneurial ability are valued for successfulness in a “big game”. Competitive spirit is the general principle of life. It is in this system that environmental problems begin to occur as the person of a “big game” does not think of what would happen after him. However, inside this system, islets of another system start emerging, where relations between people and human merits are valued most of all. Out of it grows one more – the seventh - system of values: “I express myself but not at the expense of others.” This is particularly vividly shown in public organizations including those that are occupied with nature protection. Advantages of the people of this system are that they are capable to find common language with others and to solve together the tasks common to all mankind, including the task of life conservation on the Earth.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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