Environment and Human Behavior

What is the relationship between the environment and human behavior? Environmental psychologists study this question in particular, by seeking to understand how the physical environment affects our behavior and well-being, and how our behavior affects the environment (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012). For example, pollution, a component of the physical environment, absolutely can affect our well-being and health. Ozone pollution can have unfavorable effects on humans including shortness of breath, coughing, damage to the airways, damaging the lungs, and making lungs more susceptible to infection (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2016). Meanwhile, us taking the action to recycle affects the quality of our environment. Recycling and using recycled products saves a substantial amount of energy considering it takes less energy to recycle products, than it would to create new materials entirely. In turn, the action of recycling helps battle climate change, one of the biggest threats our planet faces.

If humans can have direct effects on the environment, are we responsible for climate change? A lot of hard evidence suggests, yes. Every once in awhile, our planet warms from natural causes. This can occur from events like volcanic activity, or a change in solar output. However, recent evidence shows climate change is occurring too drastically to be solely explained through natural means. Humans have made remarkable advancements in technology by creating more automobiles, machines, factories, etc. But this revolution is not all positive. We have seen a rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions over the last century. Sources of greenhouse gasses include automobiles, planes, factory farming and agriculture, electricity, and industrial production. The issue with greenhouse gasses is that they absorb and emit heat. Abundant greenhouse gases in our atmosphere include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases (EPA, 2017). When there are large quantities of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the planet is going to get gradually warmer. 

What happens as a result of climate change? Believe it or not, we are already experiencing some very damaging effects of climate change. Heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, and loss of sea ice just to name a few (National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], 2017). Scientists predict we will begin to experience even more harmful effects of climate change in the future. At the current rate we are going, the Arctic sea ice is expected to disappear entirely by the end of the century. The current effects we are seeing are also expected to intensify. An even greater problem is the fact that plants and animals are unable to adapt to the quickly changing environment, and are dying off. As a result of climate change, animals’ habitats are becoming completely inhabitable. We are seeing a rapid loss of species which will inevitably effect the natural flow of the biosphere and the individual ecosystems it is composed of.

What can we do to slow down the effects of climate change? The first, and most simple response is we need to recognize climate change is a real threat to our planet, and even our existence. Given the recent political shift that has occurred in the United States, climate change and environmental issues do not appear to be a prime concern to some individuals. The blunt truth is we do not have time to wait. Climate change has already started to take its toll on the planet, and ignoring it is no help to anyone. As I stated above, human behavior has the potential to make dramatic changes to the environment. Practicing beneficial behaviors such as engaging in environmental activism, recycling, conserving energy, decreasing water use, and decreasing the frequency of automobile use, are all useful measures to take regarding this issue. You can also research ways to reduce your carbon footprint. As a vegan, I always advise people to cut down on meat, dairy, and egg consumption given the large toll agriculture takes on water loss and the environment in general. If we collectively work to battle this giant threat to our environment, we may be able to slow, and even reverse the effects of climate change.



National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)., (2017, January 31). Consequences of Climate Change. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from www.nasa.gov

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)., (2016, March 4). Health Effects of Ozone Pollution. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from www.epa.gov

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)., (2017, January 20). Overview of Greenhouse Gases. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from www.epa.gov


  1. Tarek Al-hashimi

    I really enjoyed your post, which highlights some of the alarming consequences of negative human influence on the environment. The truth, as you pointed out, is that our current political climate might actually exacerbate these consequences. By not taking climate change seriously, we create the risk of an environment that is filled with pollution, lacking renewable resources, and will host hazardous natural disasters.

    Applied Social Psychology, as a field, seeks to alleviate both practical and social problems such as climate change. This means that techniques utilized in the field are vital in correcting the negative changes we are facing in our environment. I agree that encouraging people to take positive action, as well as changing their views on climate change will help to increase our ability to deal with climate change’s consequences.

    NASA’s website provides some background information on exactly what these negative consequences might be. You mentioned that animals’ are losing some habitats, which will spell dangerous effects for our food sources and wildlife diversity. In addition to this, NASA predicts that by the year 2100, extreme heat waves that usually occur every 20 years will be occurring every 2 or 3 years. This will accompany the disappearance ice in the artic sea, meaning polar bears will likely become extinct as well. Perhaps our politicians will be alarmed when these conditions continue to manifest.

    The last observation I gathered from NASA’s research on climate change is that the sea level will rise between 1 and 4 feet from its current level. Flooding will occur in many areas that have never experienced flooding, and certainly many people will be displaced from their homes. I think that it is absolutely crucial that we amplify our efforts to educate the public. We need to make sure that enough is being done to halt climate change, and rely on new technology to create sustainable resources. I hope that more people will realize the severity of this issue, because that will help bring about positive change.

    Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.

    Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. (n.d.). Retrieved February 04, 2017, from http://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

  2. Hi, I must say I enjoyed reading your post about the environment and human behavior. I have also posted something similar on the subject and it points out our current issues with global warming and how its related to human behavior. Bandura (1986) devised a theory called Triadic Reciprocal Determinism (or Causation) that states that the environment that people live in both influences human behavior and personal factors. People are both influenced by the environment but also have a certain level of control over the environment so that both can affect each other (Nelson, A. 2017).
    In your post, you’d mentioned how recycling has a positive effect on our environment and I couldn’t agree more. As you may already know, globally we are at a great risk when it comes to our climate change and because of these rapid, unpredictable changes, natural disasters such as earth quicks, tsunamis and extreme heatwaves are occurring all around the world.
    Per “The Guardian”, the death toll in India’s heatwave that occurred in 2015, had reached 1,500 as the country sweltered in one of the worst bouts of hot weather for several years (The Guardian, 2015). I believe this unfortunate disaster is direct evidence to how our behavior and lack of conscious about our environment can have a deadly irreversible consequence on humanity.
    However, I can confidently say that we are on the right track towards healing our planet earth. As we educated more individuals and even future generation on the environment, we are promoting positive behavior which in turn will have positive effect on our immediate environment and planet earth. We are creating more Eco-friendly technologies such as Hybrid or E-vehicles and windmills just to name a few. This positive action towards saving our environment is fueled by our behavior to do things differently to save our environment. Ultimately these actions will save mankind for generation to come, and it’s all because of the relationship that we have with our environment, which is a great example on how the environment influences our behavior.
    Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundation of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Nelson, A. (2017). Lesson 4. Applied social psychology: The Environment. Presented on the PSYCH 424 course content site lecture at the Pennsylvania State University.

    The Guardian.,(2015, May 28). India heatwave death toll rises as awareness campaigns launch. Retrieved February 4, 2017, from http://www.theguardian.com

  3. Heather Nichole Rogers

    Great post! I made the same observation about the current political climate. I proposed that we as individuals need to take actions within our communities to reduce our impact on the environment. This action could be simple such as recycling and urging friends or family to do the same. This action can be larger as well, lets say your town doesn’t do recycling, you could form an intervention that convinces city leaders to institute a recycling program. the more that every citizen makes an effort to conserve resources, the better off our environment will be in the future. even small actions make a difference on a larger scale. What do you think you could do in your home or community to make a difference?

    Unfortunately, while these small actions do have some effect, we need big actions from the governments of countries who produce the highest amount of emissions. without this action the global temperature will only continue to increase. we have lkely already caused irreparable damage.

    I also wanted to comment on your explanation of the effects of climate change which we are already experiencing. There is also data that suggests that hurricanes and other catastrophic weather events like tornadoes are becoming less frequent but more severe due to the rise in global temperature. It is hypothesized that by the end of the century, hurricanes will be 2 to 11% more intense on average with even larger increases in some areas (GFDL). Warming will likely cause increased precipitation in these storms as well. Research into tropical cyclones is a highly valuable piece of the puzzle when looking at global warming. Over the next century as we observe these severe weather events, we will gain more insight as to the magnitude of intensification of hurricanes due to our warming climate.

    Another interesting impact of humans on our environment is man made infrastructure. I am currently reading a book titled “The Great Deluge” about Hurricane Katrina. The author explains the value of the wetlands that once surrounded coastal Louisiana in reducing the amount of storm surge. When New Orleans and surrounding areas were built, the levee system used to hold the Mississippi river caused damage to the surrounding wetlands. In reality the entire city is sinking and officials are stuck in a vicious cycle of building infrastructure, further damaging surrounding ecology and then needing bigger and better infrastructure. For example, New Orleans was built in an area that was once only a few feet above sea level. During the initial construction of the city, several floods happened. City planners built an elaborate pump system under the city to reduce the effects of flooding. This pump system caused subsidence or sinking of the area. New Orleans is now well below sea level and requires an even more elaborate pumping system to keep it dry.

    Brinkley, D. (2006). The great deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. New York: Morrow.

    GFDL – Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. (n.d.). Retrieved Febuary 03, 2017, from https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes/

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