Introduction: Human Behavior and Sustainability
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Although an increasing share of the world’s population believes, as 97 percent of scientists do, in anthropogenic climate change and the need for shifts in human behaviors to ensure a sustainable future, there remains a sizeable gap between people’s beliefs and their behavior. Why are people sometimes unwilling to engage in sustainable behaviors? Are there differences between those who are willing to behave sustainably and those who are not? What are some barriers to behaving sustainably that policy makers can address? These are some of the questions asked by the authors whose work is published in this issue of the Michigan Journal of Sustainability. As is tradition in this journal, the current issue—Volume 5.1—is comprised of articles from a variety of disciplines and contains perspectives of both researchers and practitioners. Specifically, this issue contains articles by researchers and practitioners from Natural Resources and the Environment, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Transportation Systems, Urban and Regional Planning, and Environmental Conservation, who provide a variety of perspectives on the interface between human behavior and sustainability. We believe that the knowledge shared in this issue is richer because of the varied perspectives and approaches that exist among the contributors.
Before previewing the issue, we must first extend our sincere thanks to those who served as anonymous reviewers for both the initial proposals as well as the full drafts of articles that appear here; every article in this issue improved from initial submission to final acceptance due to your incredible service. We would also like to thank the Graham Sustainability Institute for supporting the journal and all its editors. Without their support, in terms of both finances and production staff, this journal would not be possible. Without further ado, the rest of this document previews Volume 5.1 of the Michigan Journal of Sustainability, which contains four articles, and an invited editorial from The Honorable Dr. Jane Lubchenco, all accepted by the current editors.
The first article, by Jessica Santos and Irina Feygina, focuses on the politicization of climate change within the United States and its influence on climate skepticism. Santos and Feygina review social and psychological processes that have been implicated in skepticism and resistance to climate change and their implications for understanding the political divide in responding to climate change. They end by highlighting interventions aimed at ameliorating climate change skepticism. Overall, Santos and Feygina’s review may be informative for climate change communicators, policy makers, and practitioners who design climate change relevant communication campaigns for the broader public.
The second article, by Benjamin Iulinao, Alexandra Markiewicz, and Paul Glaum, examines how urban community gardens spread and what effects they have on local ecosystems. Iulinao and colleagues present a case study of urban community gardens in southeast Michigan, where they examined effects of gardens on floral resources and native pollinator communities, as well as socio-economic profiles of communities surrounding the gardens using census land cover data to understand patterns in garden placement. Their findings highlight important factors for policy makers looking to reap the environmental benefits of urban gardens.
The third article, by Devon McAslan, explores how differences in urban environments influence walking and transit use, as well as how urban residents use walking and public transit as modes of transportation. McAslan integrates data from neighborhood mapping, observations, surveys, and interviews to examine these dynamics in the urban core of Seattle, Washington. McAslan interprets the findings through the lens of the theory of urban fabrics, and highlights important factors for urban planners to consider in city planning.
The fourth article, by Meaghan Guckian, Spencer Harbo, and Raymond De Young, argues that those of us concerned about sustainability need to move beyond creating “green consumers” and instead foster and support “green citizens” in our attempts to change sustainability-relevant behaviors. To support this argument, Guckian and colleagues conducted a community-based survey in Southeastern Michigan; this survey allowed them to develop the profile of a green citizen and document how it differs from that of a green consumer. They conclude by offering recommendations for policymakers, educators, and organizers to use this framework to foster pro-environmental behavior change.
The final piece of the issue is an invited editorial from The Honorable Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Distinguished University Professor and Advisor in Marine Studies, Oregon State University, U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean, and U.S. Department of State. Lubchenco’s editorial is adapted from her keynote address at the 2015 Michigan Meeting on Academic Engagement in Public and Political Discourse (Hoffman et al., 2015). In her editorial, Lubchenco argues for the need for scientists and practitioners to work together in order to effectively address social issues, particularly issues related to sustainability and the environment. She highlights the importance of carefully considering behavioral processes when addressing issues related to sustainability, drawing on experiences from both her research as an ecologist and environmental scientist, and her practitioner experience as a policy maker.
We hope that you will enjoy reading and learning from these articles as much as we have. We are honored and humbled to have been able to participate in the production of this knowledge that can be directly linked to policies and applications that foster sustainability. This is, of course, the goal of the Michigan Journal of Sustainability—to integrate knowledge from a variety of disciplines to inform public policy on important sustainability issues.
Erin Hamilton, co-Editor-in-Chief, Michigan Journal of Sustainability
Neil Lewis, Jr., co-Editor-in-Chief, Michigan Journal of Sustainability
Volume 5:1 Editorial Board
- Erin Hamilton, co-Editor-in-Chief
- Neil Lewis, Jr., co-Editor-in-Chief
- Alecia Cassidy
- Arthur Endsley
- Kevin Fries
- Anna Harrison
- Andrea McFarland
- Azadeh Omidfar
- Sarah Paleg
- Katerina Stylianou
- Jessica Worl