Environmental psychology

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Environmental psychology is a a somewhat fascinating, and rather interdisciplinary, “science” focused on fostering a greater understanding of the interplay between human beings and their environment.

The term “environment” is being defined in this field rather broadly; it can include natural environment, designed and built environment, and learning, social and informational environment.

It is believed that protecting, building and creating a “preferred environment” increases a sense of wellbeing in a human being and facilitates behavioral effectiveness.

The questions that is being addressed by environmental psychology are these: Do our homes, offices, places of work, and public spaces (including our streets) make us feel peaceful, happy and sheltered? Do they feel like the safe havens they are meant to be? Are they calming, sustaining, mood-elevating and strengthening?

All of this is attainable, and can be made possible and feasible, in our homes and offices, our schools, and public buildings, with natural ventilation, the proper lighting, with plants, color, shapes and views.

In public spaces, when it comes to some aspects, other things come into play and for that purpose police and municipalities conduct so-called environmental visual audits (EVAs) from time to time in order to get the feel and then to see how improvements can be made and where.

Looked at it from a greater perspective, environmental psychology is about our relationship with Mother Earth.

There are many different theories as to why we, as a species, and the only one for that matter, have found ourselves seemingly intent on destroying our own Planet. We are the only species that has the capacity to do so if we continue on our merry way.

Some environmental psychologists believe that when we left our tribal way of living and life, many centuries and more ago, we were separated from our mothers far too early in life.

This act, under this theory, has led us to experience premature separation from the mother at the same time as we were being isolated from the natural world.

This abrupt disconnection, the theory holds, has led us to suffer a post-traumatic stress disorder. Underlying this hypothesis is the belief that feeling connected to the natural world is an essential component for proper maturing and responsible behavior toward the environment.

Others in the field of environmental psychology hold that we, as a species, are suffering from a “disassociation syndrome”. While this syndrome is similar to PTSD and even multiple personality disorder, this thinking is based on a belief that many, if not most, people (today) are no longer able to respond properly and appropriately to the natural world.

The complex causes, as argued by those who advocate this particular theory, involve advertising, economic systems, politics and our schools and institutes of higher learning, all of which, so it is reckoned, reportedly have “disassociation” built into their fabric.

Yet another theory is that humans may just be suffering from a form of collective amnesia. We have forgotten, so the advocates of this theory, about our inherent link to Nature and the lessons of our forefathers.

Another reason, and as far as I am concerned, and probably the main one, is that in the three Abrahamic faiths, especially Christianity, we are being taught – basically - that we are the masters over creation, over the natural world, and its resources.

This got further “enhanced”, so to speak, by the “scientific” revolution that caused us to become more and more detached from Nature.

Over the years – centuries by now – man has developed the attitude of fighting Nature, but this will never work, for the day that we win that battle we have lost.

Another big issue as far as Christianity is concerned is, and all arms of the church are equally guilty, though the Roman Church and Protestantism probably more than Orthodoxy, and that is the way they dealt with people who sought closeness with Nature.

Those that sought a close relationship with the Earth have been persecuted as heretics and as witches and people have been told that they must not “worship” Nature, at pain of death more often than not.

It is, therefore, together with other aspects, no wonder that we, as a species, have become so disconnected from Mother Earth. We have been taught, over centuries, that regarding Nature as anything but something to be used and taken from as heresy and that it can get you killed.

In fact, if wed do not reconnect with Mother Nature that will get us killed, and even some in the Abrahamic faiths begin to understand that; slowly only ion some cases but...

we must learn – once again – the way of Nature and to live in harmony with Her and to honor Her as Mother and Giver of Life and not fight against Her like naughty children.

© 2011