Perceptions, Culture, Values & Behaviour

How do humans perceive nature? How are cultural values and knowledges mobilized to make important decisions related to socio-ecological futures?  What are the socio-cultural, perceptual, and psychological barriers and enablers for sustainable behaviour, as individuals and as collectives? A rigorous understanding of these factors enables effective action towards sustainability.

IRES Researchers work to understand how core notions of nature and human-nature relations can be used to design behavioural interventions, shape policy, transform societal norms and values, and better manage land, water, air, ecosystems and technologies. From Indigenous ontologies of water to how values related to public environmental goods affect willingness to invest in key infrastructure, we use insights related to culture, values, and behaviour to address critical sustainability challenges.


Core faculty:

Leila HarrisJiaying ZhaoGunilla ÖbergHadi DowlatabadiMilind KandlikarClaire KremenTerre SatterfieldKai Chan



Relational values and social norms for nature

How might sustainable practices embodying ecological responsibility go from niche to normal?

In contrast to outdated ideas that how we treat nature only matters because of its intrinsic and instrumental values, it is increasingly recognized that many people also have strong preferences, principles and virtues regarding human relationships involving nature (relational values). This project investigates the possibility that relational values might form the basis for new infrastructure and social structures that cultivate social norms to protect and restore nature.




Solid Carbon: Climate Mitigation that Advances Stable Negative Emissions

How do different specialist and public communities perceive the risks and viability of ocean-based negative emissions technologies (technologies that remove and sequester carbon)?

The test case is this study is Solid Carbon: a negative-emissions technology that aims to draw down atmospheric carbon through direct air capture, using offshore wind energy and offshore drilling, and then enable carbon mineralization into basalts (e.g., rendering pure carbon solid as it is absorbed into porous rock). Yet little is known about how people think about this new suite of technologies: Is the whole more important than the benefits and risks of any one part (e.g., wind versus ocean-floor injection)? Does their viability at scale matter to perceptions? Are such technologies seen as enabling carbon-centric economies versus providing carbon viable markets?

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