Environmental Problems are Human Problems: insights from the behavioural sciences

8 March 2016, 17:00 - 18:30

Babbage Lecture Theatre, New Museums Site

This event is part of the Cambridge Science Festival. It is free and open to all but registration is required. To book your place online please click here or use the link on the Science Festival webpage.

Paul Ferraro, the Humanitas Visiting Professor in Sustainability Studies 2015-16, will give an open lecture as part of a series of events he will be doing while in Cambridge on the theme of Effective Environmentalism. Professor Andrew Balmford (Zoology, Cambridge) will chair the event.

Environmental problems are largely human behavior problems. Yet environmental programs are typically designed by natural and physical scientists, engineers and lawyers, rather than behavioral scientists. Program designs thus end up being based on incomplete theories of human behavior. Take, for example, programs aimed at encouraging the adoption of resource-conserving technologies like energy- and water-efficient technologies: realistic behavioral theories include at least a dozen potential mechanisms that lead to deviations from the reductions in resource use predicted by engineers. Failure to understand the range of plausible behavioral mechanisms makes ineffective programs more likely. A growing body of empirical evidence demonstrates that insights from the behavioral sciences can be used to design better public programs. Most of this evidence comes from non-environmental contexts, but the early evidence in the environmental field is promising. Moreover, theory and methodological insights from the behavioral sciences are leading to advances in the evaluation of environmental programs, which is moving us in the direction of evidence-based environmental policy.  Professor Ferraro will address the knowns and unknowns of applying insights from the behavioral sciences to improve sustainability.


Other events in this series:

Wednesday 9 March Seminar Impact Evaluation of Protected Areas: what do we know about impacts, moderators and mechanisms?

Friday 11 March Effective Environmentalism: Concluding Symposium

The Humanitas Chair in Sustainability Studies has been made possible by the generous support of the Tellus Mater Foundation, who sponsor the Humanitas Visiting Professorships in Cambridge.

For administrative enquiries please contact Michelle Maciejewska.



The Humanitas Chair in Sustainability Studies has been made possible by the generous support of the Tellus Mater Foundation, who sponsor the Humanitas Visiting Professorships at CRASSH.

Over its 5 year duration, the Visiting Professorship will touch on a diverse range of topics relating to sustainability studies, ranging from the environment and behaviour, to policy and economics.

The Humanitas Chair in Sustainability Studies is organised in collaboration with the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI), a unique collaboration between the University of Cambridge and leading internationally-focussed biodiversity conservation organisations clustered in and around Cambridge, UK. CCI seeks to transform the global understanding and conservation of biodiversity and the natural capital it represents and, through this, secure a sustainable future for all life on Earth. The CCI partners together combine and integrate research, education, policy and practice to create innovative solutions for society and to foster conservation learning and leadership. 

Previous Humanitas Visiting Professors in Sustainability Studies

2014-15  Johan Rockström

2013-14: Gretchen Daily

Standing Committee

Mike Rands (Excecutive Director, Cambridge Conservation Initiative)
William Sutherland (Zoology)
Bhaskar Vira (Geography, Cambridge Conservation Research Institute)

Hosting College

Trinity Hall