On March 17th and 18th, 2020, the 9th Conference on Environmental Psychology was held at the Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education in Moscow. The conference examined the theoretical and empirical aspects of environmental psychology at the present stage of the field's development, the challenges for psychological and pedagogical support in forming ecological culture and ecological consciousness, the issues of a psychology of sustainable development and the risks caused by environmental challenges.
In connection with the 25th anniversary of the Laboratory of Ecopsychology of Development and Psychodidactics, part of the Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education, theoretical and methodological aspects of the approach to the development of the psyche were considered, including the ecopsychology typology of subject-environment interactions and the ecopsychology model of the formation of subjectivity.
The main sections of the conference and their moderators were:
- Ecopsychology: theory, experiment, practice (V.I. Panov, S.K. Nartova-Bochaver, N.M. Saraeva);
- Psychology of sustainable development and environmental awareness (D.S. Ermakov, M.O. Mdivani, V.A. Yasvin);
- Psychology of the educational environment (I.A. Baeva);
- Psychology of global risks (T.A. Nestik);
- Psychology of the urban and spatial environment (P.N. Vinogradov, S.Yu. Zhdanova, Yu.G. Panyukova);
- Mental health in professional and extreme conditions (A.N. Leonova, A.S. Kuznetsova, A.O. Prokhorov);
- Psychology of environmental education for sustainable development (Yu. M. Grishaev, A.N. Zakhlebny, N.F. Vinokurov);
- Psychology of the information environment (G.V. Soldatova, A.E. Voiskunsky);
- Ecopsychological approach to the development of the psyche (V.I. Panov, A.V. Kaptsov).
Photo: During the plenary session on the first day of the conference
Due to the difficult epidemiological situation caused by the spread of COVID-19 and the restrictive measures adopted in Russia, the conference took place in a reduced capacity. Many participants could not attend, with the situation especially affecting international speakers and delegates. However, the Russia-based part of the conference went ahead according to schedule.
The conference opened with the keynote lecture "Psychology of sustainable development: problems and prospects,” by Victor Panov, which outlined the stages of the establishment of the ecopsychology approach to the development of the psyche over the 25 years that the laboratory has existed. The speaker characterized five stages of the development of the ecopsychology approach by the laboratory team, the types of interaction between human beings and the environment, and various perspectives on the expansion of ecopsychology in other areas of psychology.
Questions were raised about how human subjectivity is changing and developing in the modern world. The important role of culture as a means of integrating people with their environment in the context of globalization was emphasized. In particular, the decline in cultural diversity was compared to the decline in biodiversity, which hypothetically reduces the adaptive capabilities of the system. An important task of environmental psychology and ecopsychology is the development of the ability to tolerate and support interaction at all levels of the ecosystem. The relevance of environmental psychology is evident in the current need to develop psychological approaches to solving regional and global environmental problems and preserve the natural environment as a necessary condition for human survival, and also the necessity to maintain the nature of human beings as creatures that combine biological, social, spiritual and mental forms of existence.
Photo: Victor Panov presenting his keynote speech
The lecture “From ecology to psychology of sustainable development,” delivered by Vladimir Zakharov, emphasized the link between green ethics and environmental psychology. He considered the role of ecology as the basis for the formation of ecological culture in its connection to sustainable development. The ecology of the future was presented as a holistic worldview, where every member of society should be an "ecologist." One key aspect of ecological culture, according to Vladimir Zakharov, is the ability to perceive beauty and harmony, which are understood as forms of experiencing homeostasis - in other words, the full balance of all components in a living system. The speaker emphasized the important role of aesthetic experience in supporting the development of an individual’s ecological culture, because a developed sense of beauty usually goes hand in hand with developed environmental awareness. The motto of this new environmental culture, according to Zakharov, should be "ecology is happiness." Vladimir Mikhailovich also noted the important role of a “positive,” even hedonistic, view of caring for the environment (“we do it because it's enjoyable”), which reduces potential stress and guilt and supports personal responsibility for the well-being of the environment.
Photo: A.L. Semenov presenting his paper, “On digital transformation: how to learn an expanded personality?”
In his presentation “On Digital Transformation: How to Learn an Expanded Personality?” A.L. Semenov spoke about expanding consciousness and the boundaries of the individual with the advent of new cultural phenomena; from the appearance of speech and writing, to digital technologies and the emergence of a “global object,” the smartphone. He outlined the phenomenon of preadaptation that requires an aptitude for instant changes, the gulf between formal education and the demands of the world, the child’s right to technology and a digital future, and the reincorporation of children's “natural curiosity” into the educational process using modern technologies.
Photo: Sergey Alekseyev presenting his paper, "Goals of sustainable development through the eyes of St. Petersburg"
The lecture by Sergey Alekseyev was based on a large-scale sociological study of the perceptions of environmental problems among various social categories of the St. Petersburg population. The insufficiently conceptualized distinction between the concepts of “education” and “enlightenment” was considered. Both components play an important role in the formation of an ecologically responsible subject, characterized by developed environmental awareness. Respondents of different age groups showed high awareness of environmental problems, but their environmental knowledge was inadequate. All categories of the population demonstrated motivation to care for the environment, but complained about organizational and structural deficits.
In his report "Psychology of sustainable development: problems and prospects,” D.S. Yermakov presented the main methodological approaches, theoretical concepts and problems of a new scientific discipline: the psychology of sustainable development. He emphasized the importance of psychological aspects of the sustainable development model and the generally poor understanding of the concept of sustainable development in psychology, particularly within a historical context. One of the key roles of psychologists, according to D.S. Yermakov, is to support conscious, sustainable relations with nature, which involves a certain way of perceiving the Earth and our human attitude towards it. Contemplation of natural beauty and creative activity in nature can be regarded as potential models for experiencing a deepened, conscious relationship to the Earth.
The report by E.V. Kolesova was provocatively titled "Why does the concept of sustainable development not take root in the minds of the Russian population?" The main issues relating to the integration of the sustainable development model into Russian society were examined. In particular, the inconsistency of mentality and basic values among Russian citizens was highlighted, with characteristics similar to those of representatives of Western communities in their orientation towards pragmatism and success. The speaker examined the relationship between the “I-concept” of the subject and the concept of sustainable development, which is not focused on a specific individual.
Photo: E.V. Kolesova presenting her paper, “Why does the concept of sustainable development not take root in the minds of the Russian population?”
The last presentation of the morning session was that by T.A. Nestik, “Attitude of Russians to global risks: a socio-psychological analysis”, which examined the alarmist and pre-adaptive approach to coping with anxiety, global risks and their relationship to optimism and level of social trust. These two factors showed the greatest correlation with the choice of a particular strategy. Increasing tolerance of uncertainty (preadaptation) is characterized by a persons’ ability to determine their present and future, their focus on justice, their concern for people, and their desire to prevent global threats through cooperation. An analysis of the psychological characteristics of global risks was presented, as well as the types of attitude to global risks. The presentation highlighted the significance of the search for psychological technologies that can prevent resorting to counterproductive strategies and panic reactions of society to disasters, as well as of the studies of preventive and proactive coping, psychological functions of global and local identity in collective coping with threats.
It is not possible to summarize the content of most of the reports presented in the afternoon at the symposia. They are published in the proceedings of the conference edited by V.I. Panov.
Photo: "Psychology of sustainable development: society, personality and consciousness" symposium
An interesting empirical study was presented by A.N. Kamnev and T.A. Antopolskaya: “The implementation of an educational program as a condition for the development of subjectivity of teenagers in a recreation camp." The recreation camp referred to a series of camps, where for many years the camp leaders had used methods to develop a subjective attitude towards nature in children and adolescents, including environmental identification, environmental empathy and reflection. Teenagers had the opportunity to actively and responsibly relate to natural objects, to master classical ecology with elements of biogeography, to do research and to immerse themselves in travel. The results of a study conducted on a sample of 158 adolescents indicate that the implementation of a specially designed program contributes to the development of subjectivity of adolescents and increases their desire for independent activity in relation to natural objects.
P.N. Vinogradova presented the topic of environmental facilitation and the potential for this to become a new social role in her paper "Moral regulation of the environmental activity of city residents." Her study revealed differentiation in a sample of citizens according to their ethical positions and their ability to take responsibility in social interactions and encounters with nature. The moral component of environmental awareness was studied through the analysis of environmental discourse using distributive semantics.
Photo: G.V. Soldatova presenting her paper
G.V. Soldatova presented the results of a large-scale study of the impact of the Internet on psychological development of adolescents. She identified problems such as the need for a space for online communication between young people and for studies exploring their destructive behavior related to online peer contact, how to determine their digital competence index, and so on.
On the second day of the conference, a number of theoretical and research reports were made in the symposium "Environmental psychology: theory, empirics, validity". The report was opened by A.I. Kopytin "The eco-humanities as a meta-scientific doctrine of the harmonization of human beings and nature", which summarized the content of a new interdisciplinary field of the eco-humanities, combining ecology and the human sciences. The main subject of the eco-humanities, according to Kopytin, is the study of the nature of the human being in their process of developing self-knowledge, and in their system of relations with the environment. The creation of a new generation of eco-human technologies was outlined as a constructive component of eco-humanities, with the aim of transforming human beings’ attitude to the environment and themselves as ecological beings.
I.A. Khvatova's presentation, “An ecopsychology approach to the evolutionary diversity of self-reflection in animals,” was based on studies conducted at the Institute of Psychoanalysis, within the Laboratory of Zoopsychology. The report considered self-reflection in animals, the theoretical and methodological aspects and difficulties of studying this topic. It went on to criticize existing approaches and emphasized the importance of a holistic perception of biological subjects and the need to study the evolutionary prerequisites for the development of human self-consciousness. According to I.A. Khvatov, the question of self-reflection and reflection of the external environment should be used as a criterion for distinguishing stages and directions of mental development in phylogenesis. In environmental psychology, the self-reflection of each animal species is a unique result of its specific evolutionary path and allows it to adapt the features of its morphology and physiology to solve the problems that the environment sets before it. Human self-awareness is one of the forms of self-reflection that has arisen in accordance with the specifics of human behavior and adaptation.
The conference ended with a lecture by V.I. Panov, "From the ecology of childhood to the psychology of sustainable development," which covered the main developmental vectors of the Laboratory of Ecopsychology of Development and Psychodidactics over the past quarter century. At the beginning of the lecture, the speaker paid tribute to his teachers D.A. Oshanin, A.I. Mirakyanu V.V. Davydov and F.T. Mikhailov, without whom the laboratory would not have been founded.
Mental reality, according to Panov, is formed in the “gap” between a person and the environment and the psyche is considered as a form of being that arises in the interaction of the human being and the environment. This logic allows us to consider the relationship between humankind and the planet, to designate the subject-generating type of their interaction.
The main results of the laboratory's activity included the development of principles for the generative process of perception, a new understanding of the nature of giftedness and the psychodidactics of the educational environment, an ontological model of the dynamics of mental states and the formation of subjectivity, and diagnostic methods of environmental consciousness.
Overall, the conference often raised issues to do with culture, local or global cultural identity and emphasized the role of experiencing the beauty and harmony of nature as a basic prerequisite for ethical and sustainable behavior in human relations with the environment.
The key issues of the conference were the integration of the sustainable development model into the public domain and developing people's ecological awareness. Themes such as the central role of psychology in the formation of environmental consciousness and sustainable lifestyles and the importance of a proactive and creative orientation of people in the face of global environmental challenges were emphasized. Philosophical categories of ethics, moral choice and their psychological aspects were often mentioned. The issue of conflict of interests between global corporations and political forces on the one hand, and the welfare of the environment and humanity on the other hand, was highlighted. The issue of environmental risk and models of coping behavior in the face of a dynamically developing and unstable world within an ecologically problematic environment was often raised. Much attention was paid to digitalization and other phenomena of the modern world that form the anthropogenic environment.
About the reviewer: Dvornikova Alexandra
artist, art therapist (St. Petersburg, Petersburg, Russian Federation)