Raymond De Young Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Ph.D., 1984, University of Michigan


We face a century of diminishing material and energy abundance while we address the climate disruption caused by our past consumption. This bio-physical reality is inevitable. What is not inevitable, however, is the nature of our response. Yet so often we are faced with, not reasonable, but infuriatingly unreasonable behavior. Why is this and what can we do to help people become positively engaged?  In short, how can we bring out the best in people despite their facing difficult and irreversible environmental circumstances?

The depth of the required response is unprecedented. Before the end of this century we may need to respond with an order-of-magnitude decrease in emissions and a comparable decline in resource consumption. The environmental movement has previously argued for major reductions in resource consumption but rarely have changes of this magnitude been envisioned.

Such a decline is needed, even overdue, but it will be hard for us, hard because it demands profoundly different world views and patterns of living. We must accept that our future will be attained through thrift and humility, not by the consumptive growth and boosterism that gave us our fling with material affluence.

Yet acceptance is but the first step and not nearly as hard as what comes next. Adapting well to a drawn-out decline in resource availability is not something with which we are familiar. Thus we must pre-familiarize ourselves with the behaviors needed for the leaner times ahead. We must plan for, motivate, and maintain deep, yet meaningful, behavior change starting with each of us, where we are, now. And we need to start this transition while we still have a surplus of social, psychological and resource capital. 

Interview on Radio EcoShock.

Research Interests

1. Planning for foundational sustainability: Transitioning quickly to the local.

We can pursue localization, a process compatible with a viable and satisfying existence on a finite planet.

2. Motivating environmental stewardship: Living lightly, now.

We can draw on deeper forms of motivation to promote environmentally responsible behavior, including intrinsic motivation and our fascination with building and maintaining competence.

3. Maintaining human wellness: Using nature, tranquility and activity to enhance well-being.

The transition we must make is crucial and overdue, but hard. Since burned out people can neither heal the planet nor live sustainably, they too must be healed and supported. We can use the powerful effect on human well-being of nearby nature, in all its forms.

Current Teaching

Behavior and Environment - Introduction to environmental psychology that examines human-environment interactions with a focus on environmental stewardship. Course develops an information processing model of human nature and uses this model to explore human behavior, the settings they prefer and best function in, and how they maintain mental clarity and attentional vitality.

Psychology of Environmental Stewardship - Explores research on psychology of environmental stewardship and creates a toolbox of approaches for promoting durable conservation behavior.

Localization Seminar: Transitional Thinking for the New Normal - How ever vast were the resources used to create industrial civilization, they were never limitless. Biophysical constraints, always a part of human existence, could be ignored for these past few centuries, a one-time era of resource abundance. We can accept that transition to a different life pattern is inevitable, yet the specific form of our response is not preordained. The course develops one plausible response called localization. It focuses on place-based living within the limits of nearby natural systems. The course covers the drivers of localization and examples in practice. It also introduces the philosophies of localization and the tools needed to make the transition peaceful, democratic, just and resilient.

Selected Publications

(Full downloadable set at ResearchGate)

De Young, R., K. Scheuer, J. Roush and K. Kozeleski (2016). Student interest in campus community gardens: Sowing the seeds for direct engagement with sustainability. In W. Leal Filho and M. Zint (Eds.) The Contribution of Social Sciences to Sustainable Development at Universities. World Sustainability Series. Pp. 161-175, Switzerland: Springer.

De Young, R. (2014). Some behavioral aspects of energy descent: How a biophysical psychology might help people transition through the lean times ahead. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1255.

De Young, R. (2013). Transitioning to a new normal: How ecopsychology can help society prepare for the harder times ahead. Ecopsychology, 5, 237-239.

De Young, R. (2013). Environmental psychology overview. In Ann H. Huffman & Stephanie Klein (Eds.) Green Organizations: Driving Change with IO Psychology. (Pp. 17-33) NY: Routledge.

De Young, R. & T. Princen (2012). The Localization Reader: Adapting to the Coming Downshift. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

De Young, R. (2011). Slow wins: Patience, perseverance and behavior change. Carbon Management, 2, 607-611.

De Young, R. (2010). Restoring mental vitality in an endangered world. Ecopsychology, 2, 13-22.

De Young, R. (2000). Expanding and evaluating motives for environmentally responsible behavior. In Zelezny, L. and P. W. Schultz [Eds.] Promoting Environmentalism. Journal of Social Issues, 56, 509-526.

De Young, R. (1996). Some psychological aspects of reduced consumption behavior: The role of intrinsic satisfaction and competence. Environment and Behavior, 28, 358-409.

De Young, R. (1993). Changing behavior and making it stick: The conceptualization and management of conservation behavior. Environment and Behavior, 25, 485-505.

De Young, R. and S. Kaplan. (1988). On averting the tragedy of the commons. Environmental Management, 12, 283-293.

De Young, R. (1986). Some psychological aspects of recycling: The structure of conservation satisfactions. Environment and Behavior, 18, 435-449.