Environmental Psychology Course Debuts At St. Louis Community College

How does Weber’s law of “Just Noticeable Differences” affect the perception of environmental problems?  How does the psychoanalytic concept of repression explain why people block uncomfortable thoughts about ecological collapse?  And how could the behaviorist approach of socially reversed behavior contingencies increase positive environmental actions?


The worlds of psychology and environment blend in a new course offered at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park this fall.  The course on “Environmental Psychology” will explore interactions between people and their physical and social environments.  Using approaches of cognitive, gestalt and social psychology, it will ask questions like: How does environmental awareness develop in children?  Just how much attitude change can environmentalists successfully advocate?


The course will be taught by Don Fitz, Ph.D., who produces Green Time TV on KDHX Digital Channel 980 and hosts the annual Great Green Pesto Feast.  He has also taught at Washington University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Fontbonne University, Harris-Stowe State University and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.


Dr. Fitz explains that the course is organized into five key areas. First, “biodiversity” explores how humans are affected by and affect the natural world, especially as it relates to habitat destruction and species extinction.  Second, “toxins and stress” are responsible for a wide range of physical, mental and emotional problems.  Just as environmental destruction can lead to psychopathology, environmental improvements can be therapeutic. The third topic, “resource depletion” asks how human society is being affected by the exhaustion of fossil fuels, clean water and soil. Fourth, “climate change” contrasts the psychology of denial with the reality of the effects of heat on human behavior. These feed into the fifth part of the course on “sustainability.”


Research on happiness helps us answer “How can people live better lives while consuming less?”  How can green building and urban planning reduce the number of private cars while increasing life satisfaction?


Woven throughout is the influence of space on the design of homes, work areas, educational settings and urban environments.  Dr. Fitz says that crowding, privacy and attachment to place and nature are key to environmental consciousness.


“Environmental Psychology” will be offered from 8-9:15 a.m., on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Aug. 24-Dec. 15, as a three-hour contact, credit course. For information on registering, visit www.stlcc.edu, or call the Admissions office at 314-644-9127.