PEAs – Psychologists for Environmental Action

Jack Hughes

Sometimes when making something new the name is the hardest bit. This is why I have to give credit to founding PEAs Zanna, Dorothy, Ana and Julie for not only envisioning a new initiative aiming to improve sustainability within the psychology department but also for calling us the Psychologists for Environmental Action (aka the PEAs).

As I am sure anyone who has run anything knows, a new initiative or group is full of challenges. How are you going to organise yourself? What are your goals going to be? What would be considered a successful first year? How are you going to make sure this new idea doesn’t end up on that ever-expanding pile of new ideas that never really got going?

The PEAs faced, and still face, all these problems. But having problems to face does not mean that things aren’t going well. The PEAs are doing some amazing things and we certainly aren’t running out of ideas anytime soon.

PEA talks

One of our most successful projects is the PEA Talks. Obviously, we are all aware of climate change but what a lot of people don’t know is all the amazing ways psychologists and researchers are helping to fight it. So, we thought, let’s tell everyone. And let’s do it in a fun and engaging way. So, we decided to invite speakers from around the world to give a talk, a bit like a TED talk, on what they are doing, researching, or protesting. So far, we have welcomed the UCL PALs department who are one of the most eco-friendly departments in the country, the Psychologists4Future a German group of psychologists protesting climate change and providing psychological support for climate activists, and Thijs Bouman of the University of Groningen who has been doing fascinating research on climate values. All these talks and more are available on our YouTube channel.

Poster for PEA talk – ex-Labour MP Colin Challen to discuss the Political Response to Climate Change

Rewilding our courtyard

Our other successes so far include this summer some of our wonderful technical staff have begun work on rewilding our department courtyard. In this small oasis of green, we now have a bird feeder, and we’re getting ready to plant some raised beds with – what else – peas. Add to that the installation of birdhouses, bat boxes, bee hotels, a hedgehog house and a proper plan to let nature grow wild in a controlled way and we are well on the way to implementing our green ideas.

The Wider Community

PEAs are not just about our department either. We wanted to extend our reach into the wider community and employ our research skills and expertise for the betterment of all of Durham. So for that purpose, we are currently in the process of setting up research projects to test behavioural interventions that can address environmental problems raised to us by the City of Durham Parish Council and local Residents Associations. Our application of environmental impact ain’t just academic though. In order to stay active and generate real immediate change, the PEAs have been litter picking all around Durham. Trying to maintain Durhams’ natural beauty isn’t hard in such a gorgeous city and it is incredibly fun and rewarding.

Future plans

We also have really big plans for the future, we want to campaign for meat-free meals in the department, paperless submissions of work for students and we want to incorporate sustainability into the psychology curriculum. We are keen to use our psychological expertise to inform solutions to the climate crisis. Some of our group is working on designing some very exciting new modules at L3 and Masters levels, which will put sustainability firmly in the Durham curriculum. But we are not there yet.

Volunteering awards

The PEAs were this year nominated for 4! Yes, that’s right 4 volunteering awards for the work we have been doing. In the categories of Best New Volunteering Initiative, Best Environmental Project, Best Educational Project and one of our members was nominated for the Volunteer of the Year! So, if you want to be part of something amazing and something that is already being recognised for its successes then we would love to have you!

What’s next?

The PEAs have so many projects in the works, and we have huge ambitions about how to go forward. If you have ideas, have a desire to set something up, or just want to volunteer then we would be more than happy to welcome you into the team. Whilst the PEAs are a division of psychology when it comes to our litter picking, rewilding, and many of our other schemes we want to support the environmental input of all of Durham University and we are not going to say no to anyone who has a passion for environmentalism and a desire to help out.

Find out more

So if you want to get involved in any way then find the Psychologists for Environmental Action on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube

Please send us an email at [email protected]

Let’s make Durham greener, together!

Jack Hughes

PhD candidate, Learn With Us Assistant Director and a Head PEA (Psychologists for Environmental Action). Don’t worry about any of that though what you need to know about me is that I own way too many (not enough) plants, watch way too much football (ask my partner if you don’t believe me), and am notorious for taking on too many projects at once. I am literally writing this blog when I have 6 other projects that I should probably be focusing on instead!

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