The Connections between Happiness and Sustainability

Topic 1

What did you think about the connections between happiness and sustainability that was presented this week? What connections made most sense to you and which connections are you struggling with?

You read this week that we are most likely hardwired to be happy when we are in a natural setting surrounded by other species. What evidence does Paul Bloom provide to support this hypothesis?

What evidence have you found throughout your life that either supports or refutes this hypothesis?

If we need nature to be happy, what implications does this have for sustainability?   Think about ecological, economic, and social sustainability when discussing this question. Do you all see how the three are linked? See the image below:


What conclusion have you reached from reading Jon Gertner’s summary of human brain research in the article “Why isn’t the brain green?”

How can we make our society “green” given facts about our own brain?

Would you have raised your hand in Professor Jenkin’s class when he asked “how many of you have/had friends who are/were taking antidepressants?” Would you add anything to the comments his class made?

In week 1, you read that happiness is collective, and then you read this week that (1) we need nature to be happy and (2) many of the paths that we have taken to pursue happiness in the past century have made us unhappy

What can you logically conclude based upon these two statements?

Feel free to share your thoughts on happiness, integrating course readings and viewings with your life experiences and knowledge. Please respond to your classmates in this conversation. Adding something new to your classmate’s response with a great question or connection is just as good or better than answering an original question. The point of conversations is to bring depth to the discussion topics, and if you have done that, great! 😉

Topic 2

Doppelt lists a number of sustainability blunders or paradigms that block transformation, some of which are quite related. To avoid redundancy, I have pared down the list. Please take one sustainability blunder from this list and provide an example of this sustainability blunder that you have personally observed.


Straight-line thinking

Quick-fix thinking

Technology can save us

More is better

Less bad is good enough

Cheaper is cheaper

Away means gone

My actions don’t matter

If the subtopic you wanted to discuss has already been taken, please make sure to add something different to what your classmates have discussed about that subtopic. In previous discussions, we have already made some of these sustainability blunders. Do you see them now?

Topic 3

Between the “Power of Sustainable Thinking” and the podcast on the “The Hidden Brain”, you should have some great insight into how we think. Here are a few questions to get you started on this discussion:


What have you learned from the hidden brain podcast about your subconscious and the role of individuals in forming group norms? Do we act autonomously?

What is the scientific evidence that demonstrates the power of our hidden brain despite our insistence that we have consciously thought about our decision?

How can our hidden brain both wage wars and save our lives? How is this related to our hidden brain’s reaction toward more sustainable actions?

What have you learned about how humans think that you did not know previously?

I recently gave a talk to the “Legacy Leadership for the Environment” here in Howard County on how to help people change. One of the participants said he joined the legacy leadership group hoping to convince the naysayers about climate change. Given what you have learned about how the brain works, do you think this person has a chance to convince the naysayers that climate change is occurring and is most likely due to human activities? Explain your reasoning.

At one of the Chesapeake Watershed Forums I attended, Tony Caligiuri of the National Wildlife Federation, began his talk by quoting Jerry Garcia

“Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us”


We all of course, had a good laugh, and this quote really struck a cord with me. What do you think about this quote and how it relates to human thinking and environmental work toward sustainability?


As always, please add to what your classmates have discussed, and synthesize as much as you can to the previous concepts we have covered!

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