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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The Empowering Sustainability International Journal (ESIJ) is an interdisciplinary open access online publication of peer reviewed papers that aims at connecting scholars and practitioners through the exchange of ideas, opinions, and experiences related to all aspects of sustainability. The journal values different ways of knowing, creativity, collaborations, practice-based theorizing, and rethinking of concepts such as empowerment, sustainability, development, democracy, and justice.


Evaluation and Monitoring of a Long-Term Peace and Environmental Education Program in a Region of Intractable Conflict

Managing long-term peace and environmental education programs toward positive encounters and peace building in a region of intractable conflict requires constant evaluation and monitoring of students and school staff. This paper analyzes a program running for the second year in ten Israeli high schools. It is the only Israeli environmental and peace educational network for both adolescent Israeli Jews and Arabs. The program acknowledges that there is not one fixed formula for excellence in education; thus, it aims to match its curriculum to each school, attend to current events, and generate harmony between people and between people and nature. Constant evaluation and monitoring of students and school staff is done through multiple research tools; some include a pre-post research construction while others rely on ongoing data collection, observation, and reflection. The tools implemented in this program and the lessons learned are described and analyzed in this paper.

The first part of the paper discusses aspects of environmental and peace education, including pedagogic implications and the difficulties of evaluation. The second part describes the case study, including the program's origins, its position in Israel's reality, and its implementation. Finally, the paper focuses on describing and illustrating the evaluation and monitoring methods used by the program.

From the Ground Up: Lessons on Incorporating Behavior Change Research in Sustainability Programs

Individual- and household-level behaviors contribute to 40% of U.S. energy use and carbon emissions. Pro-environmental behavior change research has repeatedly found feedback, social norms, and commitments to be influential factors in motivating change. Sustainability programs and environmental policies that incorporate the underappreciated findings of this research stand to gain significant ground in meeting their goals. In this paper, I describe in detail the design, implementation, and preliminary results of a sustainability behavior change program implemented through the collaboration of a nonprofit organization and a municipality in Southern California. The program focused on simple low- or no-cost behavior changes and results indicate some significant reductions in GHG emissions. Results indicate significant potential for influencing sustainability behavior in groups through a suite of behavior change mechanisms. At the same time, questions are raised about the implementation strategy and measurement tools for the particular behaviors addressed. The lessons from the application of behavior change research in the development of effective sustainability programs are outlined in summary. Internal and external factors contributing to the successes and challenges of the sustainability behavior change program are also discussed.

Examining the Role of Boundary Organizations and Environmental Champions in Increasing Natural Hazard Preparedness in Bangkok, Thailand

Coastal cities are particularly exposed to natural hazard and climate change impacts. Due to its geography, its likeliness to be impacted by natural hazards and its low level of preparedness, Bangkok, Thailand, is one of the most vulnerable coastal cities in the world. A growing number of organizations and individuals are working together to bridge the divides among government, international, national and local organizations and members of civil society in order to reduce Bangkok’s vulnerability.  An increase in local knowledge, paired with stronger local collaboration, enhances a society’s preparedness against natural hazards. This study examines the role of boundary organizations and environmental champions in boundary-spanning activities aimed at increasing environmental cooperation and preparedness in Bangkok.  Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and archival analysis. The findings of this case study highlight the importance of boundary-spanning organizations and key individuals (i.e., environmental champions) in facilitating cooperation between disparate groups at varying geographic scales to increase preparedness in a city vulnerable to natural hazards.