Ask the Expert: Dr. Jonathan Westfall

How do we become conservation-minded?

In a way, we’re already conservation-minded. We track relatively scarce resources (such as our bank balances) and carefully choose our usage. The problem is that when we do not believe a resource is scarce, we release ourselves from the mental barriers that previously existed (as many lottery winners know, sadly, once they’ve lost their winnings).

But there is hope. Our minds can help us preserve resources again with just a bit of foresight and planning. Many possibilities exist to accomplish this. For example, video games such as World Without Oil may help us build skills now in a virtual world and change our real-world behavior down the road. At home, one can make a real-world game out of saving water—incentivizing yourself and your family now to reinforce skills that we might need as second-nature later.

By bringing scarcity and conservation into our daily lives as concepts we can work with rather than fear, we equip ourselves with the skills and knowledge to cope with shortages that may happen.

Dr. Jonathan Westfall is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology.

Read from publication.