Empathy, place and identity interactions for sustainability

Katrina Brown, W. Neil Adger, Patrick Devine-Wright, John Anderies, Stewart Barr, Francois Bousquet, Catherine Butler, Louisa Evans, Nadine Marshall, Tara Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Sustainability science recognises the need to fully incorporate cultural and emotional dimensions of environmental change to understand how societies deal with and shape anticipated transformations, unforeseen risks and increasing uncertainties. The relationship between empathy and sustainability represents a key advance in understanding underpinning human-environment relations. We assert that lack of empathy for nature and for others limits motivations to conserve the environment and enhance sustainability. Critically, the relationship between empathy and sustainability is mediated by place and identity that constrain and shape empathy's role in pro-environmental sustainability behaviour. We review emerging evidence across disciplines and suggest a new model exploring interactions between place, identity and empathy for sustainability. There are emerging innovative methodological approaches to observe, measure and potentially stimulate empathy for sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Empathy
  • Human-environment relations
  • Identity
  • Methods
  • Place attachment
  • Sustainability transitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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