President's Column

Building Bridges

President Swim discusses opportunities to build relationships with other APA divisions

By Janet K. Swim

I recently was at a conference in Pittsburgh, the city of bridges. Pittsburgh holds the world record for the most bridges, with 446 bridges of various types of structures. The most prominent are the 39 bridges that cross the three rivers that intersect in the city. These bridges are not only amazing to view but they are critical to supporting Pittsburgh’s social and economic capabilities. The bridges connect communities to each other and allow residents and visitors to go places they could not otherwise go. These bridges inspired me to think about bridges in SEPCP (Society for Environ- mental, Population, and Conservation Psychology, aka Division 34).

I have a vision of creating and maintaining various types of bridges in our Society. Our social bridges will connect us to various communities who are interested in and con- cerned about environmental, conservation, and population psychology. We can form bridges across groups within our division, across APA divisions, across areas outside of psychology, and across time. Bridges, however, are not free and they need to be maintained. We need your participation to build and maintain the bridges.

We can also create bridges across divsions within APA. We have connected with other divisions through our programming at the APA convention by presenting topics of interest to people in other divisions and co-sponsorship of symposia. We will be making a stronger effort to co-sponsor symposia in future conventions. Thomas Doherty will be spearheading this effort for the 2012 APA convention in Florida. He has been making these types of connections at several conventions and through his work as editor of Ecopsychology. Several members of our society are members of other divisions and folks in other divisions, who could easily be members of SEPCP, are studying topics of relevance to SEPCP. From conversations at the 2011 APA con- vention, I can easily see future symposia co-sponsored with Industrial/Organizational, Clinical, and Philosophical Psychology, to name a few.

There are other opportunities to build bridges to other APA divisions. In January, there will be a preconference on sustainability psychology at the SPSP (Society for Personality and Social Psychology—Division 8;) conference in San Diego. In June, SPSSI (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Division 9) has set aside one-third of its conference for the topic of environmental psychology and they are working collaboratively with us on this effort. Susan Clayton and I will be providing more information about this effort in the upcoming months. Bridges with divisions can also be made via a group called Divisions for Social Justice. There are about ten divisions that work together to advance justice agendas at the APA Council of Representatives and to create joint symposia at APA conference. They were very helpful in constructing the resolution that created the Task Force on Psychology and Climate Change. They were also responsible for creating an APA symposium on gender and natural disasters. By being a part of the divisions for social justice we can be a reminder of the importance of keeping a focus on environmental sustainability in the work that APA does.

It is important to develop groups within our division and to make bridges among these groups. Bruce Walsh facilitated the creation of interest groups at this last APA convention (the roundtable discussion Environmentally Focused Psychologies moderated by Thomas Joseph Doherty and featuring Susan D. Clayton, Steven E. Handwerker, Christie Manning, and Gregory H. Wilmoth appears in the June 2011 issue of Ecopsychology published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc). Building off of this, we will soon have a “community” website, much like Facebook, that will facilitate the formation of a variety of groups within SEPCP. The groups can be composed of, for instance, those who share interests in teaching, research and various types of practice and those who are on SEPCP committees. Members can be long to multiple groups and create bridges across these groups within our division by virtue of memberships in multiple groups.

Because of the types of work we do, we can also build stronger bridges to communities outside of psychology. Several of us have attended, for instance, the BECC (Behavior Economics and Climate Change), SHE (Society for Human Ecology), AESS (Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences), and the European Environmental Psychology conferences. Some have also worked with the United Nations, such as Peter Walker with his work on Sustainable Development. Further, many of us work on interdisciplinary teams in applied settings and government agencies. I would encourage us to continue to make these types of connections.

A final, but very important type of bridge to build is a bridge to the future. What I mean by this is that we need to build connections to those entering into our field, often represented by undergraduates, graduate students and early career psychologists. We already have an award for undergraduate research and have recently formalized our graduate student committee. However, we can do more. We need to support these individuals' entrance into the field and to make connections to and among these individuals. Most of our membership is over fifty years old. We need to reach out to and develop a cohort of researchers and practitioners not only to strengthen our society but also to strengthen psychologies' contribution to solving local and world problems related to creating a more sustainable world.

One way to build these bridges is to create virtual bridges using web tools. I have already referenced our new community web site. We will also have a new public web site where we can post resources and opportunities. Alan Stewart and Beth Karlin have put much time into working with APA to develop these web sites and Pat Winter will be assisting in the future. In addition, rather than relying on traditional conventions for presenting our work, I would like us to take advantage of the growing use of webinars as a means for sharing our work with each other that will create connections with a smaller ecological footprint.

We are a small but growing division, thanks in large part to the efforts made by members such as Beth Karlin, our Membership Chair. Bridges can help us grow and deepen our connections within and between groups thereby strengthening our ability to go places and do things we would otherwise be unable to do. However, we need your help to do this. We need people to create and participate in communities in our new community web site. We need people to volunteer to form symposia for the APA conference, with a due date for submissions being December 1, 2011. We need people to attend and participate in events including those at APA and SPSSI conferences and to go as representatives of our society at other events. We need people to volunteer for committees. We also need your ideas and the will to take responsibility for carrying out these ideas. In addition to this human capital we need economic capital. As a result, you will be hearing more in the near future about our dues and the importance of increased revenue to be able to maintain our organization and build bridges.