Could the brain be the key to humankind avoiding environmental disaster? Ann-Christine Duhaime is a Harvard Medical School professor and neurosurgeon who explored the possibility of the brain affecting our green actions. She studied whether the brain’s drive for material thing and stimulation affected humans getting by with less and impacting the planet.

As humans, we are more likely to hoard or to get more goods then we need immediately. These impulses are controlled by the brain’s reward system, which aided in human survival and reproduction. In the past, more meant bettering your chances of survival, and today that is still the mindset.

The drive for more and bigger material goods have obvious environmental impacts, and these are trends that are speeding up climate change. A lot of people are quick to point fingers to blame us for our greediness and ignorance, among other ugly qualities. Duhaime is different. She’s focused on “assessing people, not [their] character flaws … for what it is about their brains that makes them the way they are.”

What if we changed the way we think? Duhaime thinks it could help with acting sustainably. Rewards don’t have to be just about consumption; they can be pro-social and competitive rewards that encourage you to cut consumption in relation to your fellow people. Who would have thought climate change and changing our behavior in response to it has been challenged by our very own brains?!

Interested in seeing you you can get positive reinforcement for environmentally habits going in your school? Grades of Green’s Caught Green Handed Activity encourages rewarding your peers and other do-gooders for acting green. New to Grades of Green? Register here to unlock the step-by-step implementation instructions and resources to this activity and more!

Teachers, you could be working alongside scientists on a fully funded field research expedition next summer! The Earthwatch Institute’s Teach Earth Fellowship will send extraordinary teachers from various subject areas to the field to collect data regarding important issues such as climate change. They hope this experience will inspire teachers to integrate science literacy and environmental awareness in the classroom. Get excited if you’re a K-12 teacher who is passionate about education, has an interest in environmental issues or conducting scientific research, and would like to play a part in improving science/environmental education.

Fill out this interest form to get started. Qualified teachers will be contacted to complete an application that will be due by December 18, 2016. Know a teacher that would be interested? Nominate them here!

Raising environmental awareness and stewardship can happen post-expedition or even right now at your school: if you feel positive change is in the air, help assemble a Grades of Green Team at your school to empower students as they green the school. Register to gain access to downloadable resources to use to inspire and empower your students to care for the environment!

Calling Los Angeles high school sophomores and juniors: a two-week, all-expenses-paid scientific expedition for next summer has your name written all over it! The Earthwatch Institute’s Ignite LA Student Science Awards is interested in sending 50+ students to conduct hands-on research: collect data in the field that will impact important environmental issues. It’s also an opportunity to absorb lectures on sustainability issues, bond with your peers and research staff, and experience the natural landscape around you. Recent expeditions have been based in Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Education and Research Center, the Sagehen Creek Research Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, as well as the Southwestern Research Station in Arizona.

Applications with two recommendations are due by December 1, 2016.

Apply here!

Looking to explore somewhere closer to home? A Field Trip is an easy-to-customize Grades of Green Earth activity! You’ll learn about environmental/sustainability issues close to home and get inspiration to affect positive change.