Looking back on 2014: Nature-Health-Access Workshop at Lewis & Clark

December 19th, 2014 by Thomas Doherty No comments »

One of the local events I am most proud of from 2014 is the Nature-Health-Access workshop that I created at Lewis and Clark this past summer.  A great group came together to discuss issues in access to healthy green spaces among different cultural groups in the Portland area.

— Thomas Doherty 


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Earlier this year a group of counselors, educators, graduate students, sustainability professionals and community members convened at Lewis & Clark for Nature Health Access, a workshop that examined the following questions: Are there issues regarding access to healthy natural spaces in our community? How can we determine needs and solutions?

This workshop was co-sponsored by the African American Outdoor Association, Friends of Trees, Legacy Hospital Healing Garden Program, the Ecopsychology Certificate program, the Center for Community Engagement, and the Graduate Students of Color Alliance at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. 

Read more and view more photos from the workshop.




“Psychology and Nature” Video

November 25th, 2014 by Thomas Doherty No comments »


On Wednesday, November 19, 2014, I recorded a short video on “Psychology and Nature” with psychology professor Tatiana Snyder and videographer Michael Annus of Portland Community College (PCC).

Tatiana has collaborated with Michael to create a series of videos for students about psychologists who do interesting kinds of work, including sports psychology and neuropsychology.

Tatiana was originally interested in my ecopsychology work. As we developed the project, it seemed useful for introductory psychology students to get a big picture view of different approaches to linking psychology and nature—”psychology” as in the study of mind, emotions, behavior and identity, and “nature” as in natural world, places, other species, environmental issues, sustainability, and diverse experiences and beliefs about all of the above.

Image 1The video approached questions like:

  • “Why are some people more concerned about the natural environment than others?”
  • “Does a simulated view of nature had the same restorative benefits as a real view?” 
  • “Do natural disasters like storms and droughts affect mental health and well-being?

A demo recording of the script is below.  I hope the video comes out well!

I’ll make sure to post a link when it’s available.

Happy Thanksgiving,



“Psychology and Nature” Video TRANSCRIPT

A note about the vote…

October 29th, 2014 by Thomas Doherty No comments »



All respect to Russell Brand and to those who do not vote out of principle. To others, make sure to get your ballot in. I’m big on voting—even if it’s not as much fun as my first vote in the mysterious old curtained mechanical voting booths in Buffalo, or as classic as putting my paper ballot in a wooden box in the town hall during my time in New England.

Vote as you will. I would just say think twice about some of the ballot measures. (It would be easy to just do a “yea” sweep on your ballot before your drop at the library.) Again, vote as you will. But, I say think twice, for example about initiatives like Measure 92.

Businesses spend millions to share details about their products with you. So, I’m always curious when businesses spend millions to make sure they don’t have to share details about their products with you. Genetically modified or genetically engineered food? Organisms with genetic materials changed? I see a role for these right now and in a populous, climate-changed future–with oversight. But, keep in mind that we are talking about taking things –like living beings and seeds– that have been evolving in the global commons for all of human history, and before in most cases, and allowing for modification and privatization of their genetic basis, for profit, by private individuals, with decades–or much less–of any experience or controlled study of the effects. Perhaps better to know what’s going on (or in our food)? So, think twice. Are you comfortable with what you may find out ten, twenty or a hundred years in the future about this? Labeling? They say knowledge is power.

I would also think twice about the snarky and surprisingly classist positions taken on the measure in the Portland progressive weeklies. As noted, I am curious about long-term evidence. I’m really curious about the science The Portland Mercury seems to possess. And the alternative suggestion by the Willamette Week to wait-and-see until evidence of health effects would require outright bans? That seems like very little precaution. And, for me, one purpose of laws in society is to protect those with least wealth or power. The consolation that you’re supposedly safe from any potential GMO issues if you have the education and the privilege to shop for and chose to buy items labeled “Organic” – or “Non-GMO Project Modified”!? Ouch. I am embarrassed.

Vote on! — Thomas


Welcome to the Anthropocene?

October 20th, 2014 by Thomas Doherty No comments »
footprints filled with muddy wanter in a rice field. Photo by Robb Kendrick/Aurora/Getty Images

footprints filled with muddy wanter in a rice field. Photo by Robb Kendrick/Aurora/Getty Images



Hi Folks,

I’m not sure if any of you were able to attend the Lewis & Clark Enviro Studies Symposium last week. There were many discussions about the Anthropocene concept.

A short video that will be helpful if it is new to you is below:


I’ve been tracking ideas like this since I picked up a copy of McKibben’s The End of Nature in the Seattle Greenpeace office in 1993 and sat in on Mitch Thomashow’s Global Climate Change course at Antioch New England way back in 1998 (climate change, what’s that?)

Australian Lesley Head, one of the keynote speakers at the symposium this week, differentiated between what she called  the “geological anthroprocene” and the “#anthroprocene”  (i.e., “hashtag anthroprocene”) the cultural meme and idea of humans changing the planet. I thought that was a really good distinction. There is some complex and evidence based physical science at play here (I don’t see people arguing about whether there was a Pleistocene era). And, then there is the politicized idea of human caused geophysical and climactic change (dig in here.).

The Anthropocene is in the news, as the International Commission on Stratigraphy — the same folks who brought you the Pleistocene and the Holocene, and may bring you the geological anthropocene — will be meeting soon to discuss the new term, and have until 2016 to make a decision on ratification. So, your children may be seeing it in their geology textbooks.

– Thomas

Thomas Doherty weekend Conservation Psychology course at Lewis & Clark Graduate School

September 22nd, 2014 by Thomas Doherty No comments »


After psychologist Thomas Doherty consulted about the Portland Airport’s new food waste diversion program in 2012, the “Sort It and Win” program became more popular with employees and results improved 59%.*

Why did this happen?  Thomas applied some basic psychology principles to the program.

If you are interested in learning more about the links between psychology, conservation, and sustainability, consider attending the Conservation Psychology course at Lewis & Clark Graduate School, October 25-26, 2014.

This weekend course includes lecture, practice exercises and group discussion. Students will also do a brief fieldwork session with the Lewis & Clark campus habitat restoration initiative. Guest speakers include Amy Dvorak, Lewis & Clark Sustainability Coordinator.

More information and registration available at the the Conservation Psychology course event website.

*  BioCycle April 2013, Vol. 54, No. 4, p. 31

Thomas Doherty Q/A featured in Portland Monthly Magazine Health

August 14th, 2014 by Andrea Janda No comments »




Thomas Doherty was featured in the July Health Section of Portland Monthly Magazine and mentioned in Zach Dundas’ editor’s note, Living the Good Life, PDX-Style.

Thomas discusses how connecting with nature make us healthier and that time outdoors correlates with mental health. Thomas talks about ecopsyhcology and personal sustainability which includes getting enough rest and exercise.

Thomas prescribes expanding the classic directive of 30 minutes of rigorous exercise, three times a week to 30 minutes of quality outdoors time, three times a week.

Read the interview article pdf






Thomas Doherty highlighted in National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability

July 1st, 2014 by Andrea Janda 1 comment »



Thomas Doherty was highlighted in recent National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability produced by The Center for Green Schools

Thomas Doherty was named as an “industry leader” in the Research section of the report (p.26) and quoted:

“As Dr. Thomas Doherty, President of the American Psychological Association’s Division 34 (Environmental, Population, and Conservation Psychology) observes: ‘The idea of Education for Sustainability [EfS] holds within it the opportunity to link the personal—in terms of identity, values, and empowerment—with the planetary in order to establish a more ecologically sound and just world. A comprehensive EfS research and assessment program would link theory, data, and application to help us understand these complex and interacting processes while translating our findings into research models and assessment methods that are accessible to all education stakeholders, both locally and globally.”


Download the National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability pdf

June Workshop: Nature, Health, Access: The Restorative Effects of Nature

May 5th, 2014 by Thomas Doherty No comments »

Nature, Health, Access: The Restorative Effects of Nature

wallowa-lakeDate:  SAT June 28
Time:  9:00am PDT
Location: Lewis & Clark, TBD

Are there issues regarding access to healthy natural spaces in our community? How can we determine needs and solutions?

This workshop will review some of the latest findings regarding the health benefits of green spaces and near-by nature and how these benefits are unevenly distributed in our community. We will discuss ways to address these disparities in terms of grassroots activities, teaching, therapeutic work, and policy change.

The day will include a series of expert talks, a panel discussion, and a public forum. Speakers include: Geoffrey Donovan, U.S. Forest Service, Portland Forestry Sciences Lab; Gregory WolleyAfrican American Outdoor Association; and Erica Timm, Neighborhood Trees Specialist, Friends of Trees.

Participants will:

  • Learn about the latest research on the restorative effects of nature, including the effects of tree cover and neighborhood greenery on outcomes such as children’s birth weight and incidence of cardiovascular disease.
  • Learn about basic health benefits of domestic nature (household plants and pets), nearby nature (i.e.,  parks and gardens), and managed nature  (e.g., forests and natural areas), as well as some benefits of outdoor activities and adventure wilderness-type areas.
  • Explore issues of social justice and equity associated with access to health-nurturing green spaces, as a general trend and specifically in the Portland Metro area.
  • Learn about interventions to help improve access to green spaces in Portland through the activities of community groups and nonprofits.

Co-sponsored by African American Outdoor AssociationFriends of TreesLegacy Hospital Healing Garden Program, and the Ecopsychology Certificate program, the Center for Community Engagement, and the Graduate Students of Color Alliance at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling.

This workshop is offered through our Ecopsychology program and there is an opportunity to earn graduate degree-applicable or continuing education credit by registering for this as a two day course. Click here for more information about this option.

Workshop Details & Registration

Date: Saturday, June 28, 2014

Time: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Facilitator: Thomas Doherty, Psy.D.

Cost: $100 by 6/12, $120 after, includes 7 CEUs or PDUs



About the Speakers


gdonovanGeoffrey Donovan has quantified a wide range of urban-tree benefits. These have ranged from intuitive benefits—reduced summertime cooling costs, for example—to less intuitive such as crime reduction. More recently, he has focused on the relationship between trees and public health. He found that mothers with trees around their homes are less likely to have underweight babies, and when trees are killed by an invasive pest, more people die from cardiovascular and lower-respiratory disease. He has a number of ongoing projects including a collaboration with the women’s health initiative.

greg_wolleyGregory J. Wolley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and Southern Oregon University before moving to Portland in the late 1980’s.  Following a number of years of conservation work in the Portland area with the US Forest Service and Metro Regional Parks and Greenspaces, Greg worked as community affairs coordinator with Tri-Met, where he coordinated communications for construction of the new Interstate MAX light rail line that traversed through Portland’s most racially diverse neighborhoods. When his work with new light rail was completed, Greg founded Justice for All, a training and consulting firm focused on public outreach, community involvement, and environmental justice. Greg currently works for the City of Portland, where he has managed a citywide small businesses marketing and outreach program, as well as training and development for city employees. He founded the African American Outdoor Association in 2005, and has served on numerous boards and commissions including the Portland Urban Forestry Commission, the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the Northwest Association of Environmental Professionals.

erica_timmErica Timm has served as a Neighborhood Trees Specialist for Friends of Trees for the past four years. She manages urban tree plantings, co-coordinates the tree monitoring program and serves as the community health and nature liaison. She holds a Master of Urban Planning from Portland State University and developed a background in green infrastructure, sustainable planning and community health through focused outreach and education efforts through her work with Friends of Trees and the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services.

About the Facilitator


Thomas_DohertyThomas J. Doherty is a licensed psychologist who created and helps to direct the Ecopsychology Certificate Program at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School. Thomas specializes in teaching courses that integrate research on human relationships with the natural world, environmental conservation, and sustainability with modern psychology, counseling and psychotherapy practice.

A former wilderness therapy expedition leader, Thomas received his doctoral degree in psychology from Antioch New England Graduate School. Thomas was the founding Editor of the academic journal Ecopsychology. He is currently president of the Society for Environmental, Population, and Conservation Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA) and served as a member of the APA’s Climate Change Task Force. In addition to his work at Lewis & Clark, Thomas works with individuals and consults with organizations through his business Sustainable Self. He lives in Northeast Portland and with his wife and six-year-old daughter.

Earth Day in the Here and (Long) Now

April 22nd, 2014 by Darrin Gunkel No comments »

In Honor of Earth Day, a guest post from my colleague Darrin Gunkel

—Thomas Doherty

NASA Earth Observatory photo — Bombetoka Bay, Madagascar

Photograph courtesy Terra/ASTER/NASA and NASA Earth Observatory

Let’s wish everyone a Happy Earth Day, but carefully around environmentalists of a certain ilk. You may know the type: “Every day is Earth Day!” they’ll say, kind of like my grandmother chiding me for complaining one Father’s Day that there was no Children’s Day. It’s an interesting point: we could debate long and richly the pros of raising consciousness with special events vs. the cons of sending that consciousness to live on the Reservation of Ideas that those events sometimes turn out to be. Maybe every day should be Grandmother’s Day.

Regardless of how many Earth Days you believe there should be each year, it’s a good thing that there’s some sort of recognition in the broader world of a mantra at its heart: Be Here Now. Earth Day encourages us to look around and see what needs doing, opening a space to think about how we do what we do today, as opposed to the constant future tense, the unending checklist of what needs doing, in our busy, busy society. Living intentionally. Living simply. Making living intentionally simple. Simpler. Remembering what’s happening on the ground, the earth with a little “e” we walk every day. But even a friendly doctrine like “Being Here Now” can take on ominous overtones in the light of the Immediacy Culture cultivated by our gadgetry and attitudes. Take all those phones and apps helping us get life done. They plunge us deeply into the moment, so deeply that the Here and Now is shrinking at an alarming rate.

Instead of just looking around to see what needs doing, we can amplify our sight with electronics, putting the Here of the whole world into the palm of a hand, unearthing countless tasks to take care of. We define ourselves by what we do, and so what we’re doing at the moment defines Now. The more we take on, the shorter Now becomes. Brilliantly efficient, which is important in our world where so much needs to happen. But maybe it’s time we pause to question that efficiency. An app is efficient largely because it saves labor, the collection of steps required to reach a goal. Things are sped up at the expense of the benefits of slowing down. Can you simplify and at the same time go faster? Can inherently complex systems make life easier? Or do they bury the distracting noise of complex, industrial culture and obfuscating tendencies of marketing-driven consumer capitalism under a veneer of ease? And what are ease, convenience, and efficiency really all about? The faster we live the faster we can consume, and so we can consume more. And so back to Earth Day.

earthdaySMMyself, I’ve always been a bigger fan of Buy Nothing Day. (If you’re not familiar with it, Buy Nothing Day comes in the month of November, the day after Thanksgiving, and is an alternative to the shopping seizure known as Black Friday.) A few years ago I interviewed a business owner who gives his employees Buy Nothing Day off. He suggested they stay at home by the fire. Or go on a walk. Or several other slow, thoughtful activities, that implied that the moment could be something longer than a moment. Maybe instead of one Earth Day or many, we need a longer unit: Earth Year. Actually, given the extent of what’s happening to our world and the depth of change in our collective Self necessary to correct it, Earth Century might be a better idea. Suspicions about Earth Day dwell in the tension of a ticking clock. We’ve got a lot to do, and little time to do it in, if we want to save the planet. On too many levels, we live in a world where “This needs to be done yesterday!” Maybe we could relax a little if our sense of now were different.

There are already plenty of counter culture rumblings around rethinking our ideas of time. One place, quite apropos of Earth Day, with its implications about perspective, is the Long Now Foundation, “established in 01996 to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility…” (Their words, my emphasis.) The organization’s best known project, the 10,000 Year Clock, manifests that long-term thinking the way Earth Day manifests environmentalism (here’s what Michael Chabon has to say about it.) The capitalist society that drives the need for Earth Day in the first place regularly employs numbers beyond the normal human ability to truly comprehend. Count 100 seconds. It takes almost two minutes, not overwhelming. Now count 16,500 seconds, the number where the Dow Jones hovers lately. It’ll take you four and a half hours. Try to count out the national debt and you’ll be at it for 555,881 years. Since we deal in numbers like that constantly, it’s odd that only geologists and archeologists account for years beyond the scale of 1,000 (sixteen and two thirds minutes). One of the grander capacities of the human mind is the ability to play with such abstracts. Why can’t math that works for the economy be put to work for something that will hopefully outlive that economy, namely us? Earth Day begs us to start thinking the Long Now. Time maybe to leave quibbling over mere days to our past.



Darrin Gunkel at Mt. Pilchuck

Darrin Gunkel

I believe my job as writer and editor is to make sure words don’t get in the way of communication.

Experience includes contracting for Gale/Cengage, freelancing for various SEOs, covering City Hall for Seattle’s NPR affiliate, KUOW, and producing stories for Washington News Service, a radio news agency reporting on environmental and social issues.

My B.A. is in Comparative History of Ideas, from the University of Washington. Reading about, photographing and climbing mountains in the Pacific Northwest takes up many of my weekends. I own a Westfalia and have traveled in it to the Arctic Circle and Tropic of Cancer with my wife, Karin and our pug, Lola.

Happy Earth Day, Love Daddy and Mama

April 21st, 2014 by Thomas Doherty No comments »

— A developmental perspective leads to insights about how to celebrate Earth Day with children, in ways that may lead to deeper connections and activities as they grow older.

EarthFromAboveInspired by my recent research and talks on “parenting and nature” and being more attentive to the presence and urgency of parent-child communications given my wife Chelsea’s condition and her work with children and breast cancer, I began thinking about ways to celebrate Earth Day with my daughter Eva, age 6. I came upon the idea of giving her a gift for Earth Day, wrapped, as a surprise, in hopes that this gift giving would become a family tradition.

Anyone familiar with small children will know that surprises make a singular impression. In the long run, I would prefer her to think about Earth Day as a day to go out and help to restore some piece of the local landscape. But, it does make sense to begin using a developmental lens.

Children are egocentric in a normal and healthy way, lacking the abstract thinking ability that will come in adolescence. The world children know is local and concerns them and their families. For now, this day is a gift to her. Later on, we can think about giving back.

Her gift? I chose to give her a book, a large coffee table book Earth From Above by aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Technically, I am re-gifting her this book. I used to have it, open to an enticing page, displayed on a glass coffee table in my psychology office. Lately, I have not had a place to show it. So, it is been gathering dust, forgotten, high on a bookshelf. I thought this would be a perfect, impressive gift, heavy for a six-year-old at 10 pounds, and certainly the biggest book that she will own. And we can look at it before we go to bed and think about the earth and places near and far that we can visit someday.

And yes there will be an inscription: To Eva, Happy Earth Day, Love Daddy and Mama 2014.