Niki Harré is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland. She is also the leader of a Sustainability Network within the university’s Faculty of Science.
Her recent research projects have focused on sustainable communities and schools, positive youth development and political activism. The question that drives her is how to engage people in creating a more sustainable and equitable society. Niki lives in Auckland, New Zealand and has three children. She is a founding member of a Transition Town in her suburb, cycles to work, learns the guitar from a musician who lives on her street, and has a large organic garden thanks to her husband.
In 2007 Niki edited, with Quentin Atkinson, the book Carbon Neutral by 2020: How New Zealanders Can Tackle Climate Change. In 2011 she released a second book, Psychology for a Better World: Strategies to Inspire Sustainability. It can be downloaded for free. Her current research explores the idea of life as an infinite game and what it means to keep our deepest values in play.
There are two core values that underpin the good society – flourishing people and thriving ecosystems. A large body of research in psychology suggests that we, as people, understand the importance of these values. Unfortunately however, they are often obscured by the pressure to win at the various games that are paraded before us – games that make status, large salaries and vast quantities of material goods seem like the real thing. For me, optimism comes from believing that people are never very far from these fundamental values. When given the opportunity, almost everyone knows that the beauty and diversity of nature and caring for each other is far more important than “getting ahead”. Our task is to enable people to speak to these values and to encourage conversations about what really matters. Deep conversations along these lines – which are already happening in our NGOs, universities, towns, schools and workplaces – will hopefully see a widespread shift in our social practices.Niki Harre