Mind Matters

Brett Jenks speaks at Commencement

Brett Jenks speaks at Commencement in May 2017. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Award-winner explores how behavioral insights can help the environment

Watch livestream at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Dickinson will host a lecture by global conservation leader Brett Jenks, who will discuss how the biggest barriers impeding climate solutions lie not in the natural world, but rather in our minds and ourselves. The talk, which will take place Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter (ATS) Auditorium, will be available online via livestream. Viewers can ask Jenks questions by posting to Twitter during the discussion using the hashtag #dsonJenks.

Jenks is the 2017 recipient of The Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism, created to focus attention on the need to reduce the impact of human lives on the planet, particularly given the rising population predictions for this century. The award recognizes his work as the president and CEO of Rare, a global conservation organization that uses expertise in human behavior change to create enduring and sustainable climate-smart solutions for both people and nature.


Jenks’ lecture will focus on understanding what motivates seismic shifts in public opinion and how those changes can be harnessed to address sustainability issues. He will explore what is being learned in behavioral economics, social psychology and neuroscience and how these lessons can apply to conservation and the climate challenges facing our planet.

The discussion follows Rare’s announcement of the launch of its Center for Behavior & the Environment, a first-of-its kind initiative designed to bridge the gap between thought leaders in behavior change research and field-based conservation practitioners. The Rose-Walters Prize supports this new initiative, with a pilot workshop being launched at Dickinson during Jenks’ residency on campus. The workshop will use a series of interactive activities to teach the core principles of Rare’s behavioral design approach and then use that approach to address a sustainability issue at Dickinson.

Jenks is focused on helping Rare globally scale climate-smart conservation solutions—including sustainable management of small-scale fisheries, coastal habitats, forests and watersheds—to ensure reliable and clean freshwater supplies. He also has established large-scale partnerships with philanthropic groups, community-level partners and the ministries of environment and fisheries of many nations.

Prior to his more than two decades with Rare, Jenks was a journalist and filmmaker, and he served as the Costa Rica field coordinator for WorldTeach, a nonprofit based at the Center for International Development at Harvard University. He is a Catto Fellow, Braddock Scholar and McNulty Prize laureate with the Aspen Institute, as well as a member of the Closed Loop Fund’s investment committee and an advisor to the Grantham Trust.

In addition to this lecture and workshop, Jenks will meet with Dickinson’s many student environmental-leadership groups and faculty and participate in class discussions during his campus residency. Previous recipients of Dickinson’s Rose-Walters Prize are Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert; award-winning actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo; author and environmental activist Bill McKibben; Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson, who also served as Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President Barack Obama; and author and award-winning nature photographer James Balog.

Listen to Jenks’ recent interview on WITF (NPR member station) in which he discusses Dickinson’s commitment to sustainability, the Rose-Walters Prize and a pilot course on behavior change for climate solutions. 

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Published September 26, 2017