Could the heroic imagination of everyday people save the planet?

Whilst conducting research for one of our new courses, I came across the Heroic Imagination Project ( founded by Dr. Phil Zimbardo. He was the mastermind behind the famous Stanford prison experiment.

It seems that Zimbardo is now seeking to positively build on that original research.

The logic of the Heroic Imagination Project, is to increase the odds of people acting with courage by teaching them the principles of heroism. By encouraging and rewarding heroic acts, Zimbardo believes, we can intentionally create a system where heroic acts eventually become natural and effortless.

His premise seems to be supported by the Richmond, Canada police dept. led by Superintendent, Ward Clapham. They challenged the core assumptions of the policing system itself. Why does all of our policing efforts have to be reactive, negative and after the fact? What if instead of just focusing on catching criminals police devoted significant efforts on eliminating criminal behaviour before it happens?

To this end, they experimented with Positive Tickets. The focus was to catch youth doing the right things and give them a ticket for positive behaviour. The ticket itself would grant the recipient with free entry to the movies or to a local youth center. Since then they have given out an average of 40,000 tickets a year. Three times the number of negative tickets over the same period.

What was the impact of Richmond’s effort to reimagine policing? Recidivism was reduced from 65% to 5%. In other words, they had a 95% success rate, and it only cost the tax payer one-tenth the amount when compared to the traditional Justice System.

I wonder how we could use these findings to reduce the behaviours that drive negative environmental impacts?

Could the heroic imagination of everyday people save the planet?


Dave Evans

Dave Evans is a Chartered Environmentalist, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of the Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment, and the Founder and CEO of Act Sustainably, dedicated to “Inspiring the World to ACT Sustainably”.

He has a BSc(hons) in Zoology, an MSc in Environmental Protection and an MBA from Warwick Business School.

He’ll often be found immersed in nature, wild swimming, trail running and paddle boarding at his basecamp in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

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