Emotions play a major role in shaping human behavior . Those that are positive allow us to build our resilience and open our fields of vision in the eyes of certain issues: they give us a sense of well-being . The pursuit of happiness has been ingrained in Western culture for hundreds of years. We can look for happiness within ourselves or in external sources, but one thing is certain, this happiness is prized by habitants in Western countries. Negative emotions, on the other hand, are less well received. We tend to push them away, not to like them, since they do not make us feel good .
Climate change, not only disrupt the climate, but it also impacts our emotions. Some people feel negative emotions in a range of intensity when they think about the climatic conditions in which human will have to evolve. These emotions are associated with fear, guilt, sadness, helplessness, anger and sometimes optimism . For some people, grocery shopping and getting around becomes a source of guilt and stress. According to a survey conducted by Ipsos, 59% of Canadians aged 18 to 29 are afraid of climate change .
In addition, climate change communication is mostly made up of alarmist speeches and words that induce feelings of fear and helplessness. One can sometimes come to conclusion that it is too late to reverse the trend (when it is not!). Nevertheless, research shows that this fear seems to strengthen the will to act in people who feel it .
It is thus possible to channel this stress and nervousness in the face of this major challenge into actions that would make us feel good and that would do good to the planet!
Research shows that the integration of concrete actions for the climate in one’s daily life individually and/or collectively generates various positive emotions. One can feel pride, happiness, and a sense of usefulness for example. Then, when we feel this kind of emotion because of an action taken, we tend to reproduce it and even adopt new ones. We can discover new sources of pleasure by trying out new recipes or by incorporating new modes of transport and, in general, we feel more connected to nature . Observing concrete changes in relation of our actions can make us aware that we are a little more part of the solutions and a little less of the problem .
It is also important to remember that our status as individuals does not allow us to have full control over the largest contributors to atmospheric carbon emissions. Some people may choose to drive an electric car or have no car at all, but they cannot choose to close all coal plants. Thus, in order to feel better in this climate challenge, we can choose to apply the actions that are most important to us, that resonate the most with our values and that are positioned within our scope of feasibility . While this stress felt towards climate change can act as a driver of action for some people, it can turn into anxiety for others and have negative impacts on daily activities .
Individual actions are often within reach, but they do not necessarily break the isolation that can be felt in the face of emotions related to climate change. The key to feeling less alone is to get involved in groups or collectives whose climate action is at the heart of the mission. Individuality has limitations. Each of us plays a role in a greater movement towards systemic change. We can observe and feel this important role that we play when we join collective movements whose values stick to our person. In addition to feeling useful and important in this transition to a safe climate for all, we are directly involved in reducing greenhouse emissions, which are one of the main causes of climate change.
Getting involved in this social, ecological, and economic cause should bring us satisfaction and sometimes even lightness by reducing the weight we can carry on our shoulders. Surrounding ourselves with people with whom we can talk openly about issues and our vision can help us feel less alone. Climate action is a source of happiness and self-appreciation that aligns with the common good. Taking concrete action for the climate feels good!
Alexie Roy-Lafontaine, Scientific Writer for the Web and Social Networks