Researchers Find Hope in Climate Action

Researchers Find Hope in Climate Action

The climate crisis can bring on an onslaught of emotions tied specifically to the deterioration of a stable planet: grief for what has been and will be lost; anger over decisions by those in power that created the problem; depression centered on the overwhelming scope of the problem. Now, researchers at the University of British Columbia are exploring the realm of daily habits people actually have control over. Meaning, how taking personal climate actions (like biking instead of driving or reducing meat consumption) can make people happier. As a result of their work, they created a workshop that guides people in finding changes they can make in their own lives.

Why This Matters

Reframing actions towards a climate-positive lifestyle as a way to be happier instead of a sacrifice helps people embrace the shift. While individual actions won’t solve the climate crisis alone, accepting its state and choosing to act can fuel a sense of hope.

As Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, one of the workshop’s co-founders, put it to Atmos, “People are going to have to make substantial behavioral changes to tackle climate change, which also creates an opportunity for people to change in ways that are good for their happiness.”

The Climate Health/Mental Health Connection

For the first time, the latest IPCC report emphasized the mental health impacts of the climate crisis, and it’s a grim portrait. Living through an extreme weather event often causes mental health challenges. With climate change intensifying hurricanes, fires, and floods, associated PTSD and anxiety are expected to follow. According to the report, first responders, young people, women, Indigenous people, and anyone with an outdoor job are more likely to feel the mental health impacts of climate change.

“You look at property damage, or you look at the economy, or you look at any of these climate change impacts that the report covers, and mental health is stressed for all of them,” Sherilee Harper, the lead author of the IPCC report’s chapter on North America, told Grist. “It touches everything.”