Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed by the state of the planet and tired of fighting what seems like a losing battle. I sometimes think that however I live my life or whatever I say or do will not make any difference especially against the backdrop of global corporate and state-sanctioned destruction of the environment. I often feel like a modern day Cassandra or the weirdo on the street wearing the sandwich board saying ‘The End of the World is Nigh’ who everyone avoids, as so many people don't seem to care or want to know. It feels like there is very little good news right now with the devastating effects of climate change becoming evident through the global summer heatwaves, the vastness of the plastic pollution problem, the recent shocking IPCC report, and so on.
I do put some of this eco-exhaustion down to the fact that I am more informed now than I have ever been. I am consuming news and opinion via news apps and social media several times a day and the more I read the more despondent I become. It seems I am not alone though, that the depressing and frightening messages and information overload that we are bombarded with is now creating ‘apocalypse fatigue’ amongst many people.
“If governments or policymakers repeat the same message too often, people just tune out after a while."[i]
This is sometimes compounded for me with the environmental and ethical minefield that is everyday life. Is it better to buy local produce or organic food?[ii] Is switching to an electric car a green option if you are selling your old one that will still be polluting the planet? Deciding what to do for the best takes so much effort and is hard work.[iii] So how do we continue fighting the good fight, and engage others in it too?
Turning away from some of the news media’s negative reporting could help counteract this problem. It’s not a case of ignoring the threat of catastrophe but oversaturation of it in our information filled world makes us feel helpless. Actively seeking out positive, constructive messaging or at the very least filtering the information we take in can give us hope that we can still do something and that we still have some control.
“This fear, this guilt we know from psychology is not conducive to engagement, it’s rather the opposite.”[iv]
If you seek out these alternative narratives you can find that, as opposed to the scaremongering in the media, positive change is happening. Although the US did pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, over half of their population lives in areas that are committed to those goals. Alongside this, renewable energy is going from strength to strength with many countries seeing less reliance on fossil fuels all the time. Trillions of dollars are also being divested every year to add to this booming industry.[v] And what’s more, grass roots activism is become more prevalent now, with people finding their voices on wide range of issues. This has a real potential to change the world as people stand up for what they believe, when they now know that corporates and governments will not do it for them.
“One key factor in keeping people enthused in the fight against climate change will be local, collective action…in a group of like-minded people they have the support, accountability, peer pressure and the shared experience of others to help make the change”[vi]
Community projects like 10:10 Climate Action turn local into a force for bigger changes. They also gather these stories of hope to inspire others and maintain momentum in the movement. [vii]. Joining others in such projects is a great way to feel part of something bigger and not so alone in our struggles.
“We need to change the way we talk about climate change.”[viii]
An effective way to approach other people’s disconnection or lack of involvement with environmental problems is changing how we frame such issues. Talking to parents about the effects of pollution on their children’s health or to businesses about energy security makes the problems relevant to them. It’s then not just about polar bears on the other side of the world, but real and tangible.
Another way to overcome the psychological barriers to real environmental change is using the power of our own social networks. This is where our small, individual actions do actually count. Behavioural science has proved that knowing what others around us are doing greatly influences us. When environmental actions or messages come from people inside our social networks, rather than scientists or politicians, they have a much more powerful effect.
"The ripple effect from person to person doing visible, positive social acts becomes central".[ix]
Utilising this could move many people from apathy to action. Using tools like the carbon footprint calculator and sharing your results with friends, family and social media followers may spur others to make their own changes. If you want to measure your footprint try it here: http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/
"Inspiration rather than guilt, then, is the most effective antidote to eco-fatigue.”[x]
I hope then that through my blog, the Boy Wonder brand and it’s social media presence and also the way I live my life, I can inspire others to live a greener, more ethical lifestyle. Maybe you can too?
And lastly, the best reason to stay positive is…“because hope beats fear”[xi]
#climateoptimist #ecofatigue #carbonfootprint
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