Sense of Loss and Hopelessness
Working with environmental issues and being aware of the changes that are occurring on our planet can be an inspiring process but it can also make a person feel depressed. Watching some of the damages and predict what the future will look like can leave a person with feelings of anger, frustration and despair. It is difficult to change people’s perceptions and behavior and this may further enhance the feelings of hopelessness.
Yet being resilient to the “gloom and doom” is important and psychology and thinking skills may not only help a person to deal with these issues but also to provide insights into the underlying reasons for some of the human behaviours that have a negative impact on biodiversity and ecosystems. Psychologists may provide insights into factors that are driving consumption as well as barriers to engage people in making a contribution towards creating a better foundation upon which to build our societies.
Changes in the environment and climate changes are usually not sudden, rather they are a slow process where the quality of life is degrading over time. The uncertainty and the roller-coaster ride where one day the changes seems like the end to life as we know, while the next day they seem like exaggerations, creates an uncertainty about the future. And this uncertainty can have a negative impact on a person’s psychological health.
We have a preference for short-term gain, we try to fix things here and now. Yet, the effects our actions have on the climate and the environment are in the future. This means that it is difficult for us to make the changes. Social psychology research suggest that telling people about the benefits for changing their behaviour does not necessarily change their behaviour. A more fruitful approach is the influence of other people.
So if we build communities where people are recycling or reducing their consumption of certain products more and more people will eventually be influenced and the chances are that they also will make better choices.
Of course, not only psychologists can make a contribution to discussions about the environment. Other social scientists can provide insights into human, group as well as organizational behaviour, philosophers can provide insights into underlying ideas about the importance of nature, and artists about the aesthetic value of nature. By working together across disciplines a broader platform upon which ideas and solutions can be developed are created and we increase the chances that more people will become involved and that they will actually chance their behaviour.
We may gain inspiration and enhance our well-being by interacting with nature, but we also need to seriously explore questions such as “What is the best way to motivate people to change behaviours that have a negative impact on the environment?” Telling people that their behaviour is bad is not an approach that is going to make people change.
We need to do things together that shows people why we care and love nature.