Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According sustainability PHD candidate Barbara Jane Davy, public nature veneration rituals and dedicating time to appreciating ancestors help people stick to the climate friendly life choices which deep down they really want.
How gratitude for nature can rein in your existential angst about climate change
April 8, 2021 2.24am AEST
Barbara Jane Davy
PhD candidate, environment, resources and sustainability, University of Waterloo
We’re all going to die. This is the repeated warning about climate change in some media: if we don’t change our ways we face an existential threat.
So why haven’t we got a policy solution in place? Reducing emissions is in our best interest, but despite widespread popular support for government action, implementing policies and programs continues to be difficult. Social science research shows that the more we hear about climate change, the less inclined we are to take action.
However, participating in rituals that inspire gratitude for nature can reduce the desire to over-consume — and thus reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change. My research indicates that unconscious motivations and ritual practices may be more effective in shifting our behaviour than rational argumentsin the fight against climate change.
When talking about environmental concerns, avoiding the use of economic language such as costs and drawing attention to gratitude can help keep environmental values top of mind instead of triggering the psychological effects that stimulate consumerism.
Expressing appreciation for what we have been given and publicly sharing our gratitude inspires a sense of contentment that makes people want to give in turn. Practices of praising ancestors (ancestor veneration) are surprisingly pro-environmental because they prompt people to want to pass on what they have been given rather than consume more themselves.
Some of the most fanatical climate activists I have encountered were raised as Christians, but somehow lost their faith. They cling to the increasingly ritualised climate quasi-religion, in a futile attempt to fill the God shaped hole in their lives.