Green Libraries Week: The power of imagining a better future

Submitted by Rania Papasozomenou, Business Lecturer (School of Leadership and Management) on Mon, 10/02/2023 - 15:53

Dr. Ourania Papasozomenou, Business Lecturer in the School of Leadership and Management and Assistant Editor for the Journal of Ecological Economics, provides our first blog post in celebration of Green Libraries Week - read on for Rania's insight into combating climate change and taking action...

"It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, when in comes to the state of our planet.

Young people and children across the globe are anxious and afraid about the future, because of our failure to stop and adapt to climate change and ecosystem collapse. Almost 60% of children and young people are extremely worried, according to the Lancet. Adults are not immune to that feeling either. Global studies show that most adults also report feelings of uncertainty, fear, sadness, hopelessness, despair. Faced with the bleak outlook for our planet’s (and ours) health and a deep sense of lack of control, more and more people tend to feel paralysed or even depressed. There is a term for this sense of powerlessness -it’s called climate anxiety, or eco-anxiety.  

The good news is that there is a way to fight eco-anxiety. By taking action. By working for a better future. And most importantly by believing that we can.  

If we are to give our children a chance, if we are to give the planet a chance while safeguarding our mental health, we need to start by activating one little thing. Just one. Everything else will follow. We only need to activate our hopeful imagination.  

Behavioural scientists, philosophers, economists and legal scholars are in agreement in what motivates human action.  We act and alter our behaviour when we have a good enough reason to do so. Fear is short-lived and rarely results in long-lasting changes. So even though we might refrain from buying a certain product when we first hear it is harmful, we are very like to revert back to buying it after some time when our feelings of being threatened have subsided.  

The most effective and enduring motivator is imagining a hopeful and better future.  As David Graever said: “if there is anything essentially human, it’s the capacity to imagine things and bring them into being”.  

We know there is a problem (knowledge) the next step is to believe that it’s possible to effectuate change (agency). The most important step is to imagine a better alternative (imagination).  Only then we can act to reduce climate anxiety, and indeed produce a positive future (action).  

I invite you to take 5 minutes to imagine how a positive future would look like. What would it take for the future to look good and inviting?  

Have you imagined it? Good. 

So now that you’ve imagined the future, map out how you can get there.  

Would having a shorter commute to work do the trick? What kind of job do you have and how much time do you put into it? What would you eat and where would your food come from? Would having tight bonds to your community help? How does your home look like? What do you do in your spare time?  

Now, we are halfway there. We know there is a problem, we know we can solve it, we imagine how the solution would look like.  

All we have to do now is act on it."

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