Although many young people think climate change is an important societal issue, studies indicate that pessimism, anxiety and fear are common. In #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek2022 we explore how we approach this challenge at Solutions for the Planet.
How do we communicate with young people about sustainability issues? How do we find ways to instil hope? Will doom-and-gloom messages scare people into action, or cause them to give up? Will emphasizing hope put people in a can-do frame of mind, or reduce their sense of urgency?
How we communicate with young people on these important issues is as important as what we communicate. Many young people are very aware (in some instances more aware than adults) of the current environmental crisis. However, in order to help students feel hope for the future, we must think about the language we use. On our Big Ideas Day, we spend a lot of time exploring the issues but in order not to feed what is often termed eco-anxiety through these activities, we bookmark them with helpful (and hopeful quotes). We open with a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein.
We frame the part of the day where we are looking at issues with intention.
We are supposed to be exploring issues, we need to understand the challenges and our feeling about the problems in the world right now and this is a safe space to do just that. In order to come up with the best possible solutions, exploring the issues is exactly where we need to be. Get comfortable and clear on the problem and then we can move with more clarity, confidence and creativity into the Solution.
The theme of #ChildrensMentalHealthAwarenessWeek2022 this week is growing together. Through the environment we create on Big Ideas Days, a space is co-created where young people (and adults too!) feel safe and confident exploring huge global issues and, importantly, their feelings about these issues and growing together along the way.
We also frame the part of the day where we are looking at issues through the lens of constructive hope. Studies have been undertaken considering how to communicate with young people around worrying societal issues, in particular, climate change (Source: Marlon J.R. et al. “How Hope and Doubt Affect Climate Change Mobilization.” Frontiers in Communication 2019). These studies identified two different kinds of climate hope: constructive hope, meaning the belief that people will take actions to avert climate disaster; and false hope or wishful thinking, a belief that some outside force such as God, nature, or technology will solve the problem.
People who have constructive hope tend to believe that they can make a difference and that their individual action against climate change can be effective. This is what we strive for and through our feedback, we see that 89% of students believe young people, like them, can individually make a difference in sustainability issues
Our focus on constructive hope, human connections, positive solutions, education for positive action and the use of the language of possibilities makes Solutions for the Planet’s educational programmes critical to ensuring positive, hopeful and action-orientated young people now and in the future.
Jen Baughan & Claire Fitton
CEO Youth Insights Manager
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd