Why Climate Emotions Matter

Is reason or emotion more important in driving climate action? Will solutions to mass extinction come from the head or the heart? Or are these binaries themselves part of the problem? While some climate activists argue that we should focus on facts instead of feelings, others know that our intense emotional response to climate chaos is far from irrational. Moreover, feelings like anger, hope, anxiety, and fear profoundly shape our perceptions of the world, and can motivate us to act or shut down and retreat. To better understand how those mental and emotional states relate to environmental crisis and public perceptions of risk, this episode explores why emotions matter in the climate battle.

This segment also looks at the work of Rachel Carson to explore how narrative can rouse the public to action, and draws on insights from evolutionary psychology to examine the ancient relation between mind and environment as expressed in feelings of love and wonder toward the natural world.

(Top image by Bjørn Tore Økland via Unsplash.)

Facing It is a podcast about climate grief and eco anxiety. It explores the psychological toll of climate change, and why our emotional responses are key to addressing this existential threat. In each episode of Facing It, I explore a different way we can harness despair to activate meaningful solutions.


Dr. Jennifer Atkinson is an Associate Professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, Bothell. Her seminars on Eco-Grief & Climate Anxiety have been featured in the New York TimesWashington Post Magazine, the Los Angeles TimesNBC News, the Seattle Times, Grist, the Washington PostKUOW and many other outlets. Jennifer is currently working on a book titled An Existential Toolkit for the Climate Crisis (co-edited with Sarah Jaquette Ray) that offers strategies to help young people navigate the emotional toll of climate breakdown.

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