Climate change has become a hot topic over the past few years. The consequences of humans pursuing industrialization and technological advances at the expense of everything else have become painfully clear, particularly since the pandemic swept the globe. As we were forced to confine ourselves to our homes and think about the consequences of our actions, one thing became clear: the planet is suffering, and we have to make a change. Although this truth was obvious to some of us, the number of enlightened individuals continues to grow by the day. However, what have we done in light of the recent enlightenment?
When you look at our individual efforts, you’ll either become overly inspired or underwhelmed. You’ll find individuals who take the topic very seriously and try their best to mitigate the effects of climate change on a personal level. They conduct their own research, try to understand their role, and make active efforts to decrease their carbon footprint. Unfortunately, you’ll also find those who make no changes whatsoever. Whether this is due to ignorance, neglect, or designation, the result is the same: they don’t do anything for the sake of the planet.
This curious course of taking action or refraining from doing anything emanates from a lot of factors. So why do people react differently in the face of an impending disaster? Even if some people take proactive action, is that enough to save the planet from climate change? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the different mindsets regarding climate change and the resulting behavior.
Different Types of Individual Mindsets
People have different mindsets, and that’s one of our greatest strengths as human beings. However, that may also be our greatest weakness when failing to adapt to the changing environment is a direct result of our unwavering mindsets.
When it comes to environmental and climate change, some of us believe that we must act while others remain unconcerned. Considering that there is a scientific consensus that we’re responsible for climate change, and despite the fact that a lot of people are concerned about it, we’re still torn between our actions and beliefs. According to a study done by researchers at Charles Sturt University, they found out that there are 6 different mindsets in the Australian population toward climate change.
These mindsets go as follows:
- The first segment is alarmed. They’re convinced of the causes of climate change and are conscious of its detrimental consequences on the planet. These well-informed individuals try to make any changes they can and urge the authorities to implement a national response.
- The second segment consists of concerned individuals. Although they’re convinced of the seriousness of the issue, they’re not taking any personal measures to mitigate the problem. Instead, they only urge the authorities to make political and national changes.
- The third segment is cautious. They believe there is a problem, although they don’t feel its seriousness as much as the previous two segments. They don’t feel its effect on them as individuals, so they don’t have any sense of urgency regarding the issue.
- The fourth segment consists of disengaged individuals, those who don’t know much about the issue due to a lack of information.
- The fifth segment consists of skeptical individuals who are unsure whether climate change is real or are unaware of its effects. Those who believe in climate change argue that it is occurring due to natural factors that have nothing to do with human intervention.
- Then comes the dismissive segment. These individuals don’t believe that climate change is happening or that it is a threat at all. They’re often actively opposing the individual and national efforts in doing anything about the topic.
How Education and Living Standards Affect an Individual’s Mindset
When you look into the factors influencing an individual’s mindset, the first thing that comes to light is the difference in education level. Those who hold higher levels of education are more likely to believe in the issue and take proactive action. Those who merely believe in climate change and personal responsibility may take certain levels of action, such as turning off the lights and TV when they’re not using them. Meanwhile, those with a higher education level will take a step further and display their environmental credentials by buying more sustainable products. Meanwhile, they’re less likely to switch off the lights or use public transportation than less educated individuals.
This observation is curious, seeing as how highly educated people relate their proactivity to environmentally motivated principles, and that’s what drives them to take action. They’re ready to pay more to satisfy these principles, as long as it doesn’t cause them any inconvenience in their personal lives. Perhaps this behavior is also affected by factors other than environmental concerns, like personal resources and income. People who earn less money try to take small actions, even if it’s inconvenient for them, while those who are wealthier take action as long as it doesn’t interfere with their lifestyle.
How an Individual’s Mindset Affects Their Behavior
However, these are all speculations. To better understand how an individual’s mindset affects their behavior, let’s take a look at all the factors that come into play. The most prominent factors could be the following:
1. An Individual’s Psychological Construct
For starters, a person’s psychological construct plays a big role in how they perceive climate change. Studies show that there’s a strong correlation between a person’s psychological construct, which is displayed in the form of feelings and beliefs, and how they behave toward environmental issues. A person who believes in the urgency of the problem and feels its impact on a personal level is more likely to display responsible environmental behavior, whether it’s displayed in their attitude or intentions.
2. Growth vs Fixed Mindsets
Another factor that greatly impacts an individual’s behavior is the kind of mindset they have. Here, we refer to a mindset in terms of fixed or growing. A fixed mindset is one that is difficult to change; these individuals limit their mindset to what they know and believe and are unwilling to make any paradigm changes. Meanwhile, those with a growth mindset are flexible in their beliefs. They are willing to change their perceptions and improve their conduct if they are confronted with compelling proof.
3. Personal Views on Climate Change
Thanks to globalization and the abundance of information available, our knowledge of climate change has risen significantly over the past decade. More people have become aware of the issue and regard it as a major threat to the planet and humanity. Despite that, a large number of people are still in denial about the seriousness of the issue. This difference in reaction comes back to an individual’s personal views on climate change, which, again, could be affected majorly by whether they have a fixed or growth mindset.
Taking Action on Climate Change
Looking at it from an individual level, there are various kinds of pro-environmental conduct a person can exhibit. A person can be direct in their behavior and seek public engagement, such as when they protest about environmental issues or a lack of national response. They can be indirect in their approach, like opting to pay extra taxes for pro-environmental causes. They can also limit their behavior to private participation, as in the case of recycling their waste or reducing their carbon footprint in their daily routines. Those with fixed mindsets are more likely to resist any kind of pro-environmental behavior, often showing skepticism towards others’ efforts. Meanwhile, those with a growth mindset will be the first to change their behavior and take action, given that they’re presented with scientific evidence that motivates them to make a change.
Is Individual Effort Enough to Make a Change?
Is it enough for an individual to make conscious efforts to have an environmental impact? Although their efforts help, it’s unfortunate to admit that it’s not enough. For starters, the majority of the population is torn when it comes to aligning their beliefs with their actions, even if they understand the severity of the issue. This means that there has to be a higher power that enforces policies and protocols to mitigate the issue of climate change.
For pro-environmental disposition to have an impact, we must address the issue at its root and adopt holistic solutions. Brands need to change their product designs to be more sustainable, and governments must implement policies that make eco-products affordable for the public majority. It’s not enough to make individual efforts; there have to be systemic changes that offer better resources and better tackle the issues of recycling and overfilled landfills. Meanwhile, there have to be strict and clear restrictions on the media and their insidious efforts at greenwashing, which only serves to deceive their customers into thinking they’re being environmentally proactive.
Addressing climate change has been a hot topic for the past decade, but it’s disappointing to see the result of this long-running debate. When it comes to individuals, the variability in their mindsets, education levels, and behaviors plays a big role in whether they take proactive action or not. This leads to only one conclusion: the solution needs to start with governmental and systemic changes that force brands, individuals, and the media to take positive environmental action.