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Young People and Climate Change: ecoanxiety, hope, and well-being

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posted on 2024-02-19, 22:51 authored by Jennifer HockeyJennifer Hockey

Some of the most vocal climate activists on the twenty-first century's current world climate stage are as young as nine (Lai, 2022). These young activists challenge politicians, industry leaders and others on the effects of fossil fuel use and plastic pollution and champion multiple environmentalism dimensions. Transdisciplinary research about young people and climate activism raises the experience of ecoanxiety, which many young people encounter. Growing academic interest in ecoanxiety, the ‘anxiety related to a changing and uncertain environment’ (Albrecht, 2011), emphasises the significance of characteristics such as uncertainty, unpredictability, and uncontrollability (Pihkala, 2020). Critics of this framing argue that ecoanxiety places the burden to act on the individual, which individualises what are collective responses to a complex problem (Hickman et al., 2021). For this reason, some researchers advocate promoting hope to motivate engagement and foster well-being instead of focusing on young people's management of ecoanxiety to cope with climate change (Ojala, 2018). The thesis contributes to this literature by examining what role hope plays in relation to the ecoanxiety young people aged 18-35 experience in response to climate change. The study conducted in Australia in 2022 may have limitations if applied to other countries. Data is analysed from ten young climate activists involving an individual initial in-depth interview about their engagement in climate politics, the obstacles they encounter to their activism, their experiences of ecoanxiety, and what role hope plays in motivating and sustaining their engagement. An Autophotography and photo-elicitation exercise on modes of private activism followed, which included a second individual in-depth interview. The findings indicate that what is explained as ecoanxiety is better understood as a range of emotional responses to climate change, including feeling overwhelmed, rage and grief. The range of emotional responses is evident in young people’s participation in diverse and creative forms of activism that engage with calls for urgent action on climate change, suggesting they deploy hope in anticipation of a better future. The thesis determines that hope plays a significant role in the emotions categorised as ecoanxiety in young activists' climate politics and that focusing on their deployment (bringing into effective action) of hope is critical for activism efficacy, a sense of empowerment and subsequent well-being.


Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introduction -- Chapter Two: Literature Review and Theoretical Framework -- Chapter Three: Methodology -- Chapter Four: Mapping the contours of ecoanxiety – where does hope lie? -- Chapter Five: Public and Private Activism -- Chapter Six: When the private becomes public – political consumerism -- Chapter Seven: Discussion and Conclusion -- References -- Appendices

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Master of Research (Sociology)

Department, Centre or School

School of Social Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Tobias Fattore


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




94 pages

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