New research from Earth Rangers, Ipsos & mental health experts shows rising climate concerns among children can be healthy with the right support
TORONTO, June 02, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --
- Research led by Earth Rangers shows some levels of “eco-anxiety,” or concern for the environment, can actually be healthy when it leads to eco-action
- The children’s conservation organization is calling on parents to be ‘all ears’ with new campaign to talk to kids about their worries and help the whole family act for the planet
Today, Earth Rangers released new research to provide insights and guidance on the risks posed by eco-anxiety and solutions to help turn these worries for the environment into actions. The white paper – Anxious for Action: Channeling Children’s Environmental Concerns Into Empowerment – outlines practical ways parents and caregivers can help children build resilience, create a sense of agency, and have fun at the same time.
“Children are on the front lines of climate change,” said Tovah Barocas, co-author of the paper and the President of Earth Rangers. “Health experts have been calling for a better understanding of how the global climate crisis impacts not only their physical but also mental health. Given our long-term vision of creating a generation of conservationists, it was critical to dig deeper on what this means for kids – and their adults.” While public conversation around eco-anxiety has been on the rise, most academic research has been focused on the negative impacts of eco-anxiety among adults and older youth. This white paper presents a rare study focused on school-age children and effective solutions to address eco-anxiety.
“Eco-anxiety is not an official diagnosable disorder, however, it does affect children in very real ways. This includes feelings of fear, hopelessness, and despair,” explains Katie Hayes, co-author of the white paper and climate change and mental health researcher. “It is important to research and understand the ways in which we can help children find effective strategies to cope with these feelings.”
In partnership with Ipsos Canada, Earth Rangers conducted a survey of 4,000 Canadians in 2020 to capture attitudes and actions regarding environmental issues by children and their parents. Survey participants included Earth Rangers members and their parents, and general population children in the same age cohort and their parents. Dr. Hayes then interpreted the finding within the context of existing global literature on eco-anxiety to generate new insights.
A key research finding is that some level of concern for the environment can actually be useful and healthy when it leads to environmental action. As seen in earlier studies, children who were hopeful and concerned about climate change were more likely to take environmental action. In contrast, children who felt climate despair were less likely to take action. This is further evidenced in the Earth Ranger survey. Approximately 44% of Earth Rangers members (vs. 26% for non-members) expressed worry about climate change. However, 78% of Earth Rangers members felt more empowered to act on environmental issues (vs. 54% for non-members).
To support parents in channeling their children’s eco-anxiety into empowerment and help them discover their agency to act, Earth Rangers is asking caregivers: “Got Your Ears On?” By visiting www.earthrangers.com/earson, families can choose their favourite pair of animal ears that can be attached to a headband. When children put these ears on, it signals to their adults a desire to talk about their worries about the planet. Parents can wear the ears to show they’re listening and ready to help the whole family start a fun new eco-activity.
Additional Findings & the 5 E’s to Drive Eco-Action:
- Empowering kids means empowering the whole family. Research shows when children grow concerned about issues like climate change and are spurred to take environmental action, they also prompt their parents to feel more empowered and take action. This is called the “passthrough effect.”
- Earth Rangers’ survey revealed that not only are Earth Rangers members significantly more empowered to act on environmental issues, but Earth Rangers parents are as well (60% vs. 43% for parents of non-members).
- Empathy: Provide ample space and opportunities to discuss climate change and other environmental concerns, and allow kids to identify and express their feelings about these issues.
- Education: Offer opportunities to learn about climate change and suggest actions that kids and families can take to protect the natural environment.
- Environmental Stewardship: Find opportunities to spend more time outdoors. This will help foster a deeper connection to nature and spark new, tangible ways that kids can protect the natural environment.
- Excitement: Make conservation activities and learning about the natural environment something to look forward to for kids.
- Empowerment: Give kids ways to teach their parents and other adults how to protect nature and become leaders in their households.
“The study results are intuitive and speak to the resilience and positivity of children. As adults, we often see ourselves as teachers and guides for children as they grow and develop. Yet this study suggests that children’s engagement in Earth Rangers may influence their parents’ understanding of environmental issues and their willingness to engage in environmental action. Earth Rangers is an example of an environmental organization that fosters environmental stewardship in children and their parents by educating them about the realities of climate change and empowering them to act.” - Dr. Anna Gunz, Paediatrician, Children’s Environmental Health Clinic
“We have proof now of what we might have guessed: the suffering of the natural world is most assuredly not just the province of adults. The damage to all the miraculous and magnificent animals and plants and places – is having a profound toll on our children. Our challenge is big, but the mission is simple. Let’s give kids—and their grownups— the power to act.” - Dr. Lise Van Susteren, Psychiatrist, Climate Psychiatry Alliance
“It can be very challenging to measure the impact of outreach and education programs, and one of the fundamental reasons why we embarked on this research. Our research was consistent in showing Earth Rangers is effective and I hope this work has helped adults see that the job isn't to make children’s concerns go away – it's to help channel them into action.” - Steve Levy, co-author of the white paper and senior leader at Ipsos Canada
- Executive Summary and the full Anxious for Action: Channeling Children’s Environmental Concerns Into Empowerment white paper can be downloaded here.
- ‘Got Your Ears On?’ materials and parents’ guide can be downloaded here.
- ‘Got Your Ears On?’ photos, campaign videos and b-roll of kids and families can be downloaded here.