The benefits of anger in the face of the ecological crisis

 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)

The emotions we feel about the ecological crisis are not without consequences. Whether it’s anxiety, sadness or anger, environmental degradation generally leaves no one indifferent. Until now, these emotions have often been perceived as negative, or even as potential sources of psychological suffering. However, according to certain theories of emotions, these feelings could in fact be powerful levers, facilitating the implementation of pro-environmental behaviours, thus contributing to the necessary changes in favour of transition.

Until now, scientific research has focused mainly on eco-anxiety (anxiety about the ecological crisis). However, other emotions related to the ecological crisis, such as sadness and anger, are also frequently reported by citizens in their daily lives. However, the possible virtues (or harms) of these so-called negative emotions had only been scratched at by the scientific community, via online surveys that failed to take into account the ways in which these emotions can vary in our daily lives.

A team of scientists from UCLouvain, led by Alexandre Heeren, professor at the Institute for Research in Psychological Sciences at UCLouvain, therefore decided to carry out a longitudinal study involving a hundred people, followed for 2 months.

Specifically, during this period, the scientists tracked and analyzed the volunteers’ emotions (sadness, anger, anxiety) on a daily basis, in relation to the ecological crisis on the one hand, and independently of the climate context on the other, as well as the links between these emotions and the implementation of virtuous behaviors towards the environment. This daily monitoring of participants was carried out via a mobile application. A process that enabled UCLouvain scientists to get as close as possible to people’s daily lives.

Results - The data are unanimous: feeling angry about the ecological crisis is the only emotion to present a real beneficial value over time. Compared to sadness or anxiety about the ecological crisis, anger clearly appears to be the only emotion felt apart from the ecological crisis, capable of inducing radical behavioral changes over time and in people’s daily lives. Examples - Anger has led some volunteers to modify their mobility choices, and has had an impact on their consumption patterns and/or diet.