In 2016-2017 we carried out an exploratory empirical research project, where the connection between today’s actions motivated by climate change (future) were analyzed among Finnish youth. As a result a model of climate change anticipation was created.
Central to the model were resilience strategies and motivation for certain type of action caused by the individually perceived and socially constructed futures in the context of climate change, embedded in wider social structures of capabilities and social capital. One of the most interesting findings were the stressed importance of “necessity” and “must” as negative yet motivating elements shaping individual thinking and action by the interviewees. Another key finding was the widespread understanding among interviewees that current generations are not key to preventing climate change but rather the future generations. Nevertheless climate change was actively anticipated although the interviewed did not fully understand what were they in fact anticipating (action). Therefore the role of implicit structures of anticipation and trends remain yet to be discussed and analyzed in the given context.
Understanding anticipation (e.g. lifestyle choices, consumer behaviour and intersubjective narratives) motivated by climate change among youth is essential for two key reasons.
Today’s actions are anchored in the idea of the future(s). On the one hand the revealing of anticipatory action allows the examination of different possible futures, desires, fears and motivations in a world deeply transformed by climate change. Anticipation as an analytical framework also sheds light to how media, schools, social movements and established political actors have influenced and shaped the way how youth perceive their individual and collective future and also how sustainable lifestyle choices are connected mostly to the idea of future rather than habit. This is connected to one of the main criticisms among previous work in the study of anticipation: explanatory frameworks of individual action have been strongly past oriented. That is not to say past oriented structures (habit, culture, values etc.) are not essential in shaping individual and collective behaviour, but rather to bring complementary future-oriented structures (capabilities, desires, fears, plans, resilience) to the forefront.
On the other hand it is valuable to better understand what structures shape and influence how the idea of future is constructed coupled with the individuals’ actions and strategies to pursue desired futures. In the context of climate change the question really is: how can we create circumstances where climate change and sustainable lifestyle choices are perceived not only as a threat (contramotivational) and a burden but as a chance to live better, longer, healthier and more sustainable lives together with the attitude that individual choices in the context of larger political transformation matter? Other settings, hypothetically, won’t allow a larger shift towards a low/negative carbon society.