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  • Writer's pictureKrista Kurth, Ph.D.

Get to the Heart of Your Motivation to Act on Climate

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

How to draw on your emotions to support you.

Taking action on climate amid our busy lives can be challenging. We need strong motivation to keep at it, particularly in the face of setbacks and discouraging news.

For some people, facts and information can lead them to action. However, I have found that getting in touch with how we feel about the climate emergency is the most powerful way to engage in the long run. We need a way of sustaining our motivation, and emotions help us do that.

I like to think of emotions as energy that moves us.

Personally, I have a whole range of feelings that influence what I do - from fear to compassion and love.

  • I am afraid that my children and grandchildren and their global peers will live a much more difficult life than my generation.

  • I worry that if we don't turn the tide on the crisis, future generations and all the living creatures on the planet will suffer greatly from natural disasters, and will struggle to find food and water.

  • I'm angry at politicians who don't take climate action, large companies that make major GHG emissions, the fossil fuel industry and the banks that fund it for putting the entire world at risk for power and profits.

  • I feel the loss of biodiversity and grieve for the destruction of natural habitats, homes, and human lives.

  • My heart goes out to those who have lost everything, are displaced by floods, hurricanes, and fires, or are harmed the most by climate. Typically, these recipients of climate injustice are those who have contributed little to nothing to the crisis.

  • And underneath all these feelings is my deepest motivator - a sense of love for all life and a deep desire for the planet and everything on it to thrive equally and sustainably.

Emotional Impact

As I have drawn on each of these feelings to motivate me at different times over the past few years, I've noticed that each emotion has a different impact on me and those with whom I interact.

Some of my feelings, like fear, worry, and anger, deplete my energy. They also can end up pushing others away because of the intensity and flavor of my communication.

While others, like grief, compassion and love, often lead me to interact with others in a more open way. In those situations, we all end up feeling more connected and ready to engage further.

I have learned that coming from a more heart-centered place enables me more easily to create a vision of how I want the world to be and then work towards it. As the image at the top of the post suggests, if we can imagine a thriving planet, we can create it together.

Whenever I find myself stuck in fear or anger, I pause, accept what I'm experiencing, then take a deep breathe. Once I've exhaled, I look around me at nature and reconnect with my love for the earth. Then I focus on where I feel the sensation of love in my body. Sometimes I discover a subtle vibrationin the center of my chest. Other times I find it in my belly, in my head, or, if it's well hidden, in my right big toe. Wherever I locate it, I focus on it and let it expand until I imagine my whole body is filled with the color and energy of love. Reconnected in this way, my compassion and desire to act easily follows.

When you cultivate love, it gives you clarity and compassion for life, and your actions happen in accordance with that. Jon Kabat-Zinn

Find Your Emotional Motivation

I encourage you to take a moment now to complete the following reflection exercise. It will help you identify which emotions you can draw on for support. There are no wrong answers. We are each unique in how our feelings move us.

  1. Recall the range of emotions you feel when you read or listen to the news on the impacts of the climate crisis.

  2. Which emotional responses to the climate crisis give you the most sustained energy?

  3. Which emotions help you engage most effectively with others?

  4. Which one (s) are the strongest source of motivation for you and why.

  5. How will you use your emotions to support sustained climate action?

  6. Write down your responses so you can come back later when you need a reminder of the sources of your motivation. Who knows? It might even inspire you to create a visual or, like Drew Dellinger, a poetic representation of your answers.

A Poem Excerpt

it’s 3:23 in the morning

and I’m awake

because my great great grandchildren

won’t let me sleep

my great great grandchildren ask me in dreams

what did you do while the planet was plundered?

what did you do when the earth was unraveling?

surely you did something when the seasons started failing?

as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?

...what did you do once you knew?

From "Hieroglyphic Stairway" by Drew Dellinger


I’d love to know what’s grabbing your attention or what questions are running through your mind. Let me know in the comments section. I’ll respond in one of my blog posts.

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All the best,

Krista / Eco-Omi

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