A article published by the Yale School of Public Health recently caught my eye for its focus on collective action as a buffer against climate woes.
The article describes a study involving nearly 300 university students in the United States. The study found that climate change anxiety was linked to depression in students who did not participate in group activities to address the issue of climate change. Group activities mentioned were things like community outreach, peer education and participation in advocacy groups.
Reading this made me reflect on my own experience with climate anxiety and what I have learned through The look of tomorrow. My experience aligns anecdotally with findings from Yale researchers – learning more about innovations to help restore our climate is invigorating, hopeful, empowering, and surprisingly, dare I say it: fun. I hear this also from our individual travel customers, travel business partners and interns. Acting in collaboration with others is not only helpful – we are able as a group to focus and generate momentum for a set of climate solutions that we would not be able to do alone – it also makes a person hopeful and optimistic.
So if this is so great, then I wonder why hasn’t collective action already been called to solve the climate crisis?
One reason is that collective action can be very difficult. Reading the Yale study, it also reminded me of the article Tim Chester wrote for Adventure Travel News in May 2022: “The power of collective action to tackle the climate crisis”. Tim’s article traced a bit of the history of collective action in solving systemic issues that affect many people. Economists have struggled for decades with the usefulness of collective action – some pointing to its failures, and others pointing to its unique successes – especially with environmental problems. Mancur Olsen‘s research was very influential and included models showing that unless individuals are coerced (for example, through regulation), they will not act in favor of a common interest.
On the other hand, the Nobel Prize by Elinor Ostrom The work offered an alternative to Olsen’s notion that the only way to solve common resource problems was for external authorities to regulate. Her work has advocated for the viability of local collectives working under the oversight of local, regional and national actors to solve complex environmental problems. Reading Ostrom’s work, I imagine we in the adventure travel industry relate easily to her: unlike her contemporaries whose work focused on modeling, she began with examples concrete, examining communal property in the grasslands and forests of Switzerland and Japan, irrigation communities in Spain and Nepal, and the fisheries of Maine and Indonesia.
Tomorrow’s Air, and the collective action we’re gathering, is something of a test case perhaps for Ostrom’s work (and more recently too Jouni Paavola in chapter 14 of this journal) whose research and findings suggest that “polycentric” approaches (vs exclusively top-down regulation) are needed to solve an environmental problem of the magnitude we face today.
I am of course determined to see the Tomorrow’s Air collective succeed in educating a large community of travelers about climate-friendly travel and in mobilizing meaningful investment to help scale up the work of climate innovators like the pioneer of direct climate capture. air Climeworksbiochar producer Pacific Biocharand enhanced aging provider Eion, but I’m just as curious about the social experiment we’re having together. Only time will tell which theory we end up proving!
If you’re interested in more class action success stories, head over to Tomorrow’s Air where the team recently launched a new series featuring local leaders ofm across the world receiving support through OneEarth. OneEarth is a non-profit organization that seeks to foster the success of leaders in collective action to solve the climate crisis. They identify collective action leaders working with groundbreaking science, inspiring media and an innovative approach to climate philanthropy.