Laughter can inspire climate change activism
The younger generation has a huge stake in climate change. They are the ones who will be living though the effects of climate change making them one segment of the human population that can bring change in behaviours to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Young people are the ones who buy green products and are worried about climate change but they are not as politically active on the issue as the older generation is.
Looking at the behaviours of the younger generation and how they consume news, you will notice that they get their news information from satirical news programs such as John Oliver and Trevor Noah.
Researchers wanted to test if humour can be a driver to effectuate climate change activism in young people, judging from the news programs that they watch.
Researchers partnered with Second City Works to create a series of online videos that feature a weatherman who forecasts extreme weather patterns caused by climate change in the United States.
Compared to the control video, the humorous video and the ominous video produced the greatest climate change activism intention.
There were three such videos created and each on has a different tone.
The first one was humorous and emphasized the weatherman’s inability to understand climate change in a funny way. The second one was ominous and was created to instil fear as it highlights the devastating effects on climate change. The third video was purely informational and created in a neutral tone and language and presented that information about climate change.
Each video concluded with a recommendation to “Find out what your local officials and the presidential candidates think about climate change. Have your voice heard on Nov. 8.”
A fourth video about income inequality was used as a control video.
The researchers randomly assigned young adults aged 18 to 30 years to one of the three videos on climate change or the control video.
Compared to the control video, the humorous video and the ominous video produced the greatest climate change activism intention. The researchers found that young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 found humour to most effective as they laughed more and found the video funny – they were more inspired to recycle, take action against climate change and believed that climate change was risky.
The fear-inducing video had an effect across the entire age range both in raising awareness of the risks involved in climate change and in motivating adults to take direct action against climate change.
However, the ominous video was not perceived to be as informative about climate change as the neutral informational video.
The intent of this study is not to show that humour is more effective than fear but it shows that humour is another way to inspire young adults to take action against climate change and pursue climate change activism. At the same time fear can be used effectively to raise the awareness of climate change risks which is an added advantage while it is equally effective in motivating people to take action against climate change.
A serious topic like climate change is not something to laugh about but humour has a powerful ability to emotionally appeal to people.
So why not use humour amongst the younger adults to generate the kind of behaviour we need to mitigate the risky effects of climate change.
Source: Journal of Communication
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