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Middlebury College

Publication Date

Fall 2019

Program Name

Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action


There are many psychological impacts that come with being environmentally active. The impacts that people tend to focus more on recently are the negative impacts, such as eco-anxiety or activist burnout. Much less attention is given to the potential positive impacts associated with being environmentally active. Thus, this research aims to look at whether there are positive psychological impacts of being environmentally active, and if there are, what specifically about being environmentally active creates those positive impacts. This is important because, if there are positive impacts of being environmentally active, they could be used to motivate people to become more environmentally active, as well as to prevent or mitigate activism burnout.

For this study, I conducted 19 in-depth interviews and collected 203 surveys over a four week period. I interviewed both dedicated environmental activists, as well as random survey respondents. The results of these interviews and surveys suggested that the psychological impacts of being environmentally active are primarily positive. Factors of being environmentally active that might influence these positive impacts are connection to and more time spent in nature, healthier diet, supportive community, and feelings of meaning and purpose in one’s life. The results also suggest that being environmentally active could possibly mitigate the negative psychological impacts that come with being environmentally aware, and that the positive aspects of being environmentally active may be more motivating for people than the negative aspects. Lastly, in terms of burnout, it appears as though activists combat burnout by creating more balance in their lives between their activism work and self-care. However, the results also suggest that there may be ways to incorporate self-care into activism work so that they are no longer separate entities. Thus, making activists more aware of the positive psychological impacts of being environmentally active could potentially help them find ways to practice self-care within their activism work.


Australian Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Community Psychology | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Studies | Multicultural Psychology | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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