Keynote presentation at PSN 2022

This Friday (September 30) I have the honor to keep a closing keynote presentation (online) at The 5th edition of the Polish Scientific Networks Conference (PSN 2022). Climate Change: Science and Society. Wroclaw, Poland, 28-30 September 2022. My presentation: Hope in the face of climate change: Wishful thinking or a precondition for sustainability transformation? I will talk about, for example, how young people use agency thinking (an important part of the hope concept) to handle conflicts when they try to make more climate-friendly food choices. This is a kind of embodied hope that also can spread to others when they realize that another way of being and acting is possible!

Workshop with teachers in September

On September 15, 2022, I will keep a presentation and workshop together with teachers about the results of my research in this project. This event will take place at “Högskolan i Halmstad”, Halmstad, Sweden, as part of the “tankedsmedjan Ideas” seminar program. I was invited by Dr. Frida Stranne. Also presenting at this event is Frida Berry Eklund.

My part of this event will cover the following topic (in Swedish):

Klimathopp genom praktisk handling och kritisk känslokompetens

En stor andel unga oroar sig för klimatförändringarna. Det behöver inte alltid vara något negativt utan kan vara en drivkraft till handling. Mer bekymmersamt är att många unga också känner att de inte kan påverka klimatfrågan och även upplever känslor av hopplöshet. Maria Ojala pratar om hur lärare hos sina elever kan främja en känsla av påverkansmöjlighet och ett lärande för att bli aktiva gällande större samhällsförändringar relaterade till klimatfrågan.

Maria Ojala

New article about sustainable food consumption

My colleague at CESSS (Center for Environmental and Sustainability Social Science) Carolin Zorell has published an article based on the quantitative data collected in this project. The article’s title is: “Central Persons in Sustainable (Food) Consumption.”

What people eat has become a highly political issue, closely intertwined with public health, environmental concerns, and climate change. Individuals’ consumption decisions tend to be greatly influenced by the people that surround them, and this seems to be especially true when it comes to food. In recent years, alongside close contacts, such as family and friends, a myriad of social influencers have appeared on the screens, sharing opinions on what (not) to eat.

Presenting results from a youth survey conducted in Sweden in 2019 (N = 443), this paper shows that social media have become the primary source of information about food and eating for youths, followed by schools and families. However, primary sources of influence continue to be parents and the family at large. Furthermore, the study shows that it is possible to identify ‘central persons’, i.e., relatively clear-cut groups of people whose food choices—measured as tendency to eat climate friendly—is mirrored by the youths, both in their everyday food preferences and in their broader political awareness as expressed through political consumerism.

A conclusion from this is that certain people can be particularly successful at inspiring larger numbers of other people to engage with healthier and environmentally friendlier (food) consumption in a society.

Zorell, C.V. (2022). Central Persons in Sustainable (Food) Consumption. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(5),3139.

New scientific article combining theories about prefigurative politics and transformative learning

Trying to make climate-friendly food choices in a society that is not always that sustainable can be difficult. In this study I investigate what conflicts a group of late adolescents who make these choices to a relatively high degree experience and how they cope with these. Are there any prefigurative tendencies in their coping?  

The answer is yes! One way to cope to keep up their engagement is to claim that even though their individual actions perhaps do not matter that much, they can be role models for others! They are experimenting with a more sustainable lifestyle and by being forerunners they can inspire others to also try out living in another way. In this way they disrupt the current unsustainable order and pave a way for new, more sustainable, social norms.

Prefigurative politics is also related to practice-based hope. With a prefigurative approach, actors by disrupting unsustainable norms and routines evokes hope in themselves. However, they also become role models for others, instilling hope in them, and thereby they slowly erode the current unsustainable order, that is, they are prefiguring a more sustainable future.

I also discuss how to utilize these prefigurative tendencies to promote transformative learning! Transformative learning is about to learn for taking part in a more profound change of society. I use educational theories about the importance of grounding education in students’ real-life experiences to increase motivation, for example, Biesta’s concept of subjectification.

If you want to read this article, please, follow this link to the full text in Environmental Education Research:

Ojala, M. (2022). Prefiguring sustainable futures? Young people’s strategies to deal with conflicts about climate-friendly food choices and implications for transformative learning. Environmental Education Research. DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2022.2036326

Emotions and climate-friendly food choices – new scientific article published

How should everyday pro-environmental behaviors such as climate-friendly food choices be looked upon in the context of transformational change: As something that hides the need for structural change, or as a starting point for a profound transformation? In the article I try to answer two empirical questions and one theoretical question related to this theme. In an interview study with late adolescents who make climate-friendly food choices to a high degree I explore which emotions they experience in relation to difficulties and conflicts in making these choices. I also explore how they cope with these emotions.

The results show that the youth mainly felt individualized emotions of guilt, helplessness, and irritation and that they coped primarily by distancing themselves from emotions felt, but also sometimes in a problem-focused way and through positive reappraisal. Results are discussed in relation to theories about critical emotional awareness and prefigurative politics. It is argued that by taking account of emotional aspects related to everyday conflicts in a critical manner, issues such as justice could be brought to the surface and transformative learning could be enhanced.

Ojala, M. (2022). How do young people deal with border tensions when making climate friendly food choices? On the importance of critical emotional awareness for learning for societal change. Climate, 10(8), Special Issue: Anthropogenic Climate Change: Social Science Perspectives

Seminar at the Institute for Future Studies in February 2022

I am happy to have been invited to present my research at a seminar at the Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm in February this year. It will be possible to follow the seminar online.

“Hope in the face of climate change: Wishful thinking or an existential must”

February 16, 14.00-15.45. More information about the seminar can be found at this link.

Oral presentation accepted for scientific conference

An oral presentation with the title “Prefiguring sustainable futures? Young people’s strategies to deal with conflicts about climate-friendly food choices and implications for transformative climate change education” has been accepted for the conference WEEC 2022 (World Environment Education Congress). I hope that I will be able to visit Prague this spring. However, the Covid-19 situation might prevent me from visiting the conference in person. Hope not!!

Prefiguring sustainable futures? Young people’s strategies to deal with conflicts about climate-friendly food choices and implications for transformative climate change education. WEEC 2022, Prague, Czech Republic. March 2022. Accepted for oral presentation.

Article in German published

A popular scientific article (for a professional public) about my research has been published in German (translated from English) in the journal Report Psychologie:

 Junge Menschen in der Klimakrise: Bewältigung, Engagement und Wohlbefinden. Report Psychologie, 46 (9), 28-30.

In this article I touch upon the current project by presenting research about young people and felt ambivalence in relation to pro-environmental behaviors like climate-friendly food choices. I also present different coping strategies that the young use to cope with this ambivalence.