Enjoyment or Environment?

Enjoyment or Environment?

Picture of my first Climate Conversation!

A few months ago, I attended my first ever climate conversation. Climate conversation [1] is a local non-profit organization that aims to build support for climate action, one conversation at a time! It was an informal session where a group of us (strangers, acquaintances and friends), with varying views on climate change, came together to have a conversation about climate change.

A concept that I took away from my first ever climate conversation was the idea of personal enjoyment versus environmental responsibility. When we were sharing our struggles with environmental action, a friend brought up this idea and my eyes immediately lit up. She just put the issue that I have been contemplating about into five words.

When one thinks of conservation behaviour, frugality comes into mind. [2] This is no surprise, considering how our climate crisis can be attributed to human’s excessive consumerist lifestyle. However, frugality is often seen as arduous. This brings us back to the perception of how embarking on an environmental lifestyle involves sacrifices to our well-being or personal enjoyment. [3]

If so, then why do environmentalists choose to live the way they do? Well, this might be due to the different concepts of well-being.

Hedonic well-being: the pursuit of pleasure

Eudaimonic well-being: the pursuit of meaning

Our connection to our natural environment is likely linked significantly to eudaimonic well-being. [4] For people who derive happiness from fighting for a cause that is greater than themselves, the “sacrifices” of a pro-environment lifestyle may be a form of eudaimonic personal enjoyment as well.[5] The positive relationship between environmentally responsible actions and well-being has been reinforced by various studies. [6] 

When people find out that I am vegetarian for environmental reasons, many will ask me: why  would you “restrain” yourself from eating meat? When I found out that I could no longer eat my favourite snack (gummy bears) as it contained gelatin, I questioned myself: why do I “restrain” myself from these simple pleasures? These “restraints” can be hard at times despite the scientific evidence on how pro-environment behavior can lead to improvements in our well-being. Why am I still vegetarian? Well, I know that my environmental journey will not be an easy one and I am fighting for a cause larger than myself.

To answer the question of personal enjoyment or environmental responsibility, perhaps we should ask ourselves: Are we in the pursuit of pleasure or meaning?

 

References

[1]https://climateconversations.sg/our-story

[2]https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/83705/De_Young%2C_R._%281990-1991%29_Some_Psychological_Aspects_of_Living_Lightly%2C_JES%2C_20%2C_3%2C_215-227.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

[3]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307569164_Social_Well-Being_and_Pro-Environmental_Behavior_A_Cross-Lagged_Panel_Design

[4]https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-019-00118-6

[5]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307569164_Social_Well-Being_and_Pro-Environmental_Behavior_A_Cross-Lagged_Panel_Design

[6]https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11205-004-8207-8


8 thoughts on “Enjoyment or Environment?

  1. Hi! That’s so awesome that you learned so much from the climate conservation. I would love to attend another one!
    I was wondering if there are any ways we can couple hedonic and eudaimonic well-being? Maybe through your experience transiting to a vegetarian, were there any experiences that of both hedonic and eudaimonic well-being working hand in hand?

    -Bryan

    1. Hi Bryan!
      Thank you for your insightful questions! As for the coupling of hedonic and eudaemonic well-being in my journey to becoming a vegetarian, I would say that what sustained my conviction to cut out meat was mainly eudaemonic well-being. This is because at the start, it was inevitable that I would have cravings. If I had succumbed to those cravings, it would have led to an increase in my hedonic well-being. This is not to say the hedonic well-being is not important as studies have found that a combination of both hedonic and eudaemonic well-being brings one the greatest happiness. (source: https://www.internationaljournalofwellbeing.org/index.php/ijow/article/view/80)
      – Rachel

  2. Hi Rachel!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking read! While reading this post, I was reminded of the phrase “hedonic treadmill” (also known as hedonic adaptation), which suggests that people go back to their original emotional state despite experiencing positive or negative things (source: https://positivepsychology.com/hedonic-treadmill/), because we are likely to change our expectations in relation to the positive or negative things that happened such that it becomes “normal” (source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-success/201208/how-keep-happiness-fading).

    Upon thinking deeper, I realised that while focusing on hedonic well-being can provide us with momentary happiness, this happiness will eventually fade away. Hence, there is a need to find meaning in the things we do such that we can work towards a greater purpose. Do you think that in the future, more people will be willing to sacrifice some personal enjoyment for the environment in the pursuit of meaning? Thanks!

    Cheers,
    Shi Ling

    1. Hi Shi Ling!
      Wow! Thanks for introducing the concept of hedonic treadmill to me! Perhaps, hedonic treadmill might not be all bad? Being unsatisfied with our current efforts can help in our growth, especially in one’s environmental journey.
      In the future, I believe that even if people are unwilling, they will have to sacrifice a certain level of personal enjoyment because of the current dire state of the environment.
      – Rachel

  3. Hello Rachel!
    Really interesting post, but do you think one day, like Bryan had asked, we will be able to innovate our way into dovetailing pleasure and meaning, and enable ourselves to achieve hedonic and eudaimonic well-being at the same time? In my opinion, I would say that not everyone would be willing to walk the altruistic route and give up their personal pleasure for a larger cause, unfortunately so…
    An example I’m thinking of would perhaps be more meat substitutes entering the market, such as the Impossible Burger, such that we are able to still enjoy “meat” but not have to destroy the environment while doing so! What do you think?

    Cheers,
    Ryan

    1. Hi Ryan!
      You make a good point! Definitely, technological innovation can help in the achievement of hedonic and eudaemonic well-being. However, I believe that technological solutions in the climate crisis are in essence, silver bullet solutions. We cannot rely on techno-optimism to justify for inaction. Before it’s too late, it seems inevitable that we would have to “sacrifice” certain enjoyments or conveniences and learn to value eudaemonic well-being over hedonic well-being.
      – Rachel

  4. Hi all,

    What a fascinating post and conversation. I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert on psychology, but is the fact that I get a lot of pleasure from working directly with wildlife an example of blending hedonic and eudaemonic wellbeing ? I mean, the end goal is always related to conservation, but I find it incredibly fun.

    If not, why is this not a good example ?

    thanks !

    jc

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