Poster Australian Marine Sciences Association 2022

The Great Barrier Reef and the power of grief - How can we transform grief into action? (#471)

Yolanda Waters 1 , Angela Dean 2 , Kerrie Wilson 1
  1. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QUEENSLAND, Australia
  2. School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

The potential loss of over 90 percent coral cover within the next decade, due to warmer ocean temperatures, is troubling for many. Indeed, emotional responses to reef degradation (e.g., grief) have been reported across Australia. However, it is unclear whether feelings of grief can motivate conservation action or lead to increased feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Based on results from two experimental studies in nationally representative samples (N1 = 713, N2=729), we present four recommendations for transforming grief into action by using carefully constructed messages about climate change and the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). (1) Highlight the iconic nature of the reef – we found that messages which highlight the reef’s iconic nature were more effective than generic climate messages due increased feelings of grief. (2) Reinforce collective efficacy – messages that emphasised collective efficacy (e.g., “together we can do it”) were able to channel grief into a broad range of behaviours. (3) Cautious use of social norms – to avoid negative effects, social norms emphasised must be relevant and plausible. (4) Call to action – motivational calls to action (e.g., “support renewables”) were most effective. Findings have implications for the way we communicate climate change and the GBR.