Blog post

Speeding up the 'climate change sloth'

By Dr Jenny Lunt - 14 December 2021

In amongst the continued and necessary headline-grabbing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the profound need to act on the Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed at the recent COP26 summit, still looms large. The pact states that keeping the ambition to limit a global rise temperature to 1.5C can “only be achieved if every country delivers on what they have pledged”, with regards to net-zero emission targets. Behaviour, and in particular pro-environmental behaviour capable of reducing carbon footprints at national, local and individual levels, is key to keeping within the 1.5C. 

To help us all psychologically and behaviourally adapt to meeting the challenges posed by net-zero targets, University of Derby Psychology lecturers Jenny Lunt and Johanna Beswick have worked with MSc Behaviour Change students Abs Dixon, Alex Williams and Katie Cross, to generate some simple messages. 

A sloth pace of change

We used the term ‘Sloth’ as an acronym on which to base these messages since we think it appropriately symbolises how swiftly we feel climate change issues were resolved in the run-up to COP26. In other words, not very fast. Our ideas could therefore be regarded as ways of ‘speeding up the climate change sloth.’ In generating these, we have drawn on the evidence for the benefits that being more connected to nature can bring both for the environment and our wellbeing. We have used ‘sloth’ to convey how all of us can adapt to the climate change challenge as follows:

S for small changes

Even small changes in behaviour can amount to big change if done by large numbers of people. Tackling the climate challenge can best be addressed not by governments, or business or individuals acting alone, but via shared responsibility. Not ‘they’ or ‘I’ but ‘we’.

L for liking ‘making do’

Our collective response to the climate emergency must be seen as an opportunity – to adapt, to try new ways of living, and to obtain a sense of achievement by ‘making do’. An example might include making it more of a norm for us to keep clothes longer or buy second-hand clothes more often.

‘Making-do’ will not only help us to reduce our carbon footprint, but also improve our own health and wellbeing, and those we care about and live alongside. Nature connectedness pathways research, undertaken at the University, sheds light on how connecting with nature can boost both pro-environmental behaviour and wellbeing.

O for opportunity to pay it forward

We’re all amazingly resourceful, and our actions now will have a significant impact on the planet in the future, as well as on future generations. This is our opportunity to ‘pay it forward’. Part of this may involve learning how previous generations ‘made-do’, so that current and future generations can embrace the same attitudes and behaviours.

T for taking notice of what we have already got

While our future might require that we consume less of some things that we enjoy now, we can offset any sense of loss by noticing and appreciating what we already have around us in the natural world by spending more time noticing nature. The University’s research on nature connectedness unpacks what this means and how the wellbeing benefits from this appreciation can be derived.

H for having connection with nature

The subjective sense we have of our relationship to the natural world is associated with higher levels of wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviours. We know that there are five pathways to help us connect with nature and we’ve used these to demonstrate how simply going outside can help you connect with nature.

Why don’t you give it a go the next time you have a break from work, study or your normal routines? Ask yourself these questions: 

Contact – go outside. What natural things can you see, hear, smell, touch?  

Beauty – what is the most beautiful thing you notice? Why not take a quick picture of it? 

Emotion – how does that beautiful piece of nature make you feel? Can you find joy? 

Meaning – what memories does this piece of nature evoke? What does it represent for you in the wider world (seasons, temperature, biodiversity)? Why not share your photo with someone? Tell them why you took it? Or describe what you’ve noticed. 

Compassion – now you’ve had an opportunity to get more connected to nature, what can you do for nature? How can you make space for nature? This could be anything from picking up a piece of litter, digging out your reusable cup for your next coffee, feeding the birds… the actions are up to you!  

By making some incremental changes that are beneficial to ourselves as well as our world, we can help to speed up our response to climate change.  

For further information contact the Corporate Communications team at or call 01332 593953.

About the author

Jenny in their home office.

Dr Jenny Lunt
Lecturer in Health Psychology

Dr Jenny Lunt is a lecture in Health Psychology here at the University of Derby. Prior to joining the University of Derby, Jenny worked as an independent practitioner and as a principle psychologist within the health and safety executive. Jenny is now active in research, focusing on the application of behaviour change to Health and Safety and Recovery at work.

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