As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we primarily circulate our vocabularies around “love”, “forever” and all the terms that one would find cheesy on a regular basis. While we cringe when we see a display of one’s love in public, we also ironically ingrain this belief that every person must, at some point in their life, find “the one”.
Aside from fulfilling our biological demands, we also counterintuitively love because of social constructs. Our current approach to love and romance is heavily tied to the maintenance of the status quo. As Carrie Jenkins puts it (in the book What Love Is And What It Could Be), “Romantic love has the function of structuring society in nuclear family units, harnessing the powerful forces of adult attraction, affection, and care at the end”. (For example, the Japanese government pays their citizens to have more kids to combat the decreasing birth rate).
We deem that someone is in love when they fulfill the social constructivist theory (similar to the arguments of Beall and Sternberg’s 1995 paper entitled Social Construction of Love) of what romantic love is. And currently, we conclude that one can only be in the pursuit of romantic love when they plan on being married someday to satisfy the traditions, culture, or even the socio-economic demands of a society that is carried and will be carried at the backs of each nuclear family unit.
If one does not fit into this tight circle, we exclude them from being "in love"; we label them as lonely people, maybe someone that just "has not found the right person yet", or generally just exhibiting a symptom of love but not really.
Love in actuality cannot be definitively shaped linearly since some people or communities challenge our concept of it and still exhibit symptoms of being in love and deem themselves as in love (polyamory, asexuality, etc.).
But with society's current perception of what love is (i.e. marriage and nuclear family unit), is the climate crisis changing the way we find “the one”? And what does this change imply?
As more people become more knowledgeable about the science of climate change, they integrate these learned concepts into their daily lives. Studies have found that as early as 2012, people were more willing than ever to use their literacy on climate crisis as an extrinsic motivation to change their lifestyles; the more knowledgeable you are, the more motivated you will be to change your way of life and habits.
While others opt on switching their usual carnivorous meals with more vegetables in light of reports on high carbon emissions or using bikes to get to certain locations, some apply lifestyle changes to their dating preferences. There has been an increase of 240% in ‘climate change’ and ‘environment’ written in dating profiles on OKCupid (an online dating application) throughout the years. Since environmentalism may be associated with altruism, most people may find this attractive, especially the ones yearning for lifetime companionship.
Aside from literacy, climate anxiety also drives a change in the romantic pursuits and plans of individuals. Numerous articles and psychology journals have found that people are now taking into account the climate crisis as a determiner of whether to have children or not. So much so, that some may create movements around this belief.
Some argue that opting to not bear children would hinder concrete action against climate change since this would point the blame upon individuals instead of acknowledging that the system is responsible for the problem. But others say that carbon emission and individual action are not the reason for their abstinence from procreation, but rather, the question of the ethicality of bearing a child in a collapsing climate is the main reason for their “birth strike”.
As the effects of the climate crisis become more and more tangible, these preferences and choices to love may soon be noticed in the near future in populations that are even oblivious to its science. Scientific papers and articles predict that a remodeling of the nuclear familial unit (through low birth rates, fertility rates, or simply divergent romantic choices) may affect our traditions, culture, or even economic concerns and demands that are heavily dependent upon “the power of love”.
So indeed, the climate is and will be changing the way we love, the only remaining question is: how much change, exactly?