You may or may not have already seen the thousand and one posts about Earth Week on your social media feed. I know I have.
Looking at all these posts got me thinking about how one of the main factors of stress, especially for people my age, is climate change. My friends often talk about how they don’t feel very optimistic about the future, or that they don’t see the point in school, since the Earth is going to be destroyed by the time we try and get jobs. Not going to lie, I too subscribed to this school of thought. That “since the Earth was going to die very soon anyway, we might as well not prepare for our future”.
I have realized recently, that despairing is not the answer to this issue. Sure, could this issue have been avoided? Definitely.
Is there anything we can do to change the past? No, not unless the time-traveling machine is invented anytime soon. So what is the best approach to this issue?
First, we need to understand what exactly eco-anxiety is in order to tackle it. According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is “a feeling of worry about threats to the environment, such as pollution and climate change.” Now, to understand eco-anxiety, we need to understand stress. Stress, in excess, is harmful to a person’s well-being, both mentally and physically.
However, stress, in the right amounts, can help one perform better. If you’re worried about it, it means you care. The way I see it, having high levels of eco-anxiety is a good symptom to show as a nation, institution, or as a large group of people generally.
It shows that they are aware of how dire the situation really is. As an individual, it’s not a nice thing to feel. The absolute hopelessness of a situation we do not want to face but have no power over. Or at least that’s what we think.
Climate Doomism vs Climate Optimism
Climate doomism is essentially a mindset in which an individual gives up on working towards climate change as they feel that none of their actions could possibly contribute to any impactful change. It’s easy to get swept up and say that nothing can be done and just leave it like that. However, it is important to note that climate doomism is NOT climate action.
If the majority of scientists still believe that this planet can be saved, there really is no reason to give up. By despairing and doing nothing, we are failing our future generations like our predecessors, just in a different way. Many even say that climate doomism is the new climate denial.
“We are not doomed, but rapid action is absolutely essential. With every month or year that we delay action, climate change becomes more complex, expensive and difficult to overcome.” -United Nations Environment Program Director Inger Andersen
If you have felt this way before, don’t be so upset. It’s not that you don’t care, rather you probably felt too powerless to do anything. Climate doomism is more of a cultural mood and reflects your environment more than it does on yourself as a person. Knowing that you’re not alone in feeling this way can be the first step in overcoming this mindset.
The world has made genuine progress in slowing down climate change over the last decade. There are still many things to look forward to. Each day there seem to be new innovations in overcoming the climate crisis. Politicians have also started to treat the climate crisis more seriously now.
I find that this post by @environment_impact illustrates this point beautifully.
Reducing Feelings of Anxiety
It is definitely impossible for one person's actions to make any change. However, remember you're not alone. Collectively, our actions can make a significant change. Knowing that you have done your best and that there are millions around the world doing the same thing as you may help you feel better.
❀Eat less meat and eat more local (it’s fresh, boosts the economy, and supports your community too!)
❀Plant some trees or become a plant parent (I am sure everyone would love this.)
❀Participate in cleanups around your area.
❀Campaign for your local government to make some real change (this is even more important if your country plays a major part in climate change.)
❀The three R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Recycling is most often talked about when it comes to the three R's, but one we are not putting enough emphasis on is "Reduce." In a society where hyperconsumerism is common and even encouraged, this one can be a little hard to do, but there is a reason why it is the first R and not the last. Reducing how much of the Earth's resources we consume can help tremendously.
❀Understand your power as a consumer and what you can do with it.
❀Show gratitude to mother earth.
❀Becoming media literate or learning to think more critically.
A.C.E Therapy Technique
I found this really helpful therapy trick here, which I think can apply to everyone. After all, not everyone can afford to go to therapy.
A – Acknowledge the feelings and situations that are coming up. This can be as simple as simply saying the thought or worrying out loud.
C – Connect back to this moment. Our brain likes to take us into the future or the past, which are outside our control. You can use any grounding technique to re-connect back to the present moment. Some people like to use their breath or movement.
E – Engage in mindful action. Of the things that are in your control, which ones do you want to engage with? What kind of person do you want to be in the fact of this struggle? What this looks like will be individual to each person, but connecting with your values will help bring back meaning and purpose.
Remember, it's not the end until it is the end. I wish there was a nicer way to say everything said here, but there seems to be no way to sugarcoat this one. All in all, I hope this article has helped you in any way. Or that it perhaps gave you something new to think about.
Eco Anxiety: What Do We Do About It?