“Eco-anxiety” is a fairly new concept. Put simply, it refers to the fear, grief, stress and anxiety you feel when you think about the environment. This is becoming common with an estimated 1 in 4 people “very worried” about global warming and the state of the planet.
Eco-anxiety is not an illness or a disorder but a perfectly normal and healthy reaction to what we know about our world. Having stress about climate change indicates that we care deeply about our planet, our future and the loss of plant and animal species around us. At times eco-anxiety can be immobilizing and lead to a sense of despair. We may isolate ourselves and feel there is nothing we can do. But on the other hand, anxiety can be the motivating factor leading to action and positive change. There is hope in action.
Here is a list of possible approaches we can take:
Live more in alignment with our values. It may mean spending less money on stuff we don’t need, walking in nature more often, eating less meat and animal products, reducing our use of single-use plastics, or car-pooling so we use less carbon.
Give our homes an energy health check. Energy use in our homes accounts for 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions. There are ways to greatly reduce our consumption of energy by turning off lights and appliances when not in use, changing light bulbs to LED, installing solar panels, turning down our thermostats, and many more.
Cut back on flying. Since jet fuels comprise a large amount of our carbon use, reducing our flights can have a significant impact. Even reducing our flights by one per year can make a significant difference.
Don’t feel ashamed. We need to recognize that we are individuals and can only do so much. Take pride in the changes you have been able to make.
Focus our effort on changing systems, not only ourselves. We are not alone. We have governments to represent our needs and interests. We need to let them know who we are and what we want.
Find like-minded people. Building a support network of people we can talk to about our feelings of stress can really help.
Protect and nurture local green spaces. Get involved in community projects such as tree planting or trail/beach cleanup. Spending time outside every day is helpful in relieving our stress.
Talk about the changes we are making. Discuss what some of the challenges we personally have faced, how we overcame them, and what was positive.
Talk about positive changes being made in our local area and around the world to address climate change. Stories of success are needed. Some examples:
Jobs in green energy are rising quickly and saving taxpayers money
Massive tree planting projects are developing around the world
The involvement of young people around the world and in our community is encouraging
In Canada, we have a carbon tax system, which has been proven by world experts to be the most beneficial way to curb carbon emissions
We are fortunate to have a Climate Change Advisor in Huron County to monitor local issues
Remember, fear will not motivate us. Fear helps us run away from danger in the face of a crisis but the approaches listed above may help us address the cause of the fear. In this way we can work together to address climate change and build a better world. It is said by activists that the best thing you can do about climate change is to TALK about it. Hope for the future begins with conversation. So let’s keep talking!