Summary – Climate anxiety is a condition that impacts a small set of people who are climate conscious and are becoming paralysed by their worry for the environment. The best way to help them is showing respect for the environment and seeing impact of climate action
Climate change is a reality. It impacts us in every possible way as we interact with Earth and its systems continuously. As systems change, climate is impacted. There are multiple ways in which people choose to respond to climate change, and if I say, impending climate calamity.
One way is to say that all systems undergo a change, and it is time for earth’s systems to change. Humans and other species are simply collateral damage. Yes, we may become extinct but as climate stabilises, new species will emerge. I happen to agree. It is factually correct, even if it is fundamentally wrong on every other thing that makes us humans, humans.
Another line of thinking is eternal optimism, and the Eternal Optimist. They believe that the scientific revolution required to bring all this in control is just round the corner. No matter the evidence, or the lack of it, they believe that machines that suck all carbon out of air is ready and working (or about to work), they believe that recycling solves worlds waste problems (it doesn’t), that our innovative spirit will solve all our problems. All the best!
The third group comprises of Activists and climate evangelists. They are the card carrying members of humanity shouting from rooftops about species extinction, they are the people who attend all the COPs and the Summits and track every word said, they are the reporting on every new oil pipeline deal, every new coal mine and coal fired plant. Many of them may also be involved with Not for Profits working on climate change, or getting funded by lobbies backed by new energy, or simply even citizens scared of what they are seeing.
A subset of this group struggles with Climate Anxiety.
Climate anxiety is a state of worry for climate that individuals face in relation to what they are doing and what they can do about the climate change. Tt takes a toll on them because they are constantly worrying about their choices and then fretting about how those choices are still not helping the earth. The so called right choices do not make them feel better as they are not able to see the impact of the ‘sacrifices’ they are making. However, as the news gets progressively worse, their anxiety levels rise more and more. What are some typical examples of choices that individuals face when it comes to their actions that relate to climate change?
- Should school children be dropped in individual cars or through school bus – what is less damaging
- Should individuals take the occasional cab
- How much take out is too much take out? (answer as far as they are concerned – all of it)
- How much of waste can be reused – what all can be reused in ways that reduce carbon expenditure (it is not enough to not throw something if people are spending time and energy thinking about how to reuse. Reuse needs to be valid and serve a purpose)
- How about all one time use – bamboo, wood, paper, glass?
- Should one buy craft material for the child, knowing its all single use, most of it is plastic
- How to understand the carbon impact of purchases
I belong to this group. It is not that I get all of the above right, far from it. But I constantly worry and feel guilty when I feel I am not doing my utmost.
In some situations, these decisions can become paralysing as the best course of action seems “Do Nothing”. It also impacts relationships as we tend to judge people who either aren’t hurting enough or are making choices that we judge as not climate friendly. it then further piles on to become pressure on our own self regarding the general merits and demerits of judgement. SO all in all, climate anxiety, like any other anxiety is causes a fair amount of pain. Medicine may have palliatives for this, but i think the best cure will be if consciously, we are able to see some impact of the good work that we know is happening around climate change.