bookmark

Climate Anxiety: How Do We Cope With News of Climate Change?



Mina Fu (text)

Li-An Lim from Unsplash (graphics)


Home. A hard concept to define. A word we often use to convey a sense of belonging or a place of safety.

 

Whether it’s a physical place or an inner feeling, we have all struggled to find the home we identify with the most. However, in the process of searching for a home within our small personal worlds, we often fail to remember and identify with our collective home: planet Earth. Unfortunately, in the past century, the rising temperatures due to human activities (growth of fossil fuel industries, for example) are leading to catastrophic changes in our climate, especially affecting the frequency and intensity of natural disasters.

 

Simply looking at the beginning of 2020, it is obvious that the scale of natural disasters on Earth is amplifying. The catastrophic fires in Australia caused by extreme summer heat killed half a billion animals, 28 people and destroyed more than 2000 homes. Similarly, flooding and landslides in Jakarta, Indonesia killed 66 people and the flooding in Israel took two lives and broke a 51-year-old record of rainfall. Looking at the news, whether willingly or just stumbling upon articles on social media, can be unsettling for many of us.

 

For the past two weeks, I have been feeling unbelievably helpless amidst all of these disasters. I donated 4 dollars for the Australian bushfires (as much as I had left in my bank account) and I reposted on Instagram to raise awareness, but no matter what I did, it never felt like enough. All of these small things that I did and continue to do feel so insignificant compared to a world that is suffering on such a catastrophic scale. Only after I decided to post a survey about how other people were feeling about the situation of the world, did I realize that I was not the only one who felt “helpless,” “angry,” “depressed,” and “anxious.”

 

Young people are becoming pessimistic about the future; some are rethinking important life decisions such as finishing university or having children due to the situation of our planet. Some are feeling guilty for experiencing happiness in a world where animals and people are dying at an unprecedented rate. Some feel that it is too late and that these are the events we must deal with on a daily basis in our near future. Personally I am tired and angry that governments choose not to prioritize the Earth but are instead choosing to invest in more fossil fuels industries. It is hard for many of us to live without guilt when we know that our Earth, the entity that sustains all life, is slowly dying. 

 

Due to the increase of climate instability across the world, many concerns have risen regarding how climate change impacts people’s mental wellbeing. In the past, research has shown that people directly impacted by natural disasters are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression (Bryant et al., 2014). However, recently it has been shown that climate change has also impacted people who simply view the on-going situation in the world through different types of media.

 

Extensive research and meta-analysis conducted by the American Psychology Association (APA) suggests that climate anxiety or eco-anxiety, defined as a “chronic fear of environmental doom,” can be heightened or evoked by the media’s representation of climate change. This can lead to dangerous compounded stress (additional stress atop of daily life stressors)along with the feelings of climate anxiety, feelings of helplessness, depression, fatalism and resignation. All of these feelings can lead to the development of other serious mental illnesses. Similarly, people who view climate disasters online tend to feel detrimental guilt for living normal lives while others are suffering.

 

As hopeless as the situation may seem, now more than ever, there are still ways to cope and handle the painful feelings of watching our only home suffer. 


Here are a few examples:


  1. Build resilience. It is crucial to believe that you are capable of overcoming stress and trauma, no matter how horrifying.
  2. Uphold optimism. Try to see the good in the bad and find the right balance of optimism - extreme optimism may lead to extreme disappointment.
  3. Find meaning.  F, find meaning in the chaos and despair. This can be through religious faith or mindfulness.
  4. Do what you can with what you have. As much as we want to help, it is important to remember the limitations of your circumstances. Do what you can. Go vegan, eat less meat or donate one dollar or walk instead of driving. Reduce plastic, recycle, buy sustainably. Every little contribution helps. This will also most likely ease mental guilt and helplessness.
  5. Connect and share with others. Emotional support is incredibly important, especially sharing and connection through empathy, which can help you feel less alone and calmer knowing that others are doing what they can to help as well. Joining advocacy groups is one way to engage and connect.

 

Even though it feels as if we are far away from home, far away from ever restoring the beautiful ecosystems we have lost so far. There are still ways to manage and cope with the ever-growing climate anxiety whilst helping the world in our own ways, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. Small acts of good and kindness will always go a long way.

 

Here is a post that helped me cope and I hope it helps you too:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7HUB1sBD0T/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link


Remember to seek help if you feel unable to cope on your own.





Haru Sukegawa

a thing about Lisa