The human race is going to die. The earth as we know it has become so altered by our misuse of fossil fuels, natural resources, and our own waste that the likelihood of our survival on this planet is ever decreasing. Our lives, our livelihoods, and the lives of those around us are in danger of forever suffering from the consequence of our own actions.
When you hear these words, what is your response? Some people might become even more dedicated, even more, steadfast in their fight against climate change.
However, for others, this fear becomes so much to handle that any hope they had slips out of their grasp. While we like to think a person’s will to survive will be enough to spur action, even in the direst of circumstances, this is unfortunately not always the case. A wild animal faced with an unwinnable situation will often lay still and accept its fate. When a person feels this feeling of despair, the fight is over for them and they merely accept their defeat, and this is unfortunately what many people are experiencing in the form of climate anxiety.
But what exactly is climate anxiety? The best way to describe this phenomenon is to liken it to something similar: the fear experienced during the nuclear age. The 1950s and 1960s were part of an age of great geopolitical suspicion and paranoia about the future, so much so that a doomsday clock was created to count down humanity’s progression to nuclear annihilation. This existential dread that people once faced on mass resulted in panic disorders manifesting in normally mentally sound people. This is something that we’re seeing today in terms of climate change. The same dread and panic that we felt all those years ago is back, now a subject of an arguably even bigger crisis. People who are experiencing climate anxiety or climate grief are constantly worried about the temperature rising, the quality of the air we breathe, and any natural disasters that we might face. While these fears are not unfounded, this thought process can slowly wear a person down, getting rid of any hope they might have for the future.
So how do we combat this constant climate anxiety so it doesn’t take control of our lives? Well, the best way to do so is to find a way to contribute to the fight. The truth is that many people find it difficult to do all the things that people are suggesting. No eating meat, no driving, no flying, no wasteful buying: doing all these things is often easier said than done for most of the western world. Much like trying to start a rigorous physical training regime all at once, converting to this strict, minimalist lifestyle can often leave people burned out before they’ve even started. Rather than depriving ourselves, we should instead be adding to our lives. These can include things like volunteering, activism, and spreading awareness to other people about the effects that climate change can have on our lives. This coupled with attempting to live a more sustainable life, can make all the difference.
Most of all, we need to take care of our minds and personal welfare. At the end of the day, climate anxiety is a psychological problem, not an environmental problem. How we chose to look at climate change, whether as an unwinnable situation or an adverse obstacle to overcome, makes all the difference in our mental state. We need to remember that once hope dies, we’ve already lost in our fight to restore the planet. The pollution in our minds is just as important to address as the pollution we see on Earth, and only once we tend to that can we focus on making the world a better place.