As the effects of climate change become more apparent in our day to day lives, increasing numbers of people are experiencing climate anxiety, and the issue is rampant among the planet’s youngest generations. A recent survey of 10,000 young people found that three quarters think the future of the world is frightening, and more than half think humanity is doomed. Those are some scary statistics, but just as we must address the climate crisis head on, we must also remember to empower and support our young people to have hope for the future.
As people who work with the facts of climate change on a daily basis, climate scientists are a great group to turn to when it comes to managing climate anxiety. The BBC spoke to a group of climate scientists about their recommendations for managing this unease. Here are their strategies.
Take action in your own life
It can be easy to assume that individual actions don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but regardless of their actual impact (which does have an effect), the act of making a change in your immediate surroundings can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health and climate anxiety. IPCC report contributor Dr. Nana Ama Browne Klutse says planting trees is how she finds some peace in her own life. Other scientists recommend adopting a plant-based diet, recycling, updating your home, engaging in politics, or just opting to walk or bike, rather than drive.
Find a community
University of Cambridge researcher Dr. Natalie Jones recommends finding purpose and empowerment by engaging with others who share your passions. Attending a climate march, an academic talk, or engaging with people online can be great ways to meet others who are also working diligently towards a greener future. Creating a climate community will help you feel less alone in your environmental pursuits and provide a place for you to discuss both your anxieties and triumphs.
Know there will be good and bad days
When it comes to climate change, it’s normal to feel a whole range of emotions from sad and helpless to optimistic and determined. Dr. Jones notes that even for scientists, there are good and bad days. “We’ve all been there,” she says. “Everyone who works on climate has been there. For me, that was like 10 years ago. You have to acknowledge these things and come to some level of acceptance.”
Stopping to process and acknowledge your feelings surrounding the climate crisis is an important step in your personal activism. Giving these emotions the space they deserve allows you to accept them and move forwards. Likewise, it’s important to celebrate the victories. This might be the passage of environmental laws, eating plant-based for a whole month, or getting a family member to start bringing their own reusable coffee cup to the local cafe.