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Eco-anxiety: fearing the worst from climate change

It’s no question that the media is bombarding us with a dismal prognosis for the planet. We are being exposed to images of parched landscapes, scary stats, and concerning changes in temperature on T.V., in our social media feeds, and on the news. I’ve noticed that the people around me are expressing angst in relation to climate change, and what this might mean for our future. It appears we are living in an age where eco-anxiety (that is, anxiety in relation to environmental issues) is widespread.

 

Historically, people have always been subject to angst in relation to the profound questions of human experience. A branch of philosophy known as existentialism, which originated in the 20th century, is primarily concerned with the pursuit of knowledge regarding the meaning of life. This field draws on factors such as free-will, choice, and individual responsibility in an attempt to alleviate the anguish that can stem from questioning one’s existence. Eco-anxiety is essentially a form of existential anxiety resulting from the fear of climate change, and it’s affecting more and more people as environmental issues continue to escalate. 

 

As you might be aware, anxiety experienced in response to real threats to our survival that helps us to respond to stressors is not only useful, but crucial to our survival. For example, if should have the misfortune to bump into a tiger one day, we would likely experience anxiety symptoms such as an accelerated heart-rate, sweaty palms and dilated pupils. These changes help us to navigate the situation to protect our survival. With this in mind, some anxiety regarding environmental issues is warranted if it helps us to respond to the very real threat of climate change and a loss of biodiversity.

 

Eco-anxiety also goes hand-in-hand with another similar concept called ecological grief. This phenomenon is being researched at the University of Western Australia, and researchers theorise that individuals experience the grieving process in response to experienced or anticipated ecological losses and environmental demise. Therefore, if you’ve been feeling deeply saddened by environmental issues, you’re absolutely not alone. Ecological grief is still in the early stages of research, but as more is uncovered about this experience, we’ll be able to better understand what it is, and how we can manage it.

 

What are some things we can do to manage eco-anxiety?

 

Stay connected

Psychologists suggest that the combination of guilt, grief and fear we might feel in relation to environmental issues could be due in part to broader sociological factors, such as increased disconnectedness from other people characteristics of the digital age. Climate change is something we are all experiencing, so if you reach out it is highly likely that you will find that others have similar concerns. Being able to share and talk through your concerns is really important, because it helps us to feel less alone, as well as think about some off the ways we can intervene.

 

Talk to someone

If the eco-anxiety or ecological grief you are experiencing is having a negative effect on your daily life, it might be a good idea to chat to a psychologist or counsellor about what you’re experiencing. These mental health professionals are skilled at unpacking our worries and concerns so that we can better understand what we’re going through, and how we can most effectively cope. There might even be someone in your area with an interest in eco-anxiety or ecological grief.

 

Get involved!

To a certain extent, anxiety can be helpful. If you’re anxious about the state of the planet, it means you care, and that’s a good thing. I personally have recently gotten involved with a group in my local community that advocates for improved efforts to halt and reverse the impacts of climate change. It has been a really positive experience as I have met like-minded people, and I feel as though I am making a positive contribution to the broader community.

 

Here are just a few campaigns and organisations you can get involved with:

 

Biodiversity and conservation: https://conservationvolunteers.com.au/get-involved/volunteer/victoria/

 

General environmentalism: https://planetark.org/campaigns/

 

Environment and sustainability: https://www.cleanup.org.au/

 

Biodiversity and conservation: https://www.wwf.org.au/

 

Environmental justice: https://www.envirojustice.org.au/

 

References:

 

https://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/existentialism.htm

 

https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/eco-anxiety1.htm

 

http://theconversation.com/hope-and-mourning-in-the-anthropocene-understanding-ecological-grief-88630

 

Written by Lauren — ADAVIC Volunteer

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