Climate anxiety – What is it and what can you do about it?
Climate anxiety? What are your plans for the next six years? Graduate college, travel the world, get a puppy, buy a house, get married, build a garden, start a new job, have a child, or maybe two? Six years is such a long time! Time that can be spent creating beautiful moments. But what if you had to fit the rest of your life in the next six years—six years and 317 days to be exact. How short would six years feel then? Would you live your life differently? If you had the opportunity to add more time to these six years, would you make smarter, more ethical, and sustainable decisions?
The climate clock hangs high in Berlin, and New York City, counting down “how long it will take, at current rates of emissions, to burn through our ‘carbon budget’ — the amount of CO2 that can still be released into the atmosphere while limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This is our deadline, the time we have left to take decisive action to keep warming under the 1.5°C threshold.” (Climate Clock)
While the clock does bring needed attention, is not always positive.The countdown may bring awareness to the climate crisis and encourage sustainable living, but does the oversaturation in the news increase a sense of impending doom? That no matter how much plastic you stop using, the meat you stop eating, or the numerous protests you attend, nothing will make enough significance to reverse this ticking time bomb. If you feel stress or grief around the current climate crisis, you are probably experiencing “climate anxiety,” “a fairly recent psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis” (Psychology Today).
If you are someone who experiences climate anxiety and is feeling a little lost or scared, try not to worry. You are not alone. There is an entire community experiencing the same feelings. As someone who experiences climate anxiety myself, I would like to share some useful tips to help lessen your anxiety.
I’ve made adjustments to my daily living so I can leave a positive impact on my planet. If you have not already, start by lessening your plastic and meat intake, use your car less and public transport more, and switch off your lights and water as often as possible.
“But I already do all of this, and it does not feel like enough.”
While your individual acts are extremely important, I can understand those small changes might not feel overly impactful. Let me remind you that your small acts are making a huge difference, so take pride in that! Keep up the good work, and share your knowledge with those around you. Also remember, it is not the individual person that is having the greatest negative impact on our planet. It is the large-scale corporations that cause detrimental environmental damage. We need to continue holding them accountable.
You can start by limiting how much you shop from fast fashion companies. Fast fashion, “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers”,is a massive polluter, creating cheap clothing, at the expense of underpaid workers. Clothes not meant to last to the next season end up in our landfills. Fast fashion produces excessive amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and pollutes our waters with dyes and chemicals.
Support small, ethical businesses and most importantly shop second-hand whenever possible.
Try buying groceries from local farmers and markets whenever possible. Corporate farms tear down large sections of forest to make room for livestock, among other harmful practices. I would also recommend shopping organic to avoid harmful pesticides. The use of these chemicals overflows to waterways and is harmful to fish.
When these practices aren’t an option, look for companies that have green policies—companies that pledge to offset their carbon footprint, or create products that are environmentally friendly.
Your voice is your greatest strength. Hold corporations accountable for their actions. We need to demand sustainable initiatives, and if companies refuse to upgrade, then we must take our business elsewhere.
It can be extremely anxiety-inducing to have no idea what our future is going to look like. Especially when countdowns like the Climate Clock can make us feel like we are running out of time. I want to encourage you to look at this situation as “glass half full”, we have six years. Six years to change our daily practices. To live a zero-waste lifestyle, to stop eating meat, to buy only from small, local, sustainable businesses, and to stop supporting large corporations. Six years to reverse the damages done to our planet. We still have the chance to encourage change and make a difference. We have the opportunity to be the change we want to see in this world.
Written by Karley Feather – MCCR Media & Conservation Intern