Writer: Auliya Naura
Editor: Hafiza Binti Abdul Samath
Graphic Designer: Pat Sevikul
We have recently seen on news channels about wildfires in some European countries as well as glaciers collapsing in Kyrgyzstan and Italy. Extreme and abnormal occurrences like these are likely to become far more normal. Experts say that these natural disasters are no natural phenomenon, however, they are the ramifications of a heating planet exacerbated by the climate crisis.
It has made people wonder whether this might be the coolest summer we might ever have in the future, if we continue on this path of pollution. It has lead to many devastated with the current state of the world, to the point where the UN Secretary-General warning nations that humanity could be facing “collective suicide” if governments continue with their current policies and fail to deal with the threat of the climate crisis.
“Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise and ocean heat have broken new records. Half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction,” António Guterres said at the Petersberg climate conference to the 40 nation leaders present that day.
What is climate anxiety?
With around 80% of young people worried about climate change, you are not alone - but the bad news is you are also not the only one feeling this way. Climate anxiety, also known as eco-anxiety, is stress correlated with distress on the impacts of climate crisis.
Although unsettling, climate anxiety is rational and does not imply mental illness but it can affect a person’s mental health directly (such as natural disasters) and indirectly (by food insecurity, displacement, migration) which can all cause depression, anxiety and behavioural problems. This feeling can be tied with many other emotions including worry, fear, anger, grief, despair, guilt, shame and even hope.
A survey at the University of Bath where individuals aged between the ages of 16-25 from ten different nations were asked about how they feel on the climate crisis. It was then found that:
45% feel climate has negatively impacted their daily life and functioning
50% feel sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty about climate change
75% are fearful for the future
83% think people (governments) have failed to take care of the planet
According to the survey, the youth are particularly susceptible to climate anxiety as they have little to no control over how it will affect their health and future. The pressure is on the shoulders of young people as they will unwillingly inherit humanity’s greatest problems and suffer the consequences of environmental changes. It’s linked to sentiments of moral damage, betrayal and abandonment with its main 2 stressors being the government's lack of action and climate change which may have serious, long-term effects on children and young people's mental health.
Our governments must take charge and act as their inability to adequately address climate change and its effects on younger generations may amount to moral damage.
Ways to cope with it
Changing your lifestyle - this may include taking public transportation or walking more to travel to places, not using single-use plastics when shopping, farming your own fruits and vegetables. There is no action too small to make a difference.
You don’t have to go through this alone - go to your local community organisation or find other like-minded people to start an organisation to discuss and act alongside you against the climate crisis.
Visualise, close your eyes and imagine a better, greener world and understand that there is nothing to be anxious about when you are fighting for a beautiful, vibrant place like Earth
Find ways to connect with the natural world - whether that is exploring a local park or go for a walk in nature, foraging, gardening or even just present, nurture your relationship with the earth which will in turn nurture your mental well-being (such as reducing blood pressure, and the production of stress hormones)
Nourish yourself, give yourself what your body needs - healthy food, hydration, movement and more
Going offline, taking time off helps us feel more connected and present in our lives - spend time with who you love, take a moment to lean on friends and family. Nurture the relationships that nourish you.
Pray. meditate, or just pause - find a way to connect to something bigger than ourselves
Education, knowledge is power: understanding the climate crisis is key to inspire people. To help turn feelings into action, spend some time learning more or teaching others what you have learned.
Although there is a lot of uncertainty around the climate, taking action may help you feel more in control because anyone can make a difference, no matter how tiny. It is also crucial to hold governments and large corporations accountable. It has never been more vital to use our concern over the climate to stimulate appropriate actions.