Updated: Sep 22
Our planet is undeniably under serious threat from the damages brought on by climate change. The IPCC 2021 report amongst many others, clearly shows that the damage caused by burning fossil fuels, and deforestation is becoming irreversible, and will affect more and more each year.
This is justifiably anxiety inducing for many people. In fact you may have already heard of eco-anxiety. Eco-anxiety is growing, and refers to the chronic fear of environmental doom probably first described in 2017 by the American Psychiatric Association. For people suffering from eco-anxiety, the frustration and helplessness of seeing utter indifference, especially from those in power, can be worse than the doom and gloom of climate change itself.
Eco-anxiety is not a formally recognized diagnosable condition, yet. However the number of individuals reporting typical eco-anxiety symptoms has increased significantly in recent years. Young people and children are disproportionately impacted, along with those communities with the least resources, and most likely to suffer from climate change.
Is eco-anxiety really that important? Well, while the impacts of climate change include crop failure, flooding, and increased storm occurrence, things that seem much more important, eco-anxiety may have more impact than we think. A recent study shows that in the US respondents aged 27-45 included climate anxiety in their decision to have children or not. There is also evidence linking depression, suicide and mental illness to eco-anxiety.
How can we reduce eco-anxiety at a societal and global level? The best way to mitigate eco-anxiety is to instill optimism and hope. This can be done by making sure that people have all the information on the ways that we are adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change. Hearing optimistic and good climate news stories has an excellent effect on eco-anxiety, it's part of the reason that we post ocean optimism news on a Friday, and include good climate news from the week in our newsletter.
Studies have shown that reconnecting with nature and spending time away from technology help individuals deal with eco-anxiety, it also helps people move towards greener choices and gives a sense of helping to solve the problem.
Finally, although we can reduce eco-anxiety through reconnecting with nature, and reading about positive climate news, the only way to completely rid the world of this affliction is a globally adhered to global warming strategy, that can solidify hope for the future across our world.