Eco-anxiety

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It is hard to contemplate the probable and possible consequences of climate change and other environmental problems without feeling worried, anxious, and maybe despairing, and possibly becoming depressed. So many people have expressed such feelings that it has acquired a name: "eco-anxiety".

It is not the first time that many of us have been worried about our collective future existence: there were widespread (and, as it turned out, well-founded) fears of nuclear war erupting between the USA and the USSR in the 1960s[1] and 1980s,[2] and various more-or-less apocalyptic predictions of the imminent end of civilisation due to oil running out by the year 2000, the ozone hole, pollution, the "population bomb" causing widespread, increasing famines, depletion of resources, and other anxieties.[3] The fact that some of these threats have proved to be illusory, or very much exaggerated, should not make us complacent: wolves are real. But we have survived real threats and knowing that we did so – and how we did so – can give us some assurance of our ability to mitigate some of the challenges we currently face.

Discussions and resources

An article 'Climate Despair' Is Making People Give Up on Life by Mike Pearl in Vice discusses various aspects of the problem.

Trainer Max St John has written several articles on dealing with climate change including Why we all need to stop worrying about climate change (and what to do instead) and How to process climate news (and stay grounded).

An article Climate change activism ‘reducing mental health symptoms among young people’ in The Independent quotes psychotherapists and head teachers reporting that involvement in climate change activism is reducing symptoms of mental ill-health among young people.

In a TED talk science writer Britt Wray discusses How mental health affects your mental health.

Burnout

A paper Burnout in Social Justice and Human Rights Activists: Symptoms, Causes and Implications discusses burnout.



  1. e.g. during the Cuban Missile Crisis during which, it later emerged, the use of nuclear weapons had been narrowly avoided only by the dissent of Soviet vice-admiral Vasily Arkhipov
  2. Public fears were raised by open political discussions of the possibility of the US and NATO having the capability to conduct a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the USSR/Warsaw Pact using nuclear armed cruise missiles then being stationed at the USAF air base at Greenham Common in Berkshire (UK), the leak and subsequent release of the UK government's "Protect and Survive" civil defence booklet, and release of nuclear war fiction films such as The Day After and Raymond Briggs' When The Wind Blows.
    As in the Cuban crisis the two superpowers also came extremely close to accidentally engaging in nuclear war during the 1983 Able Archer military exercise.
  3. "Earth Day, Then and Now"; Ronald Bailey; Reason; May 2000
    Note: Reason is a libertarian magazine[ref] and Bailey is a climate denialist[ref] who is associated with a libertarian, climate denialist think-tank