From anxiety to action: What can we do about climate change?
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March 7, 2023
min read

From anxiety to action: What can we do about climate change?

With climate anxiety on the rise, we need to start looking towards solidarity and collective action.

Thrown into uncertainty

Almost every generation has had to face their respective existential anxieties, from wars and invasions which threatened whole civilisations, to political instability and revolutions, to the world wars of the 20 the century and the cold war. People found themselves tangled in systems outside of themselves which made their future highly unstable. Never had this existential threat been more global and universal than it is now, with climate change. In the face of climate collapse, anxiety seems like a perfectly normal emotional response. We’re not confident about the future we and our loved ones are being thrown into. As climate change progresses, scientists are discovering more and more potential impacts that could be devastating for humanity and the planet. We are constantly being bombarded with news and reports about the latest evidence of climate change and its impacts, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the problem. A recent poll with data across the US found that 40% of the respondents were extremely worried about climate change and 24% were very worried. Amongst the other respondents, 18% were not worried at all, 8% somewhat worried and 9% not very worried. More than half of the respondents said they’d felt down or depressed about climate change. Various organizations have risen over the years with the mission of responding to the toll on our mental health caused by climate anxiety, such as the climate psychology alliance.

Connecting the thread

Climate anxiety is further magnified because people feel powerless. They don’t feel in control of their political and corporate leaders, they don’t feel in control of their lives, they don’t feel like they have the capacity to make meaningful change. This can then be converted the into what we see today, as the problem being confronted at an individual level alone, at the point of consumption instead of production. We’re asked to make the right consumer choices, to reduce our carbon footprint and this is not a bad thing by any means. It even makes us feel good about ourselves, reassures us that we’re doing what we can in the fight against climate change. However, it misses, and it must miss, the most important driver of climate change, which isn’t personal choice in consumption but corporate choice in production. Climate change is a collective crisis not a personal one. As such, we need to organise and strive for massive collective action instead of simply convincing ourselves that we’re doing what we can at the point of consumption. Whilst both are good, only through collective action are we going to be able to actually challenge climate change and the power structures which keep perpetuating it.

We need to connect our climate anxieties together instead of looking for solutions in isolation. The larger picture will guide us towards the root cause of the issue and eventually, towards the solution. It will require a lot of work and it needs to be done collectively. Talk about your anxieties with others around you, get the mental help you need but do not forget the larger picture which calls us into direct action.