“We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.”
– Stephen Hawking
With the growing incidence of forest fires, rising temperatures, and melting glaciers, it is quite evident that climate change is real and very much in action. The media is brimmed with reports of something disastrous taking place almost every other day. This is bound to generate feelings of fear and anxiety in the people. Cannot comment that- ‘this anxiety always results in us conserving the environment although it would certainly be helpful if it did. What can be said for sure is that this anxiety is one of the many repercussions of climate change’.
Before we dive into the psychological effects of climate change, it is important to talk about what exactly is meant by climate change.
Since the inception of earth, it has undergone many periods of climate change, seven to be precise, but with minute variations. Following the industrial revolution, the cycle of change is happening at an unprecedented rate which is largely a direct result of human activities.
Eco-anxiety is termed as the fear and negative feelings that are associated with heightened concern about the environment and the climate crisis.
To be precise, the American Psychology Association (APA) defines eco-anxiety as “the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future and that of next generations”.
Scientists believe eco-anxiety is influenced by personal experiences and varies from individual to individual; it is presumed to be more prevalent among individuals who are on average more aware of the protection of the environment.
According to an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) study on Hurricane Katrina survivors in 2005, people who have experienced a natural disaster are 4% more likely to exhibit a mental illness, in addition to suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or depression.”
The seriousness of the level of concern with respect to climate change varies significantly depending upon cultural differences, intellectual capabilities, personal experiences, type of issue and so on. Various issues concerning the climate crisis include a surge in pollution, loss of biodiversity, proliferation of ocean waste, deforestation, and increasing natural disasters.
Providing credible sources of information and generating a positive outlook can help alleviate eco-anxiety to a considerable level, especially for the youth.
The climate crisis is a threat to the existence of the human race, and fearfulness about the future cannot be properly addressed until a shared global strategy is put in place to address the primary cause, global warming, and to give everyone, in particular, the young and the most vulnerable sections of society, the hope for a brighter and better future.
A wave of change is being observed now, with people being a little more aware of the fact that we need to save our planet before it’s too late. To do our bit in caring for the planet, some steps can be taken by us on an individual and community level.
One can make it a priority to volunteer with NGOs and other such organizations that work towards generating awareness among the masses and work towards making a difference.
Second, always using, buying and disposing of objects keeping in the mind the 3Rs principle. Indulging in sustainable activities such as plogging, urban gardening, etc. can be quite effective. These may seem like baby steps with minimal to no effect but they can help us go a long way.
B.A. (H) Philosophy, 2nd Year