SDG 7 | climate action
Problems related to climate change affect the lives of citizens with increasing frequency
“Fear, sweating, tremors, palpitations, tiredness, hyperventilation.” This is the most frequent clinical picture of anxiety. “If the motivation or motivation is related to climate change, it is called eco-anxiety”, highlights Loreto Barrios, psychologist and science communicator. “It is a phenomenon that not only exists in our country, it occurs internationally,” adds Silvia Collado, doctor in environmental psychology and professor at the University of Zaragoza.
Concern for the environment is increasingly present among the population. “It’s transversal and intergenerational,” says Andreu Escrivà, an environmentalist and writer. “What happens is that many people are not aware of it,” he says. “Each one carries it in a different way,” highlights this writer.
In recent research, The Lancet reveals that almost half of young people between the ages of 6 and 25 say that “concern about the climate negatively affects their daily lives.” “Climate change is a global and not an individual problem,” explains Collado. “This creates a lot of uncertainty, because you can’t manage or control it,” she says.
Changes in the climate due to human action “are a reality”, warns Eduard Soler, collaborating professor at the UOC’s Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences. “It is no longer an abstract construct,” he adds.
Migrations of animal species, extinction of flora, rise in sea level, drought or melting of glaciers. These are some of the challenges that humanity faces, “feeling that we are late increases anxiety,” warns Soler.
However, Collado lowers the severity. “It is true that high levels of anxiety that could become pathological or paralyzing us are not as likely or as frequent as we might think.”
“It’s not the citizen’s fault”
This anguish is heightened by a sense of “climate guilt.” “I have friends who are aware of the problems of climate change who feel bad, for example, for taking the car,” says Escrivà.
Precisely, the inaction or lack of progress against climate problems “generates frustration,” Collado replies. “In any case, personal resilience comes into play here,” says Barrios. “Many people are affected in their day to day,” Escrivà highlights.
Increasingly, the responsibility to fight climate change falls on the citizen. Recycling, changing the car, reducing water consumption, “we are not really going to stop climate change by reducing plastic consumption on an individual level,” explains Yetta Delgado, co-founder of Mothers for Climate. “This happens through collective work,” she adds.
One of the remedies to curb eco-anxiety is “positive education,” says Delgado. “It is important to raise awareness that every act counts and has its mark,” he explains. Anxiety about environmental changes is caused by a lack of control, “the best way to work on it is in this aspect,” reveals Collado, “and that is achieved, I think, from school.”
Currently, the messages related to climate change are negative and catastrophic and fears for a disheartening future are growing. The Lancet report with the responses of young people are clairvoyant: “three quarters believe that the future is terrifying, and 56% say that humanity is doomed.”
In recent years, public opinion has contributed to putting environmental problems at the center of the debate, but they have also revealed the harmful effects of climate change. “We need a positive and hopeful approach,” says Escrivà. “It is true that climate change is irreversible, but much remains to be saved,” she adds.
The disagreement of young people with the decisions of the rulers and, above all, their weariness in the face of passivity has been shown in the Fridays for future movement, but positive education has found its way out in Teachers for future or School Revolt of Mothers for the weather. “Making these problems more tangible and understandable lowers the level of nervousness and anxiety,” reveals Collado.
Under this premise, a group of American influencers has launched a campaign to see the positive side of life as the Monty Python song says. Going by the name “Ok, Doomer” (paraphrasing the millennial “Ok, boomer”), these youngsters bring the silver lining to climate news in short videos on TikTok.
His videos avoid catastrophic headlines and only give relevance to climate victories such as the construction of wind farms or treaties to curb plastic pollution. “Reducing eco-anxiety is a shared responsibility,” repeat Yetta Delgado. “And, above all, talk about it,” Escrivà points out. “We are in time to stop the dystopian futures of Mad Max that come to us. I have hope”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.