Between floods, fires, droughts, hurricanes, pollution, melting glaciers, rising sea levels… Is there anyone, sensitive to the topic of sustainability, who doesn’t feel a bit of eco-anxiety?
Especially following the publication of the latest IPCC report this summer, posts, comments and requests for advice more and more frequently have expressed the concern for the future scenario that lies ahead in terms of the survival of mankind.
Costituito nel 1988, è il corpo delle Nazioni Unite composto da esperti climatici. Nell’ultimo report pubblicato, 234 scienziati hanno sintetizzato 14,000 documenti di ricerca. Non ci sono più dubbi sulla crisi climatica. È inequivocabile che l’influenza umana abbia riscaldato l’atmosfera, l’oceano e le terre emerse. Le evidenze lo confermano (fonte IPCC 2021):
Formed in 1988, it is the United Nations body made up of climate experts. In the latest published report, 234 scientists synthesized 14,000 research papers. There are no more doubts about the climate crisis. It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, the ocean and the emerged lands. Evidence confirms it, in fact (source IPCC 2021):
- Human influence has been the leading cause of global glacier retreat since the 1990s and has contributed to the observed surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet over the past two decades.
- Human influence has warmed the climate at an unprecedented rate (speed) in the past 2000 years.
- Extremes of heat (including heat waves) have become more frequent and more intense in most of the lands that have emerged since the 1950s.
- Global surface temperature has risen faster since 1970 than at any other 50-year period in the past 2,000 years.
- The global mean sea level will continue to increase over the course of the 21st century (the expectations are between +0.28 and +1.01 meters).
- The ocean has warmed faster in the last century than since the end of the last deglaciation (about 11,000 years ago).
- In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were the highest in the last 2 million years.
- Global warming of 1.5° C and 2 C will be overcome during the course of the 21st century unless there are major reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades.
These are just some of the points that emerged from the report: did you feel eco-anxiety?
What is it?
Si tratta di un impatto psicologico indiretto del cambiamento climatico. È “una reazione su larga scala allo stato degli ecosistemi planetari” (Pihkala, 2020). Secondo l’American Pshychological Association (2017) è “una paura cronica dei disastri ambientali. Una fonte di stress causato dal guardare il lento e apparentemente irrevocabile impatto del cambiamento climatico, e preoccuparsi del futuro di se stessi, dei bambini e delle ultime generazioni” (Clayton et. al., 2017).
It is an indirect psychological impact of climate change. It is “a large-scale reaction to the state of planetary ecosystems” (Pihkala, 2020). According to the American Pshychological Association (2017) it is “a chronic fear of environmental doom. A source of stress caused by looking at the slow and seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change, and worrying about the future of oneself, children and the last generations” (Clayton et. Al., 2017).
How does it manifest?
Symptoms reported are existential fear, guilt or shame about one’s environmental footprint, depression, anxiety, panic, nervousness, feeling hopeless, irritability, weakness, mood swings, exhaustion, insomnia, obsessive thoughts.
Who is affected?
It affects everyone, even young people and children. The American Psychological Association (2020) found that for 47% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34, the stress of climate change had an impact on daily life. Young people through modern technology experience greater exposure to disturbing and anxious climatic realities (Li, 2015).
The charity Place2Be states that it is more pronounced among young people: a study shows that 4 out of 5 children between 10 and 12 years have expressed feelings of fear, sadness, anger for environmental problems.
How we react to the climate anxiety?
Psychological responses can be (Coppola, 2021):
- disadaptive. For many people, the mental cost of thinking and experiencing the reality of a changing climate is almost too much to bear. Consequently, a common response is to reject this reality. A disadaptive response is characterized by shutdown through denial, splitting, and disavowal (Doherty, 2011; Lewis, 2019).
- adaptive. Other people cultivate various self-preservation effects such as resilience, constructive hope, attunement, cognitive resonance, and self-efficacy. Pihkala (2019) states that one needs to be able to adapt in the face of anxiety rather than being crushed.
We have collected some tips for reacting to eco-anxiety in a more constructive and resilient way. In cases of high levels or pathological situations, the support of a specialist is obviously necessary, in other cases we can take some actions.
- Improve your mood
- Connect with nature. Grow plants and trees on the terrace, balcony, garden.
- Disconnect from the internet.
Taking care of yourself through healthy habits is recommended by the American Psychological Association.
- Get better informed
- Choose your sources of information carefully. Avoid those who talk with disastrous tones, without proposing actions that can be put into practice. Always check what you read! The media often chase sensational headlines.
- Cut down on time in the midst of negative news. It’s important to be up to date, but don’t overdo it. Zero Waste Goods gives us some very valid advice: if you read a negative story, write a message to “take home” and a change that you want to implement as a response to what you read. Look for positive stories to bring into your perspective that there are so many positive things happening in the world.
- Action as antidote (Coppola 2021)
- Evaluate your environmental impact and observe how you can improve it by changing some habits (decrease plastic, reduce waste, buy locally, adopt a plant-based diet, etc.). You can follow the advice on our site, for example, to limit your impact through the choice of clothes. Or use an app like AWorld.
- Find your role, think about the best way you can use your skills to contribute positively. We can’t do EVERYTHING, but we can do something. Also through our political and purchasing choices.
- The strenght of the group
- Join other groups, for example volunteering. Ecoanxiety is often experienced in solitude. A thesis research conducted at the University of Vermont (Coppola, 2021) revealed how action through involvement in environmental organizations serves as an antidote to ecoanxiety among members of the “Climate Generation” (young people between 18 and 21 years old were interviewed, recruited by six UVM environmental organizations). Choose a reality that works near you to contribute positively to the local community.
- Share your experience with others and build strong social networks (American Psychological Association). On Clubhouse we meet weekly to network, discuss and support each other among people who care about sustainability (Sustainability Club).
- Try to be an example to others (remembering that you don’t have to be perfect!).
Photos: Omid Armin (cover); Fransiskus Filibert; Dress ECOde.