Eco-anxiety? Is that even a thing you may well be thinking.
Well, it is.
And in with this post l am here to explain why, and its importance.
Hopefully provide an eco-anxiety definition.
Be forewarned, however, this is an opinionated article. Or op-ed.
Still, l say that because to some, the idea of developing anxiety based around environmental processes or events is a novel or questionable concept.
Ludicrous some might even say.
However, it is very clear nowadays how prevalent and severe environmental events and risks are.
Is it really a surprise the waves of environmental demonstrations that have spread worldwide?
Or the countless numbers of people, young people especially, suddenly freaking out over the security of their futures?
I think not.
So, let’s talk Eco-anxiety: a guide to what it is and why it matters
Intro- so what is eco-anxiety?
So, what precisely am l talking about?
And to remind you, this is an Op-Ed.
Read more: What is Op-Ed
Is this just a passing fad? Some entitled, juvenile hysteria?
Again, to some, it might seem both of these.
But then l think that would be being too flippant, too obtuse even.
And inadequately considering that these feelings among people may well be part of broader movements, both in environmental and psychological ways.
And as the movements gain momentum, there is an ever-increasing sense from academic studies and scientific evidence emphasising the direct association between the state of the environment and one’s own mental state.
This relationship has been dubbed: Eco-anxiety.
To quote a BBC article for an eco-anxiety definition:
‘psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis’
And that quote is an interpretation of a longer explanation given by academic and subject experts, who have committed their careers to understanding humans psychological relationship to the environment.
Sounds delightful eh? A whole barrel of laughs.
Don’t underestimate it
Of course, it is possible for some to overplay certain things, exaggerate conditions or simply jump on a bandwagon because they believe they can capitalise on it.
The same is applicable here, whereby people act exploitatively to benefit from a condition or issue that is genuinely plaguing others.
However, that does not lessen the severity of what it represents.
Or the potential for a future need of a eco-anxiety treatment. Much like we have for other forms of depression or severe anxiety.
The fact that some people are so concerned by the environment and peoples’ treatment of it, that they are actively claiming anxiety, stress and panic is major.
You don’t have to be a full-blown Greenpeace member or Extinction Rebellion activist to actually a give a shit about the state of the planet that we all inhabit.
It simply boils down to about how much pride you have.
If you’re proud about your house, car, appearance… why wouldn’t you have any for the very thing that enables you to exist?
Why does eco-anxiety matter?
Well, again, to some the concept of eco-anxiety will be difficult to entertain.
That the idea our minds and emotional state can be directly influenced by what we see or hear in the news is too far-fetched.
Or at least, that it should not matter as much as it does to use.
Yet, for me, it definitely does matter.
And it should be up to me to decide:
- not only whether it does matter
- but also just how much it should matter to me
If there are enough, diverse amounts of people – expert or not, expressing significant levels of concern and caution there must be something in it.
Or, at the very least, enough that we take bigger considerations of it.
Personally, l can relate because it brings some clarity to feelings l have noticed been increasingly experiencing. Of reactions l observe myself having at certain times, to certain events.
- A sense of helplessness or frustration with seeing environments damaged
- Fear of the unknown with what might happen if inaction prevails
See how it can be significant enough, least to some, there may be a need for eco-anxiety treatment?
It’s the sensation of observing the state of nature worsening, being aware of environmental degradation. Plus, seeing that priorities changing and that as one without a position power unable to do anything.
Inaction is still doing something.
And most prefer to ignore it, dispute it or even, disturbingly, indulge in it.
Yes, indulge in it.
That some apparently enjoy seeing or knowing our countryside is being ruined is perverse, bizarre and frankly, messed to me.
That’s more evidence of a mental disorder than getting anxiety over wanting our planet and its nature to remain pristine.
Consider the economics
Inevitably, econ-anxiety as an idea as well as the term itself will be disputed, and in many ways, it is important to discuss or debate over subjects which may well be significant to many.
So, l think it is very plausible for people to feel or become affected by what they see happening around them.
For instance, consider when Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas in mid-2019.
Not only, has this resulted in some of the worst modern-day damages to the Bahamas, producing unfathomable changes to its ecosystems, but it has also meant vast and lasting impacts to peoples livelihoods.
Both, for individuals or their businesses, and the entire Bahamian tourism industry.
See how this can then impact on someone’s mental state?
Natural disasters produce implications for people’s mental state, as they witness much of their daily lives irreversible changed. Be it from the livelihoods to the direct loss of family members or friends.
The point is, its hard to refute that environmental disasters are not going to affect the welfare of people.
Be it materialistically or mentally.
Read more: How to manage eco-anxiety and your wellbeing
Sure, it may still be possible to suggest, well that doesn’t mean that these disasters are driven by climate change…
But isn’t that:
- One, just getting utterly desperate to reject any reasonable evidence or logical at all
- Two, overlooking the fact that greater care for people’s mental welfare should be a basic response regardless of the cause?
And whether or not you believe it – my point is, that it is within our interests to minimise the potential of disasters.
Because while it might not affect your mind, it may well affect your business.
And so that the need for support schemes, including perhaps one of an eco-anxiety treatment, is critical.
So how to address eco-anxiety?
This is a challenging question.
And not one l will pretend to know an optimal solution to.
Yet, there are some definitive principles that might be worth considering:
- On an individual, micro-level, this emerging consensus that anxiety could occur because of largescale, unconnected events. Including environmental events which then emphasises the importance of improving how we understand mental health.
- From a macro-level, it also emphasises the significance of taking the initiative. To be more environmentally conscious, while working collectively to reduce climate change from escalating.
Not too tough eh?
Really it doesn’t have to be.
Being more eco-conscious
Simply because we, as individuals can make a significant impact.
It goes back to what is increasingly becoming my favourite expression:
We don’t need everyone doing sustainability perfectly, we need everyone doing sustainability imperfectly
By both supporting one another with our mental wellbeing, but also by taking steps to be more eco-conscious.
This is why it always benefits having a working definition of something, including that of an eco-anxiety definition.
Growing public awareness to think before we make a decision about how we act, how we travel or how we consume.
And aside from what or how you buy, start by reading more around the subject and discussing it with friends or even colleagues.
Even if you don’t agree with certain aspects.
Discussing it has monumental benefits, both socially and psychologically.
The phrase: Sharing is Caring, exists for a reason
2. Retaining our resilience
Improving one’s awareness is one thing.
But developing and training the strength of ours is quite another, equally vital step.
If you can train your mind, influence your thought-process to retain positivity and self-belief, you are much more likely to refrain from suffering eco-anxiety.
- fostering and nurturing relationships – as said above, finding solace in those closest and most supportive to you is one of the best ways to cope with anything, environment-related or not
- maintaining your physiological side – engaging in positivity means doing so in every area, not just mentally, but the physically and nutritionally
- practice mindfulness and positivity – by this l mean, writing down your thoughts, meditating and focusing on what you can do, instead of what is inadequate.
All these points are so significant, especially that last one, which is why l asked a close friend and expert to write a follow-up post about managing eco-anxiety.
By focusing on creating an effective eco-anxiety treatment.
You must check it out.
Read more: How to manage eco-anxiety and your wellbeing
I am certain it will benefit you or anyone else.
3. Push for proactivity & encourage accountability
What l mean by this is to push for action.
Not just for your own welfare, but for the welfare of everyone.
We as a collective, need to be proactive and push for those who have power or influence, who are the decisionmakers – to take proper action.
To make sustainable and environmentally-friendly choices.
Simply because while we individually improve our own circumstances, it is these overarching policies and decisions that will produce the biggest shifts. In how our societies, our communities and ourselves perceive our relationship to the environment.
Essentially, holding governments, officials and decisionmakers accountable.
Activism doesn’t mean you have to go to the extent, those who demonstrate with organisations like Extinction Rebellion do – though these groups are incredibly admirable in their efforts.
(Even if they can overdo how they go about it).
Collective action, in any form, restores a sense of purpose, connects us with others – that crucial social aspect again, and helps to tackle a collective problem.
Sure, eco-anxiety may not directly affect you, but it will indirectly, be it through something or someone.
So, l encourage you to learn or at least a engage with it a little.
Takeaways – Eco-anxiety is important
This post isn’t supposed to antagonise you.
Its purpose is to draw attention to something that very real, increasingly mentioned, especially those most susceptible to long-term environmental changes.
Generations not even yet to exist.
Just look at the Australian bushfires over the 2019-2020 New Year period.
It can be challenging to imagine the consequences made today on those who don’t even exist. But then there were those before who fought in world wars to ensure that their offspring had a right to freedom.
This same concept applies now.
Its why helping to recognise this could start by establishing a eco-anxiety definition.
In that, ensuring there is a vibrant, beautiful and diverse natural world for people to freely enjoy. And without the fear of environmental disasters destroying their communities or businesses.
Ensuring that we have that permanent, meaningful and sustainable change.
Personally, l am part of the millennial generation, giving me a particular motivation.
But its also because we are at a pivotal time, where we are witnessing an acceleration in the transfer of responsibility from previous generations to new ones.
And this means we need to get it right.
By taking the time to consider our choices, our actions.
Individually AND collectively.
But what do you think? How much do you agree with me, or do you think l am preaching?
Leave me a comment below.