Young People and Eco-Anxiety
People often become anxious when they perceive a threat. Many kinds of anxiety are common among youth. Young people often have faster and wider interaction with the world through social media, than older generations, which can exacerbate anxiety by multiplying the perception of threats around them. Young people can also be more susceptible to threats than older generations, simply because they have younger minds.
Environmental destruction and climate change are not short-term threats which are going to be resolved any time soon. So, waiting for these threats to go away, will not resolve our eco-anxiety. It can only be resolved by finding personal ways to accept and cope with these threats. Young people rightly feel more threatened by environmental issues than older generations, because they have their whole lives ahead, whereas older generations have often lived most of their lives with a high level of environmental security. Young people are the main stakeholders of the future, so although anyone can be eco-anxious, youth are especially vulnerable.
News & Views
Research has documented the experiences of climate and eco-anxiety, but little attention has been given to frustration and anger, or to untangling the effects of different emotional responses to the climate crisis. Using Australian national survey data, we found that experiencing eco-anger predicted better mental health outcomes than eco-anxiety, as well as greater engagement in pro-climate activism and personal behaviours.
There’s a gardening boom during the coronavirus epidemic. With the disappearance of other intimate encounters, the prospect of plunging our hands in the soil has gained extraordinary appeal. Is this impulse to work in the garden really about food, or is it a response to even more fundamental needs? Gardening provides the possibility of immersing our bodies in the physical world, requiring us to use our muscles and hands and backs, and it activates senses left dormant by screens: smell, touch, and taste.
A growing body of research points to the beneficial effects that exposure to the natural world has on health, reducing stress and promoting healing. Now, policymakers, employers, and healthcare providers are increasingly considering the human need for nature in how they plan and operate. How long does it take to get a dose of nature high enough to make people say they feel healthy and have a strong sense of well-being? Precisely 120 minutes.
Nylah Burton presents a fascinating study which describes how early over-exploitation and destruction of the world’s natural environment coincided with the exploitation of people of colour by white explorers and settlers. In those times, people of colour were largely part of the environment which was being exploited, and this history means that now BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people have a different, often deeper experience of eco-anxiety.
Young people who are hooked on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people to cope with the stress and anxiety of modern living, including environmental crises and living through the COVID-19 pandemic. So says Professor Esther L Jones, who researches the impacts of sci-fi…
“I can’t seem to tune out two ticking clocks – the planet’s and my own. This play started off as a creative outlet to express my frustrations with everything ranging from dating in a cosmopolitan city to witnessing those in power disregard any reasonable solutions to maintain a livable planet. As I started sharing my story, I learned it was relatable to almost anyone who has swiped on dating apps, scrolled through news stories, and is troubled…“
If you’ve been prone to eco-anxiety, the latest news on coronavirus might also be causing you to overthink. Social media is buzzing with it, and the media are giving ever-developing updates. With the situation changing daily, this article may be out of date by the time you read it, but it still holds good advice. Psychologists say that coronavirus is “the type of thing that increases anxiety disproportionately in terms of its actual danger”, and they share 5 ways of managing anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak.
Beautifully written, movingly told and meticulously researched, Losing Eden is an elegy to the healing power of nature, something we need more than ever in our anxiety-ridden world of ecological loss. Woven together with her own personal story of recovery, Lucy Jones lays out the overwhelming scientific evidence for nature as nurturer for body and soul with the clarity and candour that will move hearts and minds – a convincing plea for a wilder, richer world. (Isabella Tree, author of Wilding)
New Zealand schools have integrated climate change and dealing with eco-anxiety into their curriculum
In January, New Zealand became one of the first countries in the world to dedicate time and resources to learning about climate change as a special part of the secondary school curriculum, including tools for students to plan activism activities, and ways to alleviate eco-anxiety. Here you can download the Wellbeing Guide (pdf) being used in NZ schools, titled: “Climate Change: Prepare Today, Live Well Tomorrow.”
As Australia’s most extensive bushfire crisis continues and areas across the country remain at risk, the mental health fallout is becoming more apparent. Psychologists report that people are shocked by the widespread devastation, and their fear of the fires, concern about health impacts from smoke and distress about the vast amount of wildlife killed are all fuelling ‘eco-anxiety’ – worry and grief about our environmental crisis – in the wider population. For the thousands of Australians evacuated from the path of …
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