It's Time To Talk About Eco-Anxiety

Simply put, it’s the new kind of existential crisis – a growing worry that we’re running out of time, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it.
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We live in an anxious world. Or, at least, my friends and I do.

Why, you ask? The much-hyped millennial burnout, uncertainty over jobs, and the constant looming cloud of Brexit on the horizon have all contributed to late-night discussions around our kitchen table. But it’s time to add another worry to our ever-growing list, and that’s eco-anxiety.

You might not have heard of it. I hadn’t until last week. But the moment I clicked on the article introducing this new phenomenon to the world, it chimed with me. When I put it to my friends, they agreed, too.

Simply put, it’s the new kind of existential crisis. All those reports about rising temperatures, ever-increasing carbon emissions, and the news juggernaut of climate change-related eco disasters all contribute to the worrying sense that we’re running out of time, and that there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. A recent study on climate change even concluded that people are going to therapy because of this, whilst the report it was based on has gone viral, with more than 110,000 downloads at the time of writing.

We’re a nation of worriers- indeed, it’s been estimated that one in ten of British adults will suffer from ‘debilitating’ anxiety at some point in their life- but this panic is something new. Now, the discussions around our table go on into the early hours. At work, my house WhatsApp group regularly goes off as my housemates find various dire news articles about the state of the environment to share with us all. By the end of the day, I’m often exhausted and demoralised; depressed about how little is being done to avert what seems like an impending apocalypse.

Then comes the inevitable thought (often late at night, with nothing much else zooming around my head): what’s the point of doing anything about it? It’s obviously too late to fix things. Nobody really wants to.

But something can be done. This panic is inspiring my friends and I to do more than we ever have before to improve the way in which we live. One friend founded an eco-committee at work and is fighting to make her multinational law firm greener, reducing paper waste and introducing renewable energy sources into the office. Another has decided to donate five pounds a month to the Rainforest Trust, and we’re all trying to buy smarter by swapping out cleaning chemicals for bio-friendly versions, cooking in bulk to minimise plastic waste and buying locally.

This fever is also spreading around the rest of the world, most notably the younger generations: take Greta Thunberg’s school strike, which saw millions of schoolchildren across the world walk out in an attempt to convince governments just how serious the threat is. Despite the tepid response from politicians around the world, that in itself is cause for hope. Something to share on my house WhatsApp group instead of the barrage of doom and gloom.

Climate anxiety is a common-sense reaction to what’s going on in the world around us. But instead of wallowing, we need to act on it. How else will things change?