4 Things You Might Need to Hear Right Now If the Climate Emergency Has Got You Down

climate anxiety help

The world is a lot right now. If you’re struggling to keep on top of it all and you’re finding that your mental health is taking a toll on you, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

The release of the IPCC report on climate change was the kick in the teeth we didn’t need while we’re down. It’s absolutely filled with apocalyptic scenarios and all the masochistic joy you could want. If you chose not to read about that story, or any other story relating to the environment or the pandemic, we don’t blame you.

Studies have shown that the best thing you can do when the world is weighing on your mental health is disconnect from the news and the barrage of things to worry about that it provides.

If you’re seeking some solace in the wake of the climate report, here’s a few things to bear in mind.

There Is Still Hope

It’s easy to give up hope when confronted with disasters on a planetary scale. The Earth is doomed and we’re all cooked is a reasonable reaction but it leads straight to nihilism and despair which doesn’t really help anyone.

While the IPCC report provides a damning vision of our own policy failures, it’s framed in the context of action. These are the consequences if we don’t take action now but they are by no means guaranteed.

The report itself is actually a guidebook on how to avoid these worst-case scenarios. It offers pathways that we can choose to follow that will result in different, less terrible outcomes.

We’ve seen over the past few years the passionate response of the younger generation in standing up for the planet. Heroes like Greta Thunberg and the school strike children have emerged and shown us that it’s never too late.

With the IPCC report acting as an alarm bell for world leaders, and an important climate summit coming up in November, we could see large-scale systemic change put into place soon.

Take This as a Challenge

While 99% of the responsibility for dealing with climate change lies with our elected representatives and the systems that enable climate destruction, that doesn’t mean that what we do as individuals is useless.

There are so many things that we can personally do to limit our impact on the planet. While it might not feel like much, society and the planet is comprised of individuals and if everyone starts to behave in more sustainable ways, it can make a difference.

Cutting down — or cutting out — meat consumption is one of the biggest things you can do to reduce your impact on the planet. Start small with something like meat-free Mondays and work your way up. Don’t put hard limits on yourself and remember it’s all about quantity reduction overall.

We’re all grounded at the minute, but doing things like carbon offsetting when we do take to the skies again is another way to mitigate your impact and something worth considering in the future.

Then, of course, there are all the daily things like reducing your use of plastic, cutting down on vehicle travel where possible, and re-using and re-purposing items in your home.

Appreciate What We’ve Got

It’s hard to read about the death and destruction of places and things you love but look at it this way: there are more beautiful, incredible, amazing places and things still on this planet that several lifetimes worth of travel would struggle to fill.

Australia is home to some of the most stunning scenery on Earth. There’s a reason tourists flock here each year and we are lucky to live in a place surrounded by so much natural beauty.

Knowing that this might not be around forever should encourage us to treasure and enjoy the things we still have and make them even more precious still.

Getting out into nature and appreciating what we’ve got is also shown to have great mental health benefits. Go for a walk, go for a swim, stare at some trees, or watch a sunset. Soaking up as much of it as possible can not only offer a renewed appreciation for nature but could also give us the strength and resilience we need to keep fighting to protect these sacred places.

Good News Is Out There

News cycles follow everything that is frightening, enraging, or attention-grabbing because that’s what gets viewers eyes on the page. Because of this, our news is inordinately skewed towards things that are bleak and depressing, but that doesn’t mean that’s all that’s going on in the world.

Back in May, Leonardo DiCaprio announced he would spend US$43 million on conserving the Galapagos Islands. That initiative, in partnership with conservation group Re:Wild, is set to restore the natural wildlife to one of Earth’s most biodiverse regions as well as all of the Pacific archipelagos around Latin America.

Last year, the world watched as large swaths of South America burned. While we all saw that, we didn’t see the fact that, following on from the fires, Chile strapped backpacks full of seeds to border collies who ran through the burned forests, distributing seeds and replanting the trees.

Conservation efforts like this are working. While the forces of darkness work day and night to destroy the planet, champions of hope work just as hard to restore the balance. A recent study found that, over the past 20 years, 59 million hectares of forests have been restored around the world. That’s an area the size of France and comprised of enough trees to store the entire carbon output of the US.

Vietnam is getting in on the action too, with a pledge to plant one billion trees by 2025. Closer to home, Australia is currently undertaking the planting of 25 million trees to help the country recover from last summer’s bushfires.

The IPCC report is depressing but it could well be a turning point for the planet. Never before has the climate emergency been put in such stark terms by such an authoritative body. Countries have already been pledging deep carbon cuts and this news is only likely to inspire further action.

While those at the top try to deal with the problem, we as individuals need to remember that the human brain simply wasn’t built to deal with problems of this size. While the news is worth keeping an eye on and doing what you can will help, trying to incorporate saving the planet into your to-do list is just not practical. You’re not Superman. None of us are. This problem is almost entirely not your fault or yours to solve.

Ensure that you consume news with a purpose, keep your own mental and physical health as your priority, and never lose hope. People can and do achieve incredible things when they put their minds to it and this fight is very far from being over.

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