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Climate Anxiety in Youth

Updated: Jun 3

By: TYEC Eco Ambassador Alba Gutierrez

Photo taken by Koshin Bathmax


Because of the ongoing climate crisis — and with several political debates considering the future of our planet — climate anxiety has increased significantly, especially among youth generations.


What is Climate Anxiety?

Every day, we receive news about our dying planet. Climate change is a

well-known subject, followed by global warming, overpopulation, pollution,

and habitat loss. These natural and man-made disasters have flooded the

media — along with the hesitance from world leaders to respond to this

urgency — creating a worldwide dilemma affecting our population and society.


Climate anxiety, also known as eco-anxiety, has been defined as "a

chronic fear of environmental doom". Vast studies had been done on climate

anxiety since 2007, and various definitions are in use. The fear of our

atmosphere can greatly impact how we see the world today, welcoming

intrusive thoughts about the future and overwhelming stress, harming our

mental health. It is important to acknowledge the difference between climate

anxiety and climate worry. Worrying about our climate is common, according

to a survey conducted by Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

reported that 64% of Americans experience worry or stress over climatic

issues. Having this worry is normal in our world today, and can even be a

good sign as this worry motivates us to help address the issue. Nonetheless,

climate anxiety becomes an issue when the fear and dread of our future

become a profuse amount, keeping us from our day-to-day activities and relations.



How is Climate Anxiety Affecting Us?

A study done by CBS Worldwide interviewed around 10,000 people from

ages 16–25, revealing the mindset youth have toward climate change. The study

found that of those 10,000 teens and young adults, 67% reported feelings

of sadness and depression over climate change. This includes

ecological grief — feelings of yearning or sadness based on

changes in one’s ecosystem— and solastalgia —- a feeling of nostalgia for

one’s home environment and the way things used to be. — 59% of youth and

young adults said they were extremely worried about climate change and

more than 45% said their feelings about climate change negatively affected

their daily life and functioning, connecting to the more serious climate

anxiety aspect rather than just climate worry. Going back to that 67%, these

people also reported feeling fear over what the future has to offer for their

generation.


Although climate anxiety can be seen throughout all ages, analyses have recently learned the pressure put on younger generations to make our planet ‘better’ has put an overwhelming amount of stress on them. A study by Deloitte found in 2021, climate change and environmental issues were the top concern for Generation Z. Intergenerational environmental justice places the focus on the people who will be most likely affected by the decision made at climate conferences — us.


While youth groups are making their voices heard and increasing political pressure on their governments, people have relied on younger generations to act upon these situations, in this case, a little too much. It feels as if most of these responsibilities are being placed on younger generations to do a better job than older ones, and to set the goal for sustainability. This has led to even further environmental stress, with older generations shutting down what youth groups have to offer to make our planet more eco-friendly —- while still expecting them to do all the work to help our planet —- can feel almost impossible, and extremely overwhelming.


This stress has driven teens into a mindset led by climate “doomerism” which is the belief that we are no longer able to reverse climate change. This perspective has also spiralled through social media, discouraging teens about their future, thinking that no matter what meaningful climate action they take, it will not make any difference —- which is exactly the opposite of what we need right now.



What can we do to Help?

Although these feelings of stress and fear can lead to us feeling helpless, there are many things we can do to combat climate anxiety and help the environment.


  1. Focus on what you can control

Climate change is a complex worldwide issue, which means it can’t be solved overnight and can certainly not be solved by just one person/organization/government. Although this can sound un-motivational, it can also help us focus on what we can control.


Some things we can control:

  • Participating in climate change initiatives and protests

  • Joining a youth environmental group or club at school

  • Adapting more sustainable habits in your household

  • Encourage others to join the fight against climate change

  • Inform yourself about issues going on in your city/town and how you can help

  • Create awareness in your community about continuous climate issues


  1. Spend time in nature

While spending time outdoors can improve your mental health overall, it is very important to surround yourself with nature when experiencing climate anxiety. While it is important to know about the climate crisis, it is also important to acknowledge the beauty of nature that we still have. While looking at the positives, it can balance out the stress of climate anxiety and motivate us to make sure our planet doesn’t lose any more of its beauty. Gardening is also a great way to help the environment while spending time in nature, as well as organizations that plant trees such as Tree Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to planting and nurturing trees in rural and urban environments, in every province across the country.


  1. Know that you are not alone

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the ‘bad’ news surrounding climate change, along with the ‘bad’ people who encourage it, but it’s also important to remember that there are a lot of people working to solve this issue and positive change can and will happen. Countless communities and groups are fighting for the future of our planet, and no matter how helpless or alone we might feel, it is crucial to know that we are not alone in this situation. Joining a group or team where you can talk about your climate anxiety while feeling heard by others can be very uplifting towards your mental health, and can give you that push to get back on your feet, excited for what the future on Earth has to offer.


Our Future

The future of our planet and generation is the thing climate anxiety can make us dread the most. The climate doomirism theory can make us think about the future as hopeless, and unsalvagable. However, our future has countless opportunities for the generations to come. As youth groups start getting more empowered over the choices of government officials, real change is happening over the climate crisis more than ever now. We are slowly adapting to the changes in climate, and learning how to overcome the battle. In addition to that, the world is committed to fighting against climate change. Government groups are coming together to make goals for the future average worldwide temperature, businesses are becoming more sustainable, incorporating sustainable design and renewable energy into every-day-work, and younger generations have started to go out into the streets, demanding for a change. This shows the many people who care to make this evolution and heal our Earth again. We cannot determine what the future awaits for us, but we can fight for a brighter and healthier one for all.


Sources:

6 tips for coping with climate anxiety. Health & Wellness Services. (2023, April 17). https://www.colorado.edu/health/climate-anxiety

Schechter, D., Rush, H., & Horner, C. (2023, March 4). As climate changes, climate anxiety rises in Youth. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-change-anxiety/

World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). The good news about climate change. WWF. https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/the-good-news-about-climate-change

Yale experts explain climate anxiety. Yale Sustainability. (2023, March 13). https://sustainability.yale.edu/explainers/yale-experts-explain-climate-anxiety


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