Ahmed Mayeesha Reza Agomoni
When it starts to seem like all news is bad news, it can be difficult to not get bogged down by the 24-hour-loop of breaking news and broadcasts from the scene of the latest tragedy. Shrunken glaciers. Drowning polar bears. We do not need to be told that there is a climate emergency that is taking its toll on the planet and consumption of such news and statistics takes a massive toll on our mental health. The onset of the environmental catastrophe has given rise to a specific type of mental distress—Eco-anxiety, which is defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom” by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In unison with its name, eco-anxiety refers to the dread and fear that people are experiencing due to our impacts on the planet.
Having eco-anxiety is a perfectly healthy and a rather normal reaction to being victims of the environmental doom and human catastrophe. It is completely understandable that there should be a level of concern. In an interview, Dr. Michael Sinclair, a consultant psychologist, added “Our minds evolved from cave ancestors to worry, we focus on doom and gloom, we chew it over in our brain as we develop new survival skills. That is our mind doing what it is meant to do.” Some of the common disorders that branch out from eco-anxiety include sadness, paranoia, insomnia, aggression, etc.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our education has come to a halt which leaves more room for us to be aware of the environment. Corona virus can invade our body but we decide whether we let it invade our minds or not. Anxiety is borne of encountering problematic uncertainty. The mind can generate a bunch of crippling “what if” scenarios within a matter of seconds, and the news media’s obsession with bad news is akin to pouring fuel to the fire. But, neither being completely oblivious to the news nor making harsh criticism towards activists such as David Attenborough or Greta Thunberg is a solution. There is “transitional grief”: a growing awareness that things are changing around us and then a feeling of sadness and despair because of the many losses involved. It all comes down to how you channel your eco-anxiety because it is just an empathetic response. This is where it comes handy : when you take the facts and statistics, process them and act positively, moving forward. With ongoing social debate around climate politics, we need to relearn the world as it is constantly changing and is not like what it was in the past. We thus need to reconsider our ways of living.
It goes without saying that small changes are not enough on their own, and that making lifestyle changes does not mean that we are letting the government and big businesses off the hook, but doing your bit is still a good place to start with. Being in control of your environmentally conscious choices may help in countering powerlessness. It is deeply irresponsible to condone anxiety over something that the individual has no control over, but we should encourage the making of sensible personal choices and reassure that human ingenuity is already making solutions. Another tip for combating eco-anxiety is to find like-minded people to share and express your feelings of eco-anxiety, which may help in diminishing fear. You may implement eco-friendly activities in your daily life-cutting down on the usage of plastic water bottles, recycling, using tote bags instead of polythene, planting more trees, and a lot more. The internet can be a helpful source for diving deep into how to live a more eco-friendly life as an alarming number of people are trying to lead a more nature-friendly lifestyle by weaning themselves off of harmful activities that are adding to the climate apocalypse and countless blogs encouraging people to live a more sustainable life.
Eco-anxiety should be addressed and recognised as a social practice. We need to reframe it in order to accentuate hope in the midst of gloom, social disruption, and climate catastrophe. It is important to remember that we are in this together. There are so many people going through the exact same feelings and existential threats. As hard as it can be to go through these challenges, we have to push ourselves to seek something better and truer. We have to persist through to find the light on the other side.
Agomoni has a bittersweet relationship speaking Java and convincing her parents to watch soap operas and YouTube with her.