Climate angst and what to do about it.
by Saskia Daggett
So - climate change angst - you are feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, angry, terrified, frustrated, confused and scared about climate change. Who could blame you?! The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is terrifying. This panel has been in existence for decades and its role is to inform the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the world’s Governments about the scientific realities of climate change.
I was lucky enough to work on a research project with colleagues in Africa a decade ago that has been used and referenced by this panel and I’ve been at UNFCCC events and lobbied Governments all over the world on climate change issues so believe me when I say - it’s not over yet - no matter how bleak it might feel.
The IPCC’s conclusion for 2021 “Climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying”. But we knew that already right?! You have eyeballs? You’ve seen the news right? You are not alone in feeling all these feelings of despair and hopelessness - it's completely understandable. This kind of information can cause a fight or flight response - both completely legitimate. My call to you is to use these feelings as fuel though - not to let them paralyse you and overwhelm you - you are a creative and powerful being and right now we need you! If you can - please choose to fight.
So the good news - and there is good news when it comes to climate change - actually quite a lot of it:
We know what is happening - we have amazing gifts as humans and scientific knowledge is one of them. For decades now scientists have been warning us that this would happen and now it is. It’s not all doom and gloom either - many people/organisations and states have sat up, paid attention and made changes. For example, Germany now relies heavily on renewable energy sources, governments from around the world have made numerous and sometimes ambitious promises to reduce emissions (the Paris Climate Agreement), countries like Costa Rica are forging a green pathway for others to follow. Sure it's not enough yet - but it is an awful lot better than if we’d just carried on as we were 40 years ago.
We know why the changes are happening - can you imagine how terrifying it would be if we didn’t understand why all the wildfires, floods, erosion, failed crops, changing weather patterns, changing temperatures were happening? Well, we do know, we know exactly why - us. There is real power in this - which leads me to the next point:
We know what the solutions are. This is absolutely fundamental - this is a curable situation (for now). We are not past the worst tipping points (yet), we can pull this back, it's all still worth fighting for. We know how to generate renewable energy, we know there are other fuels we can use, we know we need to reduce consumption and how (mainly in the global north), we know our economic system is flawed and a new system based on our health and wellbeing and that of our planet are what’s needed. The time is now - it is all possible.
We have everything we need - As human beings on planet Earth collectively we have all the resources we need to fix this. We have all the scientific expertise, all the funds, all the knowledge, most of the technology, research, evidence, the decision making systems, the will of the majority of the people - everything we could possibly need. We just need to focus, do it and do it faster.
We also know what the barriers to making this change happen are - although they are complex we now need to face them. Corporate greed and corruption, flawed economics, weak leadership and poor decision making, lack of political will, lack of quality education for all, inequality and injustice. If we are going to fight climate change we are going to have to fight for each other at the same time - our planet's survival and our own are now more intimately intertwined than ever before.
So what does this all mean? What does this boil down to in regards to your part to play, your life and your actions? The main point here is that you matter - we all matter. There are forces at play that don’t want you to feel that - have you frozen in fear and inactive is exactly what they want - so don’t be! Here’s a whole range of things you can do - you are a creative and powerful individual capable of great great things;
Pat yourself on the back for what you are already doing - I am sure you are already active and doing things to tackle climate change, for that you should be proud of your achievements and success and see it as a great foundation to build on or maintain. If you are not active - hey you are reading this so you clearly care - this fight is in your heart and that is a fantastic start! Consider some or all of the ideas below for your next steps.
Take care of your mental health - this is crucial - we need you and we need you well. This is big scary stuff, you have every right to feel how you feel. Lean into it, take excellent care of yourself, restore your heart in nature whenever you can. Get help if you need help. Just know you are far from alone in this and despite how it might appear - there is actually a lot you can do. It is not hopeless - far from it!
Reduce your consumption - especially if you are in the global north. Climate change is the fault of the western nations I’m afraid - hardly anyone ever says it and fingers are immediately pointed at India and China as the emerged new world powers - but it's the global north that has done this. We are culpable - whether we meant to be or not. We all need to drastically reduce our consumption. Don’t be scared by this, it's a great challenge and loads of us are already smashing it. Loads of companies, products, apps and ideas are out there for how to do this. From using LED lightbulbs, to switching to renewable household energy supply, washing clothes less, travelling less by plane etc - there’s so much you can do personally. Don’t believe it when people say ‘what’s the point’ ‘it’s just a drop in the ocean’ ‘it’s only Governments that can solve this’. The point is household consumption is a huge part of the problem - making changes in diet (eating less meat), eradicating plastic, recycling, being mindful about the use of water and electricity, gas etc all have an impact. It’s a great and powerful thing to do.
Vote and vote well - the people who tell you it's all about Government action aren’t wrong and have an important point. States must take greater action, quicker and more meaningfully. All political parties are going to tell you they are great on climate - wherever they are. Look for the truth and their track record. Look out for who is the most ambitious on climate and for parties that also promise better care and justice for their citizens at the same time - the two are intertwined. Recently humans have made some catastrophic political choices for the climate - Bolsonaro in Brazil for example, in one term has annihilated the Amazon rainforest and turned it from being one of the biggest carbon sinks on the planet to it actually producing more carbon now than what it absorbs. Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement - the US is thankfully back in but we lost 4-5 crucial years there. You need to vote and it is, of course, your choice but if you give a shit about climate change vote wisely!
Think global act local - we are the Global Tribe so obviously we are going to want you to think big picture and care about friends all over the world but a great way to combat the feeling of hopelessness is to act locally. There will be local activist groups, community groups, environmental groups near you right now. From taking care of community green space, lobbying your local council, litter picks, meeting your local MP - there’s all kinds of practical action you can take right on your doorstep. It's a great way to feel connected and that you are doing something. If we all did this - just imagine!!
Make excellent purchasing decisions - of course, I am going to plug the Global Tribe here - we set up specifically to help you make great decisions and give you great options - fast fashion is poisonous. Sure our gorgeous clothing is a little more pricey than some highstreet stores but everything we make will last, is made doing no harm to anyone, recyclable, often made from recycled materials, sent with no plastic and some of the profits go to climate change activists from around the world. A MUCH better purchasing decision than something only slightly cheaper that you know probably wasn’t made in great conditions, won't last and just makes money for huge corporations.
Get educated and active - there’s a wealth of information out there, there are all kinds of groups you can join from Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth to Greenpeace - all active and all in need of hands on deck. You can also talk to your employer to see what their policies are on climate and carbon footprint - if they don’t have them make them! Also, think about choosing a career that does no harm or contributes to the solution. Also, get marching - protests are an important part of social change - it's how governments see physically what people actually think. They can feel pointless but they are not - it's about drawing lines and saying; ‘no’ or ‘do more’ - if no one is out there saying it they will just do whatever they want. Get out there just stay safe doing it!
Support others - spread the word, educate friends and family, get other people active. Another great action is to support those already fighting the good fight - like Vanessa Nakate in Uganda. There are organisations and activists everywhere trying hard to make a difference - donate to them, sign their petitions, share their sites on your socials.
So there you have it. It is not all doom and gloom. This is it - this is the time - what a unique and important time to be alive - you are part of the generation that will fix this, you are critical and you are needed. There is so much to do! Go go go!
"Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon" by NASA on Unsplash