11 Comments
Mar 9, 2023Liked by Emily Atkin

Great coverage of this topic, Emily and associates. I want to add that anxiety also comes directly to those who have spent their lives in nature, observing and studying. Scientists as well as non-scientists. I have been observing/tracking changes in my own region for more than 40 years (some of that as a professional and some simply in my personal life). Even people who don’t consciously track invasive species, bud burst, changing bird populations, etc., can sense that something is amiss. We don’t need the headlines and gloom news to tell us. We actually feel it in our bodies. Just wanted to make this point. And yes, mindfulness practice is very helpful.

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Mar 9, 2023Liked by Emily Atkin

YES. This article is so thought-provoking and important! This is why I love supporting you.

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Great article - illuminating and at the same time leaves us with something to hang onto...

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THANK YOU! The rich northern countries need to hear this! I'm visiting family in California now, California which has for the last 100 years shown where the US is headed in so many ways, California which is shrivveling up in the South and drowning in the North. No, it's not Bangladesh, but...... Thank You, again for your great work.

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I’m sure there’s a BUNCH more threads this article could follow, but I wanted to flag one which is that taking climate action with a community is an extremely unsexy and effective intervention for some of these feelings! (Like a lot of things we know are good for our mental wellbeing.) perhaps the whole HEATED community is already engaged around this, but whenever we talk about mental health as a thing we must individually manage as discrete people, I think we’re only looking at a small piece of the picture!

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Mental health issues are long term and seldom addressed after an disaster. Making someone whole after a traumatic event involves more than providing food and shelter, though these are extremely important short term! Mental health issues may span a lifetime and need to be addressed. Important topic, and this was a very good introduction!

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founding

As a human/environmental rights campaigner for the past 30 PLUS years I often have to tell myself why I am campaigning. So, I was delighted to read this and I particularly like this part of your excellent article.

'But the fact is, much of the climate anxiety we spend so much time trying to prevent, while distressing, is normal. Many experts don’t consider it a mental health disorder—rather, they say it is a reasonable emotional reaction to the real threat of climate change. 

This was cemented in a landmark study of 10,000 young people across the world, which found that 75 percent of people ages 18 to 25 think the future is frightening. That study mainstreamed the concept of climate anxiety. “One is to understand that it is a healthy and normal response to feel distressed about the climate crisis,” study author Britt Wray told Smithsonian Magazine. “It’s not a pathology. It’s not a mental health disorder. It’s a sign that you care and are attached to what’s going on in the world.”

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excellent piece Arielle and Emily!! really interesting to learn about the rise of “climate trauma” versus climate anxiety. keep up the killer job 💪

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It's no surprise that climate change-related mental health issues are so prevalent. When you have bad actors trying to limit or cut resources devoted to combating both climate change and mental health issues separately, the intersection of the two is bound to be a blind spot.

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Sigh, I like you guys. I have read your stuff for years. But this discussion of "Climate Anxiety" is off point and frankly flawed.

Look at your intro.

"If you look around the news and social media, you’ll find that many discussions on climate change and mental health have focused on eco-anxiety, and the problem with doom-and-gloom rhetoric."

You start by conflating "doom and gloom rhetoric" with "eco-anxiety" and your wording suggests that "doom and gloom rhetoric" is "the problem".

This has become an increasingly common trend. I call it "OK Doomer Shutdown". The idea that the problem in mobilizing people around the crisis is the rhetoric of "the Doomers". The idea that ONLY positive messages should be focused on.

You are not alone in this desire to make the narrative less apocalyptic. No one, it seems, thinks telling people the truth and letting them decide what to think for themselves is the right thing to do.

Transformative narratives for climate action

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-020-02761-y

Narratives are socially constructed ‘stories’ that make sense of events,” thereby lending “direction to human action.” So observes a paper published in the journal Climatic Change by a team of European researchers.

Climate-change narratives, the team notes, typically foreground “doom and gloom.” Often they emphasize risk. If they’re not retelling the latest warming-related disasters (fires, floods, food shortages), they’re predicting a future filled with even grimmer warming-related disasters (bigger fires, more severe flooding, famines that threaten entire regions).

Which sounds like “Climate Realism” to me.

This approach, the researchers argue, can be counterproductive: “Narratives of fear can become self-fulfilling prophecies.” If people believe that things will only get worse, they feel overwhelmed. If they feel overwhelmed, they’re apt to throw up their hands, thus guaranteeing that things will only get worse.

They argue that a diet of bad news leads to paralysis, which yields yet more bad news. What’s needed instead, the paper goes on, are narratives that “empower people to act.”

Such narratives tell a “positive and engaging story.” They “articulate a vision of ‘where we want to go’ ” and outline steps that could be taken to arrive at this hypothetical destination.

They argue that positive stories can become self-fulfilling.

People who believe in a brighter future are more likely to put in the effort required to achieve it. When they put in that effort, they make discoveries that hasten progress. Along the way, they build communities that make positive change possible.

“Optimism is a choice,” notes Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who led the effort to get the Paris climate accord approved in 2015.

“Do you know of any challenge that mankind has had in the history of humankind that was actually successful in its achievement that started out with pessimism, that started out with defeatism?”

Which sounds kinda Orwellian to me. Which is my main problem with this whole idea that "scaring" people is counterproductive. Because FALSE HOPE is ANOTHER FORM OF DISINFORMATION.

You go on to say.

"Conversations like these have been welcome and necessary–especially because the notion that we’re “doomed” is just false".

Which links to this article. "Earth needs climate action, not climate 'doomism,' scientists say"

Now, what EXACTLY do these scientists say? Not the headline, not your "just false" interpretation, what do they actually say.

"The science says it is not game over for planet Earth or humanity. Action can prevent some of the worst if done soon, they say." --- "action can PREVENT SOME OF THE WORST"

“Everybody knows it’s going to get worse,” said Woodwell Climate Research Center scientist Jennifer Francis. “We can do a lot to make it less bad than the worst case scenario.”

"It’s not that they’re saying you are condemned to a future of destruction and increasing misery,” said Christiana Figueres, the former U.N. climate secretary who helped forge the 2015 Paris climate agreement and now runs an organization called Global Optimism.

"We are not doomed, but rapid action is absolutely essential,” Ms. Andersen said. “With every month or year that we delay action, climate change becomes more complex, expensive and difficult to overcome.”

The College of Wooster’s Professor Clayton said “no matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. You can make a difference between bad and worse. ... That’s very powerful, very self-affirming.”

OK, that/s what these handful of Climate Scientists are saying IN PUBLIC.

What do Climate Scientists say IN PRIVATE?

A majority of climate scientists think that warming is going to be at least 3℃ or higher.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02990-w?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=6770175a62-briefing-dy-20211102&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-6770175a62-45552674

A Nature survey reveals that many authors of the latest IPCC climate-science report are anxious about the future and expect to see catastrophic changes in their lifetimes.

In an ANONYMOUS poll of Climate Scientists in November of 2021 before COP26 here's what Climate Scientists said.

Of the scientists who responded to the poll,

88% think global warming constitutes a crisis and nearly as many said they expect to see “catastrophic impacts of climate change in their lifetimes”.

Just under half said that global warming has caused them to reconsider major life decisions, such as where to live and “whether to have children”.

More than 60% said that they experience anxiety, grief, or other distress because of concerns over climate change.

This information should concern and scare you. These are the most informed people on the planet on the topic of global warming. You should want to know why they think this is the most likely future. What do they know, what do they see, that the rest of us don’t?

We should all want to understand this, because they think that we are going to have at least 2℃ more of observable warming by 2100.

That means they are forecasting warming of roughly 0.25℃ per decade for the next 80 years. If you think that doesn’t sound too bad let’s put it into context.

Between 1850 (the start of the Industrial Age) and 1980 (the 0℃ baseline we measure warming against) the Global Mean Temperature (GMT) increased at a rate of 0.07℃ per decade.

Between 1975 and 2015 the GMT increased at a rate of 0.18℃. decade.

The “normal” interglacial warming rate for the last 900,000 years has been about 0.1℃ per century.

A 0.25℃ per decade rate of warming is 25 times faster than any recorded rate of warming in the entire geologic history of the planet with one exception: the Chicxulub Impact Event 65mya, aka “the dinosaur killer”.

The MAJORITY OF CLIMATE SCIENTISTS think that's the "most likely" scenario.

Reporting that isn't "doomism", it's looking beyond what the 20% of Climate Scientists who are Climate Optimists are saying and seeing reality.

SCIENCE is a SOCIAL PROCESS. It's a debate between tribes and camps in various fields. The 'truth' will out but it can be a long process to change prevailing paradigms. The current Climate Paradigm is from the 80's when Climate Moderates "guessed" that warming would be gradual and happen on centennial or millennial timescales.

They got it wrong.

We are going to 4C by 2080 at the latest. The "sane" response to that should be anxiety.

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