November 10, 2021 4 min read
The UK is currently hosting a summit called COP26, which is the United Nations 26th 'Conference of the Parties’. Attended by countries that signed the United Nations Convention on Climate Change in 1994, the event is a global meeting concentrating on climate change and how these countries are planning to tackle it.
COP26 is taking place in Glasgow between 31st October and 12th November, and any decisions made could lead to big changes in our everyday lives. The last COP summit was held in Madrid in 2019, with Greta Thunberg giving an inspirational speech but ended with lots of issues unresolved.
The UK government declared 2020 a year of climate action, but the pandemic pretty much overshadowed this. However, they have pledged to reduce the UK's carbon emissions to 'net zero' by 2050. This means cutting emissions drastically and absorbing as much carbon as it produces. They aim to do this by avoiding emissions completely in areas like transport, farming and other industries, or offset by sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. An enormous task, and it's really unclear to most of us how they will do this.
2050 is still a long time away, and if the COP26 nations still can't agree… This leaves many of us feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable and helpless. We may be experiencing eco-anxiety.
Eco anxiety, or environmental anxiety, is a blanket term used to describe the sadness, anger, fear and sense of loss, or even panic people feel when they learn about or witness the impacts of climate change on our planet.
The term was coined and defined by the American Psychological Association in 2017 and now has become part of our regular vocabulary. It's not a mental health issue in its own right but refers to when a person has persistent worries about the future of Earth and the life that it supports.
Other terms like climate change distress, ecological grief, or eco trauma reflect and acknowledge that this concern can feel more than just a generalised worry but can lead to more severe symptoms of anxiety and more.
Medical News Today discussed a survey of 10,000 young people in 10 countries who reported feeling deeply anxious. Over 75% of respondents said "the future is frightening" and more than 50% said they felt "sad, anxious, powerless, helpless and guilty". More than half felt betrayed by their governments, believing that their actions were not enough and were not "protecting the planet or future generations."
With the nations at COP26 debating climate change, feelings of climate anxiety might be amplified at this time; it seems helpful to look at how to deal with eco-anxiety, what we can do for ourselves and our planet.
Eco anxiety affects different people in different ways. Some may feel helpless or fearful while others feel frustrated and angry, but there are lots of positive ways to deal with these feelings, and we'd like to share a few here:
Whatever COP26 brings, if we all take small steps - like buying a bamboo toothbrush or carrying a reusable coffee cup - we can all make a difference.
What are you doing to reduce your eco-anxiety? Share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us on Instagram #wildandstone.
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