Climate change anxiety

Interesting article in the NY Times about anxiety and therapy for people experiencing anxiety about climate change:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/06/health/climate-anxiety-therapy.html

The anxiety being described reminded me of similar worries during the Cold War when nuclear annihilation and nuclear winter were common concerns.

What interested me as a naturalist is the emphasis on how climate change will impact humans with little mention of how it will impact (and is impacting) the other species on the planet. I’m less concerned about how humans will survive – we will likely find a way – but the collateral damage to the rest of life on earth, both from climate change itself and what we may have to resort to in order to make life bearable for humans, does often preoccupy me. I might not live long enough to see the real damage, but for those of us involved in conservation work it is sobering (to say the least) to consider that much of what we’ve worked on might be undone in the coming years. Thoughts?

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I think this is good advice for reducing the anxiety: https://www.npr.org/2021/10/23/1047753592/anxiety-from-climate-change-isnt-going-away-heres-how-you-can-manage-it

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I suppose for me personally it’s not anxiety but the threat of becoming apathetic or resigned to losing a lot of our biodiversity. We each do what we can but the challenges can seem overwhelming. Perhaps the way forward is to focus on what’s possible – learn what we can as the world changes, while conserving what we can – and see how species adapt or don’t. My hope is that many organisms we believe may be lost are more resilient than we give them credit for. That in itself would be an exciting discovery.

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I know how can we reduce climate change anxiety, by doing something for climate change :)

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Do what you can, where you are, start now. If only we could move the City of Cape Town to do …
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEh5JpoH9qo

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it is hard to achieve, when you try to do everything what you can, but a billionaire wants to go to Mars, polluting the equivalent to the town where you live…

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And this is the crux of the problem. Our so-called leaders want you and me to stop driving our autos, stop heating and cooling our homes, sacrifice in every area of our lives, while they continue to live their lives in opulence, and without sacrifice, and then sound the alarm about climate change. They meet for a climate change conference and, in doing so emit more greenhouse gases and pollutants than you or I would in 10 lifetimes. It’s difficult for me to take them seriously. Unless and until we take them to task, not much will change.

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Having lived in Canada during the Cold War, either in a city that would be attacked or suffer ‘collateral damage’, it’s a bit like deja vu. The difference this time is that in the Cold War there wasn’t really anything I could do. This time, I feel the sentiment expressed in the Radiohead song Green Plastic Trees -
He used to do surgery
For girls in the eighties
But gravity always wins
And it wears him out
It wears him out

When I look at what I might do personally, I’m doing all the right things. Then I go to the grocery store, and look at all the products that have been processed, moved by ship, truck, or whatever. Basically, unless I grow my own food (and I do a bit of that), I’m contributing to climate change. And it wears me out. I have observed politics for a long time, and have no faith that the political process, in any nation, will have the nerve to tackle the problem. The solutions will annoy too many voters, which is not acceptable. No one with political or economic power cares at all about the environmental changes in the north. There is no votes or money to be made caring about that.
So, yeah, it wears me out. With that cheery note (again!), I’ll leave this to more optimistic folks.

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I think it is important to consider our sphere of influence. In similar ways we try to tackle racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. - here is a really good visual from ohappidani https://ohhappydani.com/product/cycle-of-inaction-action-print-duo/ for racism, and just sub things out to climate or whatever else you want to tackle (and remember to make your climate justice inclusive!)

The reality is the vast majority of us are not in a position to effect the grand scheme of things, we do not have the money or power to do so. And on an indvidual level, many are unable to physically or monetarily make the changes that the wave of pressure on the indivudual tries to promote (grow own food, don’t use amazon, bike to work, etc etc) so a lot of the overwhelm for many comes from the lack of community care, and the lack of understanding priveledge. Berating someone for using amazon who doesn’t have the time or money to find local/sustainable/often more expensive options does nothing, yet many do that. So we need to be mindful when we make suggestions so we are inclusive, and not pushing people away.

And in the end, many people are aware of the climate issues, and are happy to do what they can. We can only control ourselves and do our own personal best, so as long as we do that, that’s what matters. It’s about what is in our ability, and doing so without fear of being berated by others who can do more. I think the answer to personal level climate anxiety is sitting down and being honest with yourself - without the pressures of Others who want to Tell You Everything You Have To Do - actual things you yourself can do without adding to the stress and pressures of this world that one has already, and then just do those things.

What does that look like?
Maybe it’s simple as stop manicuring your lawn.
Maybe you do have the time to use a local farmers market once a month or such.
Maybe it’s spending a couple days a year volunteering at a local preserve.
Maybe you can bike or walk to work when the weather is nice.
Maybe you can use a bank that doesn’t fund oil companies (there are some, Pattie Gonia promoted one recently on their IG account I can’t recall the name)

I think we get bogged down with all The Big Things that we forget it doesn’t have to be big.

And there is a lot of judgement, and a lot of lack of diversity, in the climate justice community which I think drives a lot of the anxiety. I know that such fuels the anxiety for me at least. When I pulled back, and instead started to follow neurodiverse and bipoc people’s work in climate, I started feeling a lot better.

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When dealing with large scale issues like climate change, it is easy to fall under the spell of anxious thoughts. It feels like an impossible problem for any of us to handle. What we can all do is make individual decisions that are sustainable and have a positive impact on our environment. It is only healthy to worry about what we can directly control, and we can all choose to make healthy decisions every day.

I saw a YouTube video recently about some huge volcano that is going to cause global cooling. Maybe that will put a halt to global warming?

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I remind myself to be grateful to the atmospheric chemists, policy experts, and politicians who dealt with the ozone hole problem. Our world today would look a lot different without them. Every day of this century has been better because of what they did and it’s been a gift to all of us - people and nature. I don’t think beyond that. I just focus on that. It recharges me to better deal with anything.

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I am not saying that this problem will solve by me or just by you only, but by all of us in group iniatives like inaturalist and other iniatiatives, its like taking small steps. In the end we can be hopeful that the steps by us and researchers will give us upper hand in this climate change. Climate change hasn’t started tommorow and will not end in like tommorow .

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Perhaps not. But having risen out of poverty more than once, I can say this: rising out of poverty brings you to a metaphorical fork in the road. Will you go the route of having all the things you couldn’t have before? Or the road of making the conscious choices that were out of your reach before?

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How does the iNat initiative support actions to slow down climate change ?? Consuming energy to cool and power servers ;) ??

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Yeah it does, but it also connect naturalist like me and you to each other and new people to nature and make them wonder about it so yeah it does make us slow climate change by loving nature so we get sense of duty to protect it isn’t, it also helps researchers to connect data which directly or indirectly affects climate change

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This reminds me of the argument I hear about how we should not hold climate marches or pretty much taking any sort of political action - that the energy consumed and the pollution created by people travelling to and during the march contribute to global warming and therefore we are hypocritical and should cease immediately. The people who state these things rarely have anything useful to contribute… they just want to pigeonhole us into a corner where we are unable to do anything at all to make a change broader than ourselves. If we never go anywhere, cancel our internet/phone service, and eat what we can scrape together from our backyards, not only do we resign ourselves to a pretty miserable existence, but we also fail to be able to make a large change of political reform or regulation.

If iNaturalist were to disband tomorrow, I’m sure the energy to cool and power servers will still be used - it will just be used elsewhere for less noble causes… cat videos and porn and whatnot. Even if it is not, and we all legitimately turn off our devices for that time, I don’t think it represents the biggest draw on power that there is out there. It must surely be a tiny portion of that represented by Youtube or Facebook or Tiktok, with their millions more users. And we wouldn’t get the benefits of iNaturalist to learn a new species or the ability to connect with other people about our environments, or even get the chance to contribute to science. I think connecting people with nature will go much further in making them want to preserve it rather than shutting down this pretty awesomely constructed website.

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What’s best about iNat is that it helps us to track species distributions and changes in status for organisms that are under the radar, that is not formally protected or monitored. That includes all the natives not on any endangered list or invasives not on any watch list. To me it’s an effective early warning system for a huge diversity of organisms. We might or might not be able to rectify anything with that information but we definitely can’t do anything if we don’t know what’s going on.

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Most of life’s diversity will continue to thrive long after humans have annihilated themselves–so I’m not really concerned about that. The history of life has been one recovery after another following one devastation after another (i.e. mass extinctions followed by evolutionary diversification). We ourselves are the product of one of those events! Humans are just one of many natural causative agents of extinction (the existence and behavior of Homo sapiens is entirely natural). What amazing creatures might be given the chance to evolve because of the mass extinction that we are contributing to currently–especially if we ourselves go extinct also?

It’s individual organisms that suffer, not species. And the gradual loss of a species leading toward extinction doesn’t really involve suffering of individual organisms. It’s primarily the product of fewer offspring being produced than survive due to lack of resources and doesn’t necessarily involve actual neurological suffering (though it certainly can). Much suffering caused by humans occurs when we do things like drive our cars down the road smashing insects, deer, and raccoons. And the daily suffering of many species (in the total absence of humans) is something that we rarely consider (think about a chickadee sleeping on a branch at 10 below zero, only to survive and be eaten alive the next day). There are many things that we can chose to fret over–but extinction isn’t really one of them when viewed from the perspective of life itself (the non-human perspective). The hardship of our children and grandchildren as they battle for limited resources is something that I fret over more than the hard times that some other species may go through. I think that’s a normal response for a member of Homo sapiens–to worry about ourselves primarily. We won’t solve our problems by trying to convince humanity to worry more about frogs than their grandchildren. I think that articles and arguments that appeal to how typical people think have a chance at being more effective in changing minds and habits.

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Even though I’ve made no contribution to the gene pool, I’d kind of like humans to stick around. But I’d also like the majority of the other species on the planet to also be able to stick around. A future that includes mass extinction of many of our fellow organisms is a grim one, made even grimmer by the fact that we caused it and could’ve prevented it. If an asteroid hits and wipes out most life on earth, well, that’s just another bad day in the uncaring universe. But it’s a different story in my mind when we’re the culprits.

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I can’t explain why, but sometimes when I’m feeling anxiety about climate change I have found that contemplating these longer views in both directions is strangely helpful in heading off despair.

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