Climate Change: Its Toll on the World and the Human Spirit
Climate change has our generation envisioning the loss of vibrant flora and fauna, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and chemicals tainting our atmosphere--perhaps we are overlooking a matter that hits even closer to home: mental health. As we grapple with the imminent fear that our future is quickly fading out of view, it must be recognized that climate change is not only a threat to ecological systems, but a force that obscures individual thoughts as well.
Especially with the pandemic, young voices have taken center stage; the desire to get involved politically and socially raises enthusiasm, passion, and creativity-- taking part in civic engagement may be the key to improving the wellbeing of society, mentally and environmentally. Climate change is a large-scale, global menace--individuals may feel as if they don't have the power to, quite literally, "save the world," which restricts personal engagement. That doesn't mean nobody is thinking about it; in fact, it is all people can think about.
Eco-anxiety is the fear of "environmental cataclysm" that comes from witnessing the seemingly irreversible damages of climate change (APA). While there is plenty to be concerned about worldwide, the psychological toll is just as daunting and troubling. Weighed down with helplessness, our anxiety tends be aggravated when we contemplate how grim the future appears if we leave climate change pending. Eco-anxiety is a newer term, but it is linked to solastalgia: distress produced by environmental destruction to one's home land. While solastalgia is retrospective and eco-anxiety is prospective, both psychological disorders confirm that climate change is emotionally as it is physically damaging to the world-- it's detrimental to the human spirit and soul. The memories and stories that make our environment feel like home shouldn't just be remnants of the past.
If we trap ourselves in the mindset that our individual actions have to solve the world's problems, then we're only digging deeper into an abyss of hopelessness. We can start small. Before changing the community, let's make sure we're practicing sustainability--recycling, reducing plastic consumption, planting colorful gardens, biking or walking when possible, and spreading awareness may feel minuscule at first thought, but if we piece together everyone who makes the effort to care for the planet, then we may just conjure up a larger flood of green to combat climate change. We can forge new relationships and become leaders who advocate for tangible improvements. It may not feel like we have the influence to make real change, but our voices are becoming more resonant. Any type of action can help alleviate that gnawing feeling of guilt and propel our generation to initiate and combat climate change.
Next time you head outside to get a fresh breath of air, take a look at the glistening lake and its shimmering reflection. Maybe stop to admire the web of tree branches that reach toward the sky. Think about the budding flowers and the scent of spring. The beauty is all here still--step by step, we will make sure it remains.