"Climate Anxiety: Is There Hope?" - Rachael Ryan

Climate change has  been a significant issue throughout my life. From an early age I was taught that it’s important to look after the planet and the environment around us. These values around caring for the environment followed me through my early education (both primary and secondary school) - being taught about the importance of recycling, limiting the use of water during showers or brushing teeth and using fair-trade products. The significance of the climate crisis has grown so much that people are experiencing ‘climate anxiety’ or ‘eco-anxiety’ due to the environmental damage that is happening around the globe.

Not only have these values of being aware of the environment been important on a personal level, the discourse around climate change has been prevalent in wider society since the late 19th century as a response to the growth of the Industrial Revolution. Green movements have grown substantially from the 20th century to the 21st century. For such a long time we, as a society, have been aware of the issues surrounding climate change and the conditions that are accelerating this process. And yet, it’s been ignored by our political leaders for all this time. 

While climate change has been thrown to the side for decades (and for the most part was regarded as a myth - which some still believe today), we are seeing a surge in natural disasters around the globe. The Gulf of Mexico was on fire in early 2021, California is currently going through a drought as well as forest wildfires, Australia was on fire in early 2020 and there’s so much more that could be included. We are constantly made aware of the disasters happening around us - especially through social media - and to an extent this can cause a lot of stress and anxiety regarding the current state of the world. We often watch these disasters happen, watching the impact it has on the people involved and for some people, there’s this sense of guilt or helplessness because you feel like you can’t do anything or you’re not doing ‘enough’. 

The urgency within climate change discussions have been significant in social and political environments with hopes of reducing our carbon emissions to 1.5 degrees. But, can we be hopeful about a sustainable future? The answer to this question becomes more cynical as time passes. We live in a time where the rich are flying themselves to space and political leaders are meeting up yearly just to give empty promises. For the first two weeks in November political leaders around the globe will meet for COP26 in Glasgow to discuss actions to uphold the Paris Agreement (which was the commitment for countries to produce national actions declaring how they’re going to reduce their emissions that was agreed upon during COP21 back in 2015). Meanwhile, the Tories have voted to allow companies to dump sewage into the rivers and the UN Environment Programme reported that the world is on course to reach 2.7C as actions towards keeping the temperature under 1.5C isn’t good enough.

Being positive about actions towards climate change is increasingly difficult. With the Tories constantly showing contempt to everyone that isn’t their rich buddies, billionaires constantly showing that they’re the worst and the endless list of natural disasters - you become desensitized to it all. The stress and the anxiety of this climate crisis reaches a certain feeling of numbness as we’re merely bystanders, watching climate change unfold right in front of us - while the people who can make significant changes are doing nothing. Despite all this, there surely can be some form of hope. There are so many climate activist groups and so many young people who are passionate about climate change who are demanding change from their governments, that we can hope that positive changes are coming.