Friday, September 17, 2021

How to calm your climate anxiety

Three years ago, after the Woolsey Fire, 53-year-old Greg Kochanowski returned to the Santa Monica Mountains and went on his own road without being recognized.

Their Seminole Springs neighborhood was torn down by the most devastating wildfire in Los Angeles County history, burning down more than half of the homes in the area, including theirs. What remained was “a moonscape”, he said – ash and char, black and grey.

Losing my home was painful. But losing their influence in their own neighborhoods, Kochanowski “scared” them, Kochanowski recalled, and sparked new existential concerns about climate change.

Now he is yearning for the future of his 14-year-old daughter. “What kind of world would Ava have grown up in?” he said. “Will Southern California Be Uninhabited When She’s My Age?”

Mr. Kochanowski’s sense of dread fits into a range of emotions often referred to as climate anxiety, a term that includes the anger, worry and insecurity that stems from an awareness of a warming planet.

“I really think that many people have been experiencing this quietly and privately for many years,” said Renee Lertzman, a climate psychologist and Advisor For businesses and nonprofits. But “the conversation is no longer marginal. It has really exploded.”

Evidence that climate change threatens mental health is increasing, According to a recent report from Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation. tied to high temperatures depressive language And high suicide rate. Fires, hurricanes and heat waves carry the risk of shock and depression.

Trevor Rigen, who runs the group’s domestic disaster program, said cascading climate-driven disasters have forced American Red Cross volunteers to be in the field for months instead of weeks. He said that because of climate change, the Red Cross is shifting from focusing on immediate trauma, “to this more chronic condition that needs a different type of mental health intervention, or spiritual care.”

young people, especially report feeling weak Because of climate concern and being let down by older generations. “They try to understand, but they don’t,” said 16-year-old Ada Crandall, an anti-climate and freeway activist in Portland, Oregon. “I fear for my future because of the passivity of adults in the past.”

Today, when the humidity drops, Mr. Kochanowski sees the worry on the faces of his neighbors. Warm days extend for much of the year and dewy, cool mornings are rare. Sometimes, he wonders whether they should move on.

“You feel great forces that have always been out of your control,” he said. “That level of perception makes you feel a little helpless.”

Andy Poland, 49, a tech recruiter living near Denver, said she also experiences anxiety, sadness and fear about a warming planet. “I’m glad I’m short for this earth,” she said. “I feel like I have a third of my life left. I don’t bother that I have that much time.”

But experts say those dark feelings could be the basis for empowerment — and progress, too. To write In The Lancet, researchers recently argued that climate concern “could be the crucible through which humanity must pass in order to harness the energy and convictions that are now needed for the necessary life-saving changes.”

According to Merritt Juliano, a rural Maryland physician and co-chair of the Concern, the concern is a rational response to the increasing risks of climate change. Climate Psychology Coalition North America. But we should not hide from it or ignore it.

“There is nothing to address our feelings,” said Ms Juliano. Instead of brushing off concerns about the climate, people need to identify with them and realize that they are there for a reason. “Hugging them is what makes us so strong.”

In a survey of 1,000 people by the American Psychiatric Association, more than half said they were worried About the impact of climate change on mental health. You don’t have to be a hurricane survivor to experience climate anxiety, said Brit Ray, a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University who studies the mental health effects of climate change. Seeing orcas disappearing from Puget Sound, suffering a prolonged mosquito season in Pennsylvania, or reading about devastating floods in Germany may signal a deeply emotional response to changing climate.

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“We can all reach out at arm’s length and touch it, no matter what our condition, whatever our life experiences,” Dr Ray said.

As the pandemic has made clear, when people don’t talk about anxiety, the resulting isolation can lead to depression, Dr. Lertzman said.

informal gatherings are called Climate Cafe, held throughout country and world, aims to bring people together to share feelings and responses to the climate crisis. Other groups engage the community with action.

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non profitable good grief network Provides support for the climate crisis through a 10-step process initiated in weekly meetings, culminating with a commitment to “reinvest in meaningful efforts”.

Artist Bradley Pitts, 43, says his climactic feelings have given him “opportunities to make decisions in a different way.” After attending GoodGreef meetings, he and his wife have shifted personal choices to adopting and mitigating climate change. He bought an old commercial farm in upstate New York, and was committed to returning it to meadows and forestlands.

After considering the climate concern, Pitts said, “sitting on the edge is no longer an option.”

“We don’t see either approach as a silver bullet,” said Sarah Jornsey-Silverberg, executive director of the Good Grease Network, against climate concern and inaction. Instead, the goal is to make things smaller or bigger, something that matters to you, and reflects an internal shift in your perspective.

For example, people often associate energy efficiency with turning off lights, but a one-time use of a clothes dryer costs the same amount of electricity as running a standard LED bulb for 13 days.

Rewild Long Island promotes biodiverse alternatives to traditional lawns, which volunteer Charlie Sacha calls “America’s biggest and most wasteful crop.” Ms. Sacha, 17, is a Manhasset High School senior; She said she had an anxiety attack for the first time in 2018, after reading that greenhouse pollution should be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 to prevent the alarming 2.7 degrees of warming.

“I don’t have that much power to operate on a grand global scale,” she said. “But you can literally make a difference in your backyard.”

Some people join the local”don’t buy anythingGroup to reduce the huge carbon footprint of shipped purchases. Others work to get climate-conscious politicians elected.

ise change, a community climate and weather platform, encourages volunteers to record observations about local change online. In New Orleans, participants collected collective storm-water data to show flood effects outside the expected model. As a result, local officials redirected nearly $5 million in federal funding to build a large storm-water detention tank in a low-income neighborhood.

The very thing that fuels your anxiety — your imagination — may also be your most powerful tool for overcoming it, Dr. Ray said.

In California, Mr. Kochanowski said the Woolsey Fire and subsequent concern has reshaped his work. a landscape architect, is setting up what he calls a research laboratory promote More radical climate-adapted building and design.

Mr. Kochanowski knows that fire is essential to his home’s oak forests and chaparral – in the past two decades, fires have forced his family to evacuate three times. But they love their neighborhood, and believe they can help it adapt to a new climate reality.

Using non-combustible materials and durable defensible space, they have rebuilt. And next to his new home, he planted a flowering Tipu tree, which can spread a canopy of shade in just a few years. “The idea was, we’re not going to give up on this thing,” he said.


Molly Peterson is a Los Angeles-based investigative journalist focusing on the intersections of climate, catastrophe and public health.

How to calm your climate anxiety
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