Climate Crisis — Is All The Hope Vs Doom Stopping Us From Taking Action?
I have suffered from climate anxiety for as long as I can remember. It’s not something I have really talked about much before because it would often be dismissed as something I was exaggerating about. Global warming and climate change were a ‘myth’, so said the articles generated by the companies who relied on us not believing the so called ‘hype’ for their own monetary gain. After all, it wouldn’t do well for oil companies to have us believe we need to change our ways and thus switch to greener alternatives.
Over the years my anxiety around the climate crisis has ebbed and waned, but at present it is at it’s highest with the climate crisis currently dominating our news channels, and rightly so.
This is how I learned that climate anxiety is a growing phenomenon and I am by far not alone in my fears for the future.
One of the effects the climate anxiety has on me personally at times is an obsession to read endlessly about the climate crisis. I am often awake late at night frantically trying to find any hope at all that we are not all doomed.
With this, I have noticed that my mood for the day is often dictated by what type of morning news I have encountered. Articles of new green initiatives and hopes for curbing the warming of our planet really set me up with a smile and a skip in my step. But if I am subjected to a negative article about our future queue a day of depression, lost hope, and a need to plan for the impending apocalypse.
But today I had a different feeling. Today I have read a mixture of both hopeful and doom filled articles, and instead of feeling hopeful or doomsday focused, I actually found I was a little angry at the writers, and the types of articles that are being put out there. Let us unpick this a little.
I have seen more articles being produced regarding the new greener ways we can live and generate energy.
Marine biologists have stepped up and said that they are working on ways to regrow our coral reefs and protect them from bleaching. Wildlife specialists are fighting hard for the protection and conservation of our wildlife across the world. Young people are pushing harder and involving their parents in the fight for their right for a future.
These types of stories fill me with hope, because while the biggest actions we have needed have come a little late in the day, it is proof that people are waking up and will no longer stand for the injustices that are and will increasingly occur due to climate changes. These stories say to me ‘we are not done yet, the future is still unwritten’.
And this is a message I think we really need to share. Because without hope what do we have? The lack of hope is often when we humans tend to freeze, or give up completely, which is no good for us as individuals or as a race who are responsible for doing whatever we can to slow down and eventually begin working on reversing the damage we have caused.
However, while delving into more of these hopeful articles I am finding more stories that have started to give me flash backs of the responses I would receive when I tried to open up about my anxieties.
‘We have so much technology climate change catastrophe will never happen.’
‘People and organisations like Greenpeace are fighting for our planet so we don’t have to’.
‘Things are changing so we will be saved.’
These posts speak of the fact that we are not in as much danger as we fear, or that we are going to be able to turn this all around, seemingly with ease. They are lovely messages full of hope. Yes, with better understanding of the world and our climate we are able to better predict effects on the climate more so than ever before (though still not accurate as nature is unpredictable), and with this we can better prepare ourselves for the severe weather changes. We are starting to see more green initiatives being talked about and being implemented, and more and more people are waking up and calling on our Governments to step up and take action.
BUT, this is coming into play late in the game. We have known the effects of greenhouse gases we have been pumping into the atmosphere for some time and we have ignored the warnings, partly out of ignorance and denial or disbelief, but also because of hope that this would not really happen to us.
With such hopes we place on the new technologies and policies being discussed, it can be all too easy to breathe a sigh of relief and sit back feeling safe in the knowledge that all the time we are recycling all will be well.
It is at this point that I would like to point out to you that the types of stories I speak of regarding hope are not the ones reporting on the new initiatives and technologies that we need to learn about, but the ones that tell us that things are not too bad and we will be fine, with little to no Scientific research to back this up.
And then there are the other articles.
The ones that echo my concerns about the effects of the overly hopeful articles, but going a little too far.
This morning I read several articles which in a nutshell were saying that there is no hope, and instead of continuing our fruitless efforts to save a dying planet we should accept the inevitable impending apocalypse, and instead of desperately trying to fight a battle we will lose, we should be protecting what we currently have in our tiny bubbles for as long as we can, until society inevitably collapses and the world meets it’s end.
We need action but we also need to start having constructive conversations
The key themes that come from these articles is much needed and contributes to generating discussions which do need to continue to keep the topic of tackling the climate crisis as a top priority.
However, my issue with such articles is this. When we have stories that talk about how we will come through and are not heading for the dangers that we fear, we have a tendency to relax. We start to be filled with a little too much of the wrong type of hope and we sit back and breathe.
Now, this might not be the case for everyone, but I have seen this reaction happen from people I know. And it’s understandable. The climate crisis can feel overwhelming at times and of course we all want to sit back and rest. And we should a little bit, we should ensure that we are taking breaks and taking care of ourselves to prevent burn out and despair.
We need hope, of course we do. It’s what drives us forward to make real change for our future and the future of those who will inherent this planet and fight after we have gone. But too much of it and we are in danger of relaxing too much, we start to calm down and lose the urgency of the situation.
So, we should be panicking and getting ready for doomsday?
Absolutely not! And this is why the incredibly negative articles, in my opinion, are dangerous. They talk of there being no hope at all and that all of our efforts are for nothing. Being told that we should all start stocking up and filling up our shelters ready for the apocalypse can cause people to lose hope all together. And with this we can feel that there is no point. If everyone starts to feel like this all of the hard work to really make a difference and turn things around will have been for nothing. And while the future is looking uncertain, it’s not fully written yet.
The truth is we are in unprecedented territory. We know where we could be headed and thanks to Science we have a good idea on how we can slow it down. But we are entering a world of unknowns, new technology, and a growing mass of people with fires in their bellies and a fierce determination not to allow this to get any worse.
So, what do we need?
We need to be having more constructive conversations, and be able to access realistic articles that allow us to have a full grasp of the situation and enable us to take action.
Without hope we are lost, but without accepting that we are in an emergency we are also lost. We need to accept that yes, we are in uncertain and scary times, but if we just give up the fight saying ‘well, we will tip over the degrees Celsius limit so we might as well give up now,’ we are going to tip over that limit and enter into the self fulfilling prophecy.
If we start to reach acceptance that we are in an emergency and need to act now, with the acknowledgement that it is scary, but there still are things that can be done, we can still have hope that will then drive us to action.
But one person can’t make enough of a difference
I hear this comment a lot. And perhaps that is right. But, one person doing their little bit, plus another and another, can lead to hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of people doing a tiny bit for their planet. Those tiny bits times a million becomes quite a big impact.
My point is, in such uncertain times is it easy for us to cling to hope so tightly that we start to believe that we are safe enough to relax. It is also just as easy to feel so overwhelmed that we feel we should just give up altogether.
But again, we are in unprecedented times, and we have Scientists all over the world giving us recommendations that tell us we just might be able to turn things around IF we take action.
The future isn’t written yet. Let’s write a better chapter.