Does the idea of impending doom due to climate change cause your anxiety? Well, you’re not alone. New research has shown a rise in climate anxiety and PTSD cases that therapists now call “eco-anxiety.” Hosts Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen talk in-depth about this phenomenon and discuss how climate change affects mental health. Extreme weather reported from various places around the globe only seem to amplify and validate this to the point, and people need to learn how to cope or else this concern will be detrimental. Learn all about it in this episode!
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Eco–Anxiety: The Impact Of Climate Change On Our Mental Health
It’s interesting when as a human being, you experience something that you don’t have a term or a framework to verbally express per se, and you come across a story, article, or situation where there’s a framework and terminology that you can assign to it. It’s not necessarily a requirement, but it’s interesting when you’re like, “I’ve been feeling that way, too.” There’s this interesting new term that I was introduced through Whitney, you had put this in our topic list for our show. I was catching up on reading a bevy of different articles on psychology, mental health, research, and sociology. We like to do a lot of reading. Whitney and I are both bookworms. She’s more into research than I am but one of the basic tenet of this show is we want to educate ourselves, expand our horizons, and bring those thoughts, musings, and reflections to you, the reader. Thank you for your subscribership, if you’re subscribed to our YouTube channel. However you consume this, thank you.The American Psychiatric Association recognizes climate change as a growing threat to mental health. Click To Tweet
Our topic, which was one of the things that when I read it, I went, “I’ve been feeling this,” is a term called eco-anxiety. This comes from an article from The Guardian. This is one of my favorite websites where I feel like we’ve referenced multiple times in the history of this show because they present some interesting perspectives on life and they’re well researched. In The Guardian, the title of the article says Climate anxiety and PTSD are on the rise. Therapists don’t always know how to cope.
The general summary of this article is talking about a Psychotherapist named Andrew Bryant, who back in 2016, was working with a couple. The young man didn’t want to have this hypothetical child with his life partner because he had these fears of an apocalyptic world that would be forever changed by climate change and his female partner wanted to have one. It was this difficult conversation fraught with despair and anxiety.
Apparently, the therapist didn’t know how to deal with it. He didn’t know what to say. The American Psychiatric Association, the APA does recognize climate change as a growing threat to mental health but according to this article, a lot of mental health professionals don’t feel equipped with the terminology or the framework to help people who are experiencing PTSD or anxiety as they grieve over the state of the planet. It’s interesting not only to have a terminology around this. They call it eco-anxiety here, but to see that there’s a lot of therapists who don’t know how to deal with this.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, there was a survey that was put out that said nearly 1 in 5 therapists described their clients’ responses to this as inappropriate. This was also an interesting part. Several participants said that their clients’ beliefs around climate change were “delusional or exaggerated.” Which is interesting because one mental health professional in this study said there was an experience with their therapists, this is a therapist who has a therapist. When she divulged her anguish and her fear over the severity of the drought and climate change, her therapist said, “What is this about?”
It doesn’t sound like her therapist was trying to gaslight her, but it doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of competence in the mental health field around how to deal with this. I’ve had many nights where I have sat around with existential dread around what is happening on the planet. There are some interesting things happening in the United States with the climate. First of all, in my hometown of Detroit, I’ve been talking to my mom because her power has been out for 3 or 4 days because of the flooding. The flooding got so bad, Whitney.
I saw a video of one of the manufacturer’s lots. They call it Stellantis now. It’s what they’ve renamed Chrysler Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, or whatever that corporation is. It’s now called Stellantis, which is a stupid name. I call it Chrysler but it’s technically Stellantis. There was someone who showed a video, Whitney, of after they manufactured the Jeep Cherokees, the SUVs, the water was up to the roofline. That’s how high the water in Detroit has been. You know how high an SUV is. It was almost up to the roofline of the car. That’s how bad the flooding in Detroit is right now.
Here on the West Coast, Whitney and I are based in California, up in Seattle and Portland, they have had record-breaking temperatures and we have started summer. I read that Portland had a record high of 114 degrees, and in some places in British Columbia on the West Coast, they got up to 117 degrees. This is many degrees higher than the previous records. All of this is to say whether or not you, dear reader, believe in human-created climate change. I’ve had debates with people where they’re like, “It’s the natural shifting of the magnetic poles. Animal agriculture and cars aren’t doing it. We should keep doing what we’re doing.” I don’t necessarily want to turn this episode into a debate or say anyone is right or wrong.
From the research that I have seen from the UN and different scientific organizations, I personally do believe, Whitney, that human-created climate change through deforestation, incineration of plastics. Also, through in particular animal agriculture, with the carbon dioxide and the methane that’s released, and also transportation, we have had a hand, in the last 150 plus years since the Industrial Revolution, of contributing to this. I don’t want to debate anyone. I have no desire to, that’s my personal belief, but I am afraid of what is happening on the planet right now.
When I read this article about eco-anxiety, I thought that if I’m honest about it, there are days or nights where I sit up thinking like, “What are we going to do about all this? Where are we going to go?” If we continue to have the weather that we’ve been having on the West Coast, at some point, it might become uninhabitable and where are tens of millions or billions of people going to go? I don’t know. It’s bringing up anxiety for me talking about it because it makes me wonder where is a safe place to be.
Moving forward in life, where is going to be safe if we continue to have a higher incidence of droughts, flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires? It brings up to me a lot of deep issues around safety. This is all the same. I’m curious if this is something you deal with your anxiety. Is this something you ruminate on, Whitney, and if any of these articles in terms of anxiety, PTSD, or worries about the future and climate resonates with you? Is this something that keeps you up like it does me?
It reminded me of the first time I started feeling anxiety about climate change. I wish I could find it. I tried but I feel like there was an article in The Rolling Stones. It was a magazine like that. I even remember what it looked like. A friend of mine in high school showed it to me. I’m pretty sure it was about oil and the challenges with oil production. He was feeling all the stress about it and he was going on this rant about how we’re doomed. I remember thinking two things.
One, “What is he talking about? We’re not doomed.” I was in denial about it. Two, it planted that seed of anxiety and fear within me. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s part of why I became so focused on eco-friendly living. Starting in 2008, I started to get into it. I was reading about it and immersed in that whole world, but an interesting thing happened for me that something somewhere along the way shifted. I don’t know if being eco-minded became my norm and caused me to relax more, Jason, or if I got lazy and I think about this sometimes.
I’ve had criticisms, especially because my main account on social media has been Eco-Vegan Gal for many years. It felt like no matter what I posted, somebody would point out what wasn’t eco-friendly about it. I started to feel this pressure and anxiety from that. Some of the anxiety was never feeling good enough and that caused some people to shut down. From me, emotionally, especially recognizing where I shut down, where I can’t do any more, I tend to go through these manic waves of hyper-focus and hyper-passion. I’m doing everything I possibly can to these super-low lows where I don’t feel I can do anything.
I imagine a lot of people experience waves that maybe not as extreme, but these moments of panic, fear, insomnia, and wanting to go do something. It becomes so much, so overwhelming, and so daunting that it’s paralyzing or deeply frustrating, or mentally disturbing. I feel like our brains get to a point where our coping mechanism of shutdown kicks in. This is all too much, and it feels hopeless, and you feel helpless. One thing I’ve noticed, which I am curious about and I haven’t dug into that much, is the difference between our personal responsibility as citizens versus bigger responsibility from the government and corporations.
There’s been this idea passed around that I don’t know if it’s fully valid, but I sense it might be, that citizens are not making as much of a bad impact on the planet as these corporations are. That, to me, makes logical sense. I’ve wondered, and people have speculated, that we have been told by the media that it’s our responsibility like, “Don’t drink out of plastic straws, get a reusable straw. Get a reusable water bottle. Start buying things that are plastic-free. Bring your own grocery bag to the grocery store,” all of those things. They’ve put all this weight on us and most of those decisions feel easy, so a lot of us have done them.
I have noticed, Jason, over the years that I’ve been focusing on eco-friendly living, how many people don’t do those things. Some people find that hard. They don’t feel as motivated or don’t have the education so they buy a plastic water bottle and toss it in the recycling bin not knowing what happens to it, recycling is a huge issue, or they’ll buy something and not think twice. This is what you do, you get a plastic bag from the grocery store and you toss it out when you’re done. You don’t compost and all of these things that I’ve been taught and trained to do.
That’s a sign that the education is not working yet, Jason, or that it might be impossible for us to collectively get our acts together in time, which causes a lot of anxiety and fear within people but then you wonder, what if you simply didn’t have the options to buy those things? That’s ultimately where the biggest change would happen. Why do we even still offer plastic bags? It blows my mind during the pandemic, Jason. I started getting takeout more frequently than before. It blows my mind how much stuff these restaurants put in a takeout bag.
People can’t worry about humanity when they’re struggling so much on their own. Click To Tweet
First of all, for sanitary reasons, the waste went up. They’ll put a grip of napkins, utensils, ketchup packets, all these condiments, and stuff you don’t even ask for. They show up there. I’m aware enough to sometimes ask, but sometimes I forget to ask them not to put those things in the bag and I’m stuck with this stuff that I either have to go this extra mile to recycle, without even knowing if that’s even making a difference because most of the stuff can’t be recycled, or I’m tossing it out. My point is that these companies, big and small, I don’t understand why they’re not taking action. It’s almost like they put it on, “We’re going to offer you these things that are awful for the environment, but it’s up to you the consumer to say no to them.” Why are they offering them in the first place?
We have all this greenwashing, which is incredibly frustrating and it’s not always clear whether, A) It’s even that good on the environment, and B) Is it a marketing tactic to get us to spend more money? Sadly, a lot of eco-friendly products, if you compare them side by side, like organic, they might either be the same price, but there’s less than the organic or less than the eco-friendly packaging. Is this an easy way for companies to put less into a box, charge more for it, and call it eco-friendly? As consumers, a lot of us feel good about buying those things because we’ve been conditioned through the media that it is our responsibility to take care of the environment.
It’s not that we are not responsible, we can’t make a difference, it’s just that what I believe is being revealed right now slowly is we’re not making enough of a difference because we can without the corporations making the bigger changes that need to happen. We need to call them out more and demand things. You know me. It’s reminding me of these moments where I’ve almost lost my mind at businesses because I’m so aggravated. When somebody ￼puts a straw in my coffee cup when I didn’t ask for it, I want to lose my mind. I’ve been to so many places. Jason, I remember when I went to this vegan restaurant and they gave me a soda and because of COVID, I couldn’t use my container. Sometimes I’ll bring that with me, but I’m like, “I’m not going to ask for a straw.” I remember that I was like, “No straw, please,” and they put it in anyways. I explained to them, “I’d appreciate it if you ask before you put the straw in or check in with me to offer it.”
They were holding it in their hand, Jason. This is what it was. They had it in their hand, they hadn’t quite put it in my drink and they said, “Do you want a straw?” I said, “No,” and then they threw it in the trash right in front of me. ￼It’s been a number of times that’s happened to me. They don’t get it. They’re working at a vegan restaurant, a natural and organic restaurant, which to me, is rooted in environmentalism. Environmentalism is a huge benefit of going to a restaurant like that and the employees don’t have the awareness, which is not even their fault, because the managers need to train them to have that awareness or they should not have those things in the first place.
As a consumer, you can do your best but I feel so helpless in those moments where I’m trying to do my best. To your point, Jason, anxiety is coming from the pressure to try to be eco-friendly, and to see ourselves failing and the failure after failure leads people to give up, burn out, and feel completely helpless and hopeless. We need to forgive ourselves and recognize that there’s only so much that we can do. Other people are involved with all of this, too.
This is a collective experience and also a collective trauma that we’re having, Jason, watching the Earth shows us all these signs. We’re sitting around feeling resentful towards others because we can’t make these big changes happen. That also must have a ripple effect on mental health, too, because we need each other to survive physically and mentally. How can we even trust each other when there are so many things like this happening that lack the cooperation that we need?
Part of it is the ongoing debate that people want to have on whether or not climate change is real. I briefly mentioned that but part of it because you brought up cooperation, Whitney, is there’s a large contingent of humans on the planet that don’t believe this is real. They don’t believe that it is of concern that places are flooded, destroyed by hurricanes, or that we have an unprecedented drought on the West Coast. I feel there’s a lot of people that bluntly don’t give a crap. For me, the anxiety sets in despite our best efforts, “Are we doomed?” We have no answer to that question. If I look at certain states that are pledging to make gas vehicles illegal, the State of California set a mandate that by 2035, there’s an executive order in the state of California that all new passenger cars, vehicles, and light trucks must be zero-emission vehicles. I’ve seen other states and also other car manufacturers say that they’re going to transition to only electric vehicles by 2040 or 2050.
There are so many emotions around this because you see things like government mandates or auto manufacturers making these pledges which are not legally bound. They can say anything publicly that they want, but it’s not a legally bound mandate. My thing is this,￼ I remember a few years ago, Whitney, reading an ￼article￼ that oil companies were aware of human-created climate change as early as the mid to late ‘80s. They had internal reports in the ‘80s talking about climate change and did nothing. The public wasn’t made aware, the oil companies didn’t do shit, because why would they? They’re profiting. They make billions of dollars a year.
The fact is, there was an awareness scientifically and on a corporate level about this since the 1980s. I get enraged because it’s like, “Let’s face-out all gas cars by 2050.” We’re doing this episode in 2021. That’s 29 years from now. Do we have 29 years to “turn this around?” Looking at the number of degrees that the Earth keeps warming, looking at the number of climate catastrophes, which the wildfires, hurricanes, and floods do not seem to be abating. I’ve talked to native Californians. You’re from Massachusetts and I’m from Michigan, Whitney, but I’ve talked to a lot of my friends that are native Californians who’ve been here for decades. They said in the last several years, the rate, frequency, and intensity of wildfires show no sign of reduction.
What we’re talking about is, “We’re setting these things with the Paris Climate Accord.” We’re sending these state-level mandates. The auto manufacturers are saying we’re going to phase out gas vehicles in 20 to 25 years. Do we have that long? I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to this, but it concerns me that people seem to be like, “We’ll make these changes in 25 to 30 years.” That feeds my anxiety, because to your point, it’s not to say that we as individuals don’t have the power to make an impact if we compost. Recycling seems to be a farce.
I’ve seen so many interesting videos, Whitney, that says something like only 7% to 10% of the available recyclable plastic is recycled. That’s also deflating. It’s like, “I’ve been recycling for 25 years. Are you telling me only 7% to 10% of that’s been recycled? It’s disheartening.” It’s disheartening as an individual when you try as hard as you can. You alter your diet, recycle, compost, and buy an electric car. You try to reuse as much as possible and not take single-use plastics. We try to do all these things as best we can and yet you still see the flooding, the wildfires, and corporations dragging their fucking asses.
They’re like, “We’ll get to that in 30 years and stuff.” Fuck you. We don’t have 30 years, 2050? “We’ll get to in 2050.” If we keep going at the rate that we’re at, I’ll be driving around my Cybertruck in a world that’s on fire. Perfect. Could you make the truck fireproof? Could you make it Go Go Gadget extends twelve feet so I can go through the floods? I say that jokingly but legitimately, within 29 to 30 years, we may be changing the way we live in houses.
There might be mirrors on the top of our houses deflecting the heat away from the house. I’ve read things about that. We might have to have cars that are fireproof and floodproof. The idea of climate change getting worse is going to change how we live on the earth as human beings. It will have to change so many things. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I don’t want to have children. I know this is maybe a right-left turn, but it goes back to the beginning of this Guardian article that we’re referencing about eco-anxiety.
If I look at one of the reason, I don’t want to have children, I don’t know that I want to bring children into the world that we may be facing. It scares the shit out of me to think about handing over a world that is constantly battling the things that we are now getting a taste of. That worries me and I have a ton of anxiety around that. That is one of the reasons I don’t want to have kids. I don’t want to hand this world over to them. It’s like, “Here you go. Good luck. We fucked it up for you.” It hurts my heart to even think about it.
I don’t think you’re alone in that. A lot of people express similar things. I imagine there would be anxiety from somebody who already has kids who made that decision and hitting this realization that it’s going to be scary and frustrating. When you’re talking about the changes taking another 30 years, are those decisions being made by people that aren’t even going to live another 30 years? That’s how a lot of young people seem to feel. For context, meaning teenagers, mostly people in their early twenties expressing how they feel abandoned. There’s already a lot of frustrations with Boomers right now that I see a lot about how they had it best. They had the ability to make a certain amount of money, buy the house, and get all of these things that younger generations, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z have felt pressured to accomplish but the cards are stacked against us.
I don’t know if I’ve consciously felt that way but the more I hear that expressed, the more I wonder, “Are we even able to accomplish the things that we’re being asked to accomplish in a lot of senses?” I’ve noticed that mental health has been a bigger concern. It’s become trendy, or it’s talked about more. I often wonder, Jason, is that because it’s getting worse, or is it because that we have this awareness and we’re not going to run and hide from it like maybe some of the older generations had done.
They didn’t want to admit that they were struggling or how bad things were, so they covered it up and made it seem like the right job, marriage, house, car, and all these superficial things were fulfilling enough. Have they all been Band-Aids for us to cover up all the pain that we’re feeling and all the struggles? Have they been distractions? Right now, we see technology being a huge concern, but can you blame people that they desperately want to run and hide from the hardships?
I pulled up the website for the APA’s, American Psychiatric Association’s, findings of how extreme weather affects mental health. It’s heartbreaking to read at the end of June 2021 when, for the past few days, I’ve been seeing a lot of people post about how much they’re suffering up in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve had this weird feeling about that, Jason, that I’ll openly acknowledge. It’s these moments of thinking, “I’m glad I don’t live there.” Suddenly, I’m like, “That’s an awful feeling to be relieved that I’m not suffering the way those people are.”
To your point Jason, knowing that we’re not safe anywhere. In Los Angeles, we can have a heatwave. We did in 2020. We have mudslides, fires, earthquakes, and awful things. I wouldn’t want someone in a different part of the country or the world thinking, “Thank goodness I don’t live in Los Angeles.” That type of response is depressing but at the same time, are we all at this point where we’re too exhausted? We’ve talked about having compassion fatigue and compassion fade, and how, at a certain point, we can’t handle having compassion for others because we’re barely getting by within ourselves.
I also remember feeling similarly when Texas was going through the opposite problem with their extreme weather and the freak snowstorm they had in early 2021. I had the same thought, “Thank goodness, I don’t live there,” and meanwhile, I’m watching these people suffer because they are not prepared. The issue here, Jason, is the lack of preparation. I feel fortunate that I tend to think ahead a lot almost obsessively. I desire comfort. I find comfort in anticipating challenges. I remember other people expressing that when COVID started and they’re all like these doomsday preppers that had stocked up on things.
They’re like, “Thank goodness we did that. Everyone thought we were crazy until people ran out of toilet paper and food.” We’re getting to this point as part of that anxiety, Jason, of like, “I better prepare just in case XYZ happens. I got to prepare for the tsunami, the earthquake, the freak weather change, and the fires.” It’s all of this deep fear. It’s almost like we’re going back to the time when people were building the doomsday shelters underground. When I think of stuff like that, I’m like, “Maybe I should do that and make a safe haven underground so I can survive whatever horrific thing could happen at any moment’s notice.”
Going back to that APA article. It’s straightforward and goes over all the statistics. It’s short.￼ I’ll read this, “Climate change and related disasters cause anxiety-related responses, as well as chronic and severe mental health disorders. Flooding and prolonged droughts have been associated with elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders. The trauma and losses from a disaster, such as losing a home or job or being disconnected from the neighborhood and community can contribute to depression and anxiety.
Extreme weather events have also been associated with increases in aggressive behavior and domestic violence. Exposure to extreme heat may lead to an increased use of alcohol to cope with stress. Increases in hospital and emergency room admissions for people with mental health or psychiatric conditions and an increase in suicide. The need for mental health services increases in the aftermath of a climate-related disaster. At the same time, there’s often a disruption in services or a decrease in the availability or accessibility of services.”
We’re still in the midst of a pandemic. The reports coming out about the new variant felt like we’re on the cusp of relief and now we’re being told, “We still got a battle to face here. We can’t stop yet. You can’t go out without your masks, yet. Nevermind, things are changing again.” To your point, Jason, the amount of people that don’t believe in wearing masks, getting the vaccine, or the pandemic is real, that, to me, reminds me of climate change in the sense that you were describing before. I’m not saying they’re apples to apples because you might believe in climate change, but you might be anti-vax. It’s not mutually exclusive.
It’s not even my point to judge because to your point, Jason, we have readers who get heated about this. My point is that the lack of unity that we have is challenging. When you hear all these statistics, we get up in these cycles where if we’re not cooperating together, it makes it worse. That lack of cooperation causes us to feel all these disconnects and that’s feeding our depression and anxiety. In addition to feeling frustrated, resentful, and you’re fighting this uphill battle because people aren’t agreeing with what you believe in, you get depression and anxiety from that.
You get depression and anxiety from feeling disconnected from people when deep down, you want to be connected. All this coping, people hurting each other, we’ve seen violence. We see people abusing all these different stimulants. I’m surprised it didn’t point out the opioid crisis like all these things that people do to cope. My big question is, Jason, is the climate going to change or are we changing and going so downhill as a society that we’re not going to survive it from a mental health standpoint? The Earth might still be around for a long time but we might drive ourselves insane.
That’s an important distinction, because when we entertain most apocalyptic scenarios and we say, the end of the world, we don’t mean the end of the world. We mean the end of humanity because I believe that the Earth can regenerate itself. I believe that nature in its infinite wisdom, mechanics, and things we have no understanding about how nature works, we have limited understanding, even with all of our scientific revelations. We say, “The end of the world.” What we mean is the end of humanity. We’re not worried about the end of the Earth. We’re worried about the end of us. The Earth would do fine without us.
I’m going to reveal something about myself. I don’t know if I’ve ever said out loud publicly, but I vacillate a lot between being in a position of wanting to do everything I can to support humanity in surviving what we have created partially for ourselves and hoping that human consciousness and humanity survives in some form. I get into a mood sometimes, Whitney, where I’m like, “Fuck it. Let’s destroy ourselves because the Earth will be better without us.”
There’s a part of me that feels like we are the virus, truly. Our greed, short-sightedness, our fear, and our violent tendencies, the “worst parts of human beings” there’s part of me sometimes that I want to say when I say this, I tend to be more in the, “Let’s do everything we can because I do have hope.” In my moments of hopelessness, I’m like, “I don’t want to help. The Earth might be in a better state if we were wiped completely off of it.” It hurts me to say that, but I do feel that way sometimes. I get nihilistic. I sit in nihilism sometimes and I’m like, “Maybe it’s too far gone. Maybe we’re too far gone. Maybe we’re not worth saving.”
“That sounds so anti-human.” I don’t know if I’m anti-human. Sometimes I take a pretty hard stance on how little we’ve evolved beyond our violent warring, greedy, and egotistical tendencies as humans. Sometimes I sit in that too long and I’m like, “Maybe we aren’t going to get out of this mess because maybe we’re too shitty.” I don’t want to sit there too long because it doesn’t feel good to sit there too long and I’d rather focus on the good aspects of the human experience, but I do go there sometimes, Whitney. It’s hard for me to even say it out loud because I feel gross admitting it but there are times that I’m like, “Let it burn to the ground. Fuck it. We’ve done this. Let human beings be wiped off the planet. Let’s start fresh with something else.” I cringe even admitting it.
That can be part of the mental challenge of this all. It’s mentally tough, and sometimes we don’t think straight when we’re suffering. That’s a huge part of this issue. A lot of people can’t worry about humanity when they’re struggling so much on their own. One thing that gives me motivation Jason, when I look at this article is who is affected by climate change. It begins off by saying some people are more vulnerable to the potential impacts of climate change including children, the elderly, the chronically ill, people with cognitive or mobility impairments, pregnant and postpartum women, and people with mental illness.
People of lower socioeconomic status, migrants, refugees, and the homeless may also be more vulnerable. Given that you and I are each relatively privileged white people and not on any of those lists unless you want to count mental illness, who are we to give up when there are people that are much more vulnerable in places? They are not able to do everything that you and I are able to do from a financial, race, and mobility standpoint. All these privileges that we have, if we’re not willing to step up and do those things, how is anyone going to be able to move forward? That is also part of the concern.
You have to also think about it this way. If we’re struggling with these thoughts and anxieties, Jason, how do you think those people who have disadvantages are feeling? That is probably an advantage to having children, Jason. It is a daily reminder that there is somebody that needs your support. For you and I also not having children, we don’t have that viewpoint as much as parents do. We don’t have dependents, you and I, aside from our animals. That’s an incredibly important thing to mention that we almost have the privilege of not caring because we don’t have that immediate connection to somebody who needs us to step up. That’s concerning.
What I am getting from this and something that has been an ongoing whisper within me is I want my work across the board to be rooted in well-being. My hunch is that the younger generations are going to suffer so much with their mental health, Jason, because there’s so much stacked against them. There are moments when we talk about ageism, there are times where I sit there and think, “I’m getting older.” The society tosses aside a lot of older people. I’m not even that old but I have that mentality because the media rewards teenagers and people in their early twenties and people that look a certain way.
You can feel so defeated and resentful that you’re not that but then I stop and think like, “All of the things that I went through when I was a teenager and twenty-something, all the struggles that I had, things are worse for people of those ages now than they were for me.” What did I wish I had? What support did I need? How can I magnify and amplify that to support them? I get motivated by that. It’s not an age thing but we can look at people that seemingly have their needs taken care of but recognize that deep down, they might not have what they need or they don’t even recognize it because a lot of people are short-sighted.
We look at what’s happening right now, Jason. We see people who are rising up against big corporations. I have a hunch that there’s going to be a massive shift with Amazon. I hope it’s possible. In the posts that I’ve seen about Amazon workers expressing how fed up they are with the conditions there, it feels to me like there’s a change coming. They are going to find a way to threaten this huge company. I don’t know if it’s hope but I feel that right now. I see people who are quitting jobs, as we’ve talked about in the past, because they’re dissatisfied with how they’re being treated and people are standing up for their wellbeing in a remarkable way. That doesn’t mean that they’re okay.
They’ve got a lot of work to do mentally and emotionally but they’re quitting. The corporations are having to pay them more and having to change things because they recognize they can’t do these things without them. These movements are showing the power that we have but unfortunately, a lot of these changes don’t happen until things get bad. That’s the other thing I’m thinking as we’re discussing this. After George Floyd’s death, the power of the Black Lives Matter movement was so intense and that caused me to make a lot of changes but I didn’t feel that until it got bad and collectively, people said, “We’re fed up. We need to change.”
I’ve noticed this. We see these uprisings and collective traumas. We see people in Seattle and Portland recognizing that it’s messed up that they don’t have air conditioning. That’s a huge issue that a lot of these people do not have air conditioning in their homes, because their homes were not prepared for this, “The weather’s never going to get that bad. We don’t need to put air conditioning in.” Now people are suffering and they’re literally hanging out in malls to get air conditioning. Buildings are probably going to be forced to put air conditioning in. We’ve seen a lot of shifts happen and how people will come together when things get bad when there’s a collective trauma.Eco-Anxiety: The Impact Of Climate Change On Our Mental Health Click To Tweet
Sadly, though, to your point, as well, Jason, it’s almost a little bit too late in a lot of those circumstances because people will lose their lives over this. PTSD, the long-term impacts of mental suffering is a wound that will never fully heal. There will always be a scar there. Unfortunately, though, I don’t think enough people have that long-term awareness to make the changes now so we can prevent all the tragedies and prevent all the wounds. Unfortunately, that’s part of how humanity is wired or conditioned.
It makes me wonder in terms of the economics and the politics behind all this. I’m not proposing that everything change overnight because it can’t. We talk about the inertia of corporations, governments, and policies changing. I harangue them for setting these goals by 2050 but I also realized that because of human inertia, things take a lot longer than we think they ought to, in many cases. Especially if we think about the possibility of the impending destruction of humanity on a planet that can no longer host us. That, to me, seems like the biggest possible issue that any of us could face in our lifetime, it does not minimize racism, sexism, homophobia, or speciesism.
In my mind, it seems like an uninhabitable planet trumps all those issues. I wonder how much we are being distracted from the most critical issues, not to say again, these other issues are not critical, but if we don’t have a habitable planet in 20, 30, 40 years, we’re not going to be concerned with any of those things. We’re going to be concerned with survival. I get fired up about this.￼ Years ago, there was this cartoon, a single frame that was being passed around the internet. The cartoon was a white man in a business suit around a campfire with 5 or 7 other people, and in the distance, you see a city that’s destroyed. The caption under the white businessman talking to the group around the campfire was, “We destroyed the planet but for a while, we created a lot of shareholder value.”
Human inertia and our ability to get stuck in like, “That’s how we do things,” you rewarded your shareholders with billions of dollars in profit. Good luck spending the money on a planet that is on fire. Good luck. There’s a part of me, Whitney, that doesn’t understand the somewhat sociopathic desire to make as much money as possible on a planet that looks like it might be doomed. We don’t know yet but it might be. It’s cool. We got our yacht, our share price, and all of our stuff because I won’t be around to even have to face it.
There’s a lot of sociopathic behavior going on the planet. This issue around climate change, corporate responsibility, and what’s happening on a government level, there’s a lot of sociopaths running things that don’t seem to give a ship or, “We’ll take baby steps because I’ll get mine and I’ll leave it to the next generation.” This is bringing up so many emotions of rage for me because I don’t understand our obsession with power, money, and greed. There are so much bigger things. There’s nothing wrong with money and profit but doing it for the sake of cutting off our nose to spite our face, I don’t understand that mentality. It baffles me how slow we are to change.
That being said, I still get excited when I hear about technologies about the desalination of ocean water, that maybe we can have more drinkable water by taking the saltwater out of ocean water and having that as drinkable water. It’s a great innovation. There are some interesting ideas about putting satellites into space to reflect the rays of the sun back out into the universe. That’s an exciting technology. I find the incredible demand for electric vehicles and the decrease in price is exciting, too.The idea of climate change getting worse is going to absolutely change how we live on Earth as human beings. Click To Tweet
While I say I’m angry about all this, which I am, I also have an equal amount of enthusiasm for a lot of the interesting technologies that are being created. The question is, can we implement them at scale in time? That’s where I’m at. The human spirit, the innovation, our knowledge, and our desire to help is an intrinsic part of humanity. In addition to greed and shortsightedness, humans have an indomitable will to survive and flourish. That’s one of the most beautiful aspects of being a human being. My curiosity is, will we implement all this in time? I don’t know. We’ll be around to see part of it, won’t we? Hopefully. Who knows?
I do get excited about a lot of the innovations and the technology and the increasing amount of people eating plant-based. We’re seeing year after year, millions more people on the planet are eating what I perceive to be a more ethical, climate-friendly, animal-friendly, and human-friendly diet. When I get in this mode of being like, “Let it burn. Who cares?” I try to remember the good things and I try to focus on the joy and excitement of the innovations that are happening and how people are changing. When I get down and dirty and dark and existential, I try to focus on those things because those are the things that bring me out of that dark place.
That’s incredibly important because this conversation can cause more anxiety and more frustration that was already there. Hopefully, the readers are like, “You made me feel worse today.” Unfortunately, that is a real possibility, but we also have to examine our response to it and notice like, “Do you feel like drinking right now because you feel overwhelmed? Do you feel like having a violent rage? Do you feel like taking drugs, watching TV, or sitting on your phone scrolling on TikTok?” which is probably what I’m going to do to cope.
It’s interesting with TikTok, I pay a lot of attention to how I’m feeling when I use it. Sometimes, it’s information. Like I’ve said in other episodes, it often replaces the news for me. I feel more connected to people and that’s an important thing, too. Even though technology isn’t replacing the deep need for in-person communication and community experiences, it does help me understand what other people are going through, and for that, I’m grateful. It feels like a distraction, as most entertainment does, but it also shows me what people are going through around the world. I wouldn’t know what’s happening in Seattle and Portland to this extent if I weren’t browsing through these videos. I wouldn’t know what people that are different than me are experiencing because of their differences or what people are doing across the world. I felt incredibly grateful to know more about what was happening in 2020.
I heard about George Floyd’s death through social media. I understood more about COVID early on and saw what people were reporting in China early because of platforms like TikTok. Sometimes our coping has benefits. Maybe having a drink is what relaxes you and also connects you to people. Right now, a lot of people are excited about having parties, going to bars and restaurants, and gathering in groups. Certainly, there’s an element of coping there but there is an element of bonding, and that can be very healing.
For each of us, it’s all about noticing our habits, behaviors, examining them, questioning them, talking to other people, and learning about them. It’s understanding that many of us are struggling mentally. Our anxiety and depression are higher. All of these things are common, people are talking about them with more transparency. Hopefully, articles like the one that we started with, Jason, are inspiring more therapists. It certainly has inspired me to do more when it comes to well-being. One thing that I hope to focus a lot on with my work moving forward is coaching people with their well-being. That’s something that I started to feel more motivated to do because of what’s happened in 2020.
The side of this, Jason is, if we can examine what this evokes within us and what do we do with that motivation and inspiration even if it does involve some sadness, rage, depression, anxiety, and fear, sometimes those can also motivate us. Sometimes those things are temporary. Sometimes those things are part of the human experience. Instead of avoiding them, we can confront them, and maybe through confronting them, that helps us make these changes to the best of our abilities.
On another positive note, this is part of what inspired us to create our second podcast, This Hits The Spot, because we know episodes like this can feel heavy and we have our little remedy. We talk about products that we love, which may or may not be things that we consume to cope. We love CBD products and chocolate. Those can be pleasurable and soothing things to consume. Thus, we launched another happier podcast.
If you’re feeling a little like not your best right now and want to find something that hits the spot, go check out this show because the whole concept of our new show, This Hits the Spot, is to show you what makes us feel good whether it’s a food or a drink, a supplement, a website, an app that we’ve downloaded, or video we’ve watched. All of it is positivity. I’m grateful for that show, Jason, given episodes and topics like this. This Hits the Spot is private. It’s for our newsletter subscribers, which is free and it’s also for our patrons, which is a way for you to contribute to the show.￼ Any closing thoughts, Jason?
I need to go do something fun right now because I feel sad. I’m going to go outside and play ball with my dog. I’ll take her on a walk. I got a new punching bag outside like a stand up, so I’m going to do that whenever I feel rage, anger, despondency, or nihilism. I’m going to go take it out on the punching bag, which is a healthy way to get some exercise and release that energy. All of the above, and maybe ice cream, too. The balance of life is what we’re talking about. We bring these topics to this show because we think that the issues we talk about are things that we want to discuss with you and want to hear from you.
We also want to have a balance of remembering that joy is important also and doing things that make us feel alive even in the face of potential impending doom, it’s important to be joyful and do things that make us feel good. We try and strike that balance in our lives and also with our offerings here at Wellevatr. We try to offer that to you, too.￼ If you have any reflections, musings, inspirations, or rebuttals to what we talked about here about climate change, PTSD, and anxiety, you can shoot us an email at [email protected], it goes directly to Whitney and myself.
Everything you say is held in complete confidence and we always love hearing your feedback. That being said, thanks for getting uncomfortable with us as always. We’ll be back with another episode of this show and also our private podcast if you want to throw a couple of dollars our way so we can keep doing this work in the world. We love you. We appreciate you. Thanks for the support. We’ll be back again soon!
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- YouTube – This Might Get Uncomfortable
- Climate Anxiety and PTSD Are on the Rise. Therapists Don’t Always Know How to Cope.
- How Extreme Weather Events Affect Mental Health
- This Hits The Spot Podcast
- [email protected]
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