Many environmental activists – including some on the Climate Action Team – are beginning to share some strong feelings that come after years of engagement. Digesting the statistics, the predictions, the rhetoric, and the politics of climate change is a lot to take. Unsurprisingly, eco-anxiety is a growing trend. 

“Since 2012, the number of Americans who report feeling climate change is an ‘urgent threat’ has more than doubled, jumping from 12 to 26 percent, according to research from The Yale Program on Climate Change. The share of people who are frequently distressed by climate change is also going up: About 10 percent of Americans now feel nervous, anxious or on edge about global warming at least several days of the week,” reported Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech this August in The Hill.  

An extensive survey released by Yale University in the fall found that 65% of Americans say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming, which includes 29% who say they are “very worried.”

About one in ten Americans report experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression because of global warming for several or more days out of the last two weeks. That same survey found that 65% of Americans say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends, while 35% say they do so “occasionally” or “often.”

Why is it that something that a majority of people says worries them is not making its way into conversations with the people they are closest to? Psychologist Susan Clayton told The Guardian: “It’s probably due to how humans process and internalize fear privately: ‘You think the scarier it is, the more we should talk about it. In fact, it’s often the reverse. It’s too scary to talk about.’ However, there may be an ironic upside to more people experiencing the effects of the climate crisis directly, she said, in that others who were already fearful won’t feel so isolated.”

Members of the Climate Action Team mostly fit into the “elder” category, and many have been active with environmental causes for decades. It makes sense that their focus on the climate crisis activates strong feelings. So what about young people?

A 2021 study in the UK looked at 10,000 people ages 16 – 25 and found nearly 60% said they felt very worried or extremely worried about climate change. More than 45% of those questioned said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives. Three-quarters of them said they thought the future was frightening. Over half (56%) say they think humanity is doomed.

The study’s lead author told the BBC: “This shows eco-anxiety is not just for environmental destruction alone, but inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change. The young feel abandoned and betrayed by governments.”

Getting the picture? More importantly, are you part of this picture? I certainly am.

“Climate anxiety, or any range of emotions over climate change, is not necessarily a bad thing,” write the authors of this piece from The Conversation. “But the way you feel does not need to define the way you choose to act. Many people may fear the rise of ‘doomism’ – the feeling that taking action against climate change is pointless. But it is not too late to make a difference, and many emotions, even anxiety, can lead to positive action.”

They continue: “Instead of assuming that our anxiety will go away if we act, or assuming that embracing anxiety means accepting the planet’s fate, we advocate for the creation of more safe spaces, platforms free of judgment with expectations of respect and a willingness to listen, where feelings can be shared and heard. In doing so, society can begin cathartic conversations, validate people’s feelings, realize we are not alone, and foster a sense of community.”

So we’re going to do just that. You and your tender heart are invited to be a part of it. Join others from the Climate Action Team for an inaugural Climate Circle this Monday, Feb. 26, at 7 PM. It’s a free opportunity via Zoom to share your feelings with like-hearted others. We will use a format provided by One Resilient Earth that does not involve discussion, feedback, or “fixing.” Participants will be invited to share, to listen deeply, and to hold space for each other. Showing up simply as a listener is welcome. Click here for the Zoom link.

Take a moment to check in with your emotions. Consider if sharing aloud what’s on your heart about climate change would feel useful. We’re all in this together. If you know of someone else who would benefit, please share this Climate Circle invitation.

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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you because, well, the planet needs your urgent action – and we need each other as we navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here,  and check out our minutes and take action table, our lending library and the Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT and join us for our next Zoom meeting on Monday, March. 18, at 7:30 PM using this link.