The headlines about extreme weather events do not stop.
The UN said last year that there are less than 12 years left to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
And the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who started the school strikes to demand concrete actions in the face of global warming, gave a clear message to politicians and businessmen gathered at the World Economic Forum in January:
“Adults are always saying that they have a duty to give hope to young people, but I do not want their hope, I do not want them to talk to us about hope, I want them to panic.”
And it seems that, in effect, more and more people panic, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge and at the same time impotent. It is so much that the phenomenon already has a term: “eco-anxiety”.
“We can say that a significant number of people are stressed by the potential impacts of climate change, and the level of concern is increasing,” said Susan Clayton, professor of psychology and environmental studies at the College of Wooster, a faculty in Ohio, and co-author of a report entitled “Mental health and our changing climate”.
“I want you to feel the fear that I feel every day and act”: Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who is missing one day a week to school to protest against climate change
The American Psychological Association describes “eco-anxiety” as a “chronic fear of an environmental cataclysm,” a stress caused by “observing the seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change, and caring about the future of oneself, of children and generations. future. “
The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the UN, IPCC, called for “urgent and unprecedented changes” to achieve a halving of emissions of CO2, the main greenhouse gas, by 2030, the minimum we must achieve so that the increase in temperature of the planet does not exceed 1.5 degrees centigrade.
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The IPPC warned that if the temperature reaches two degrees, for example, 10 million more people will lose their homes because of the rise in sea level, and the number of people suffering from water shortages will double.
“Since the IPPC report was published, I noticed a large increase in the number of my clients who wanted to talk about their eco-friendliness,” said Mary Jayne Rust, a British eco-psychologist.
“Some of my younger patients have told me: ‘we’re completely screwed.'”
“They are going to leave us a world made shit”: young people from all over the world demand action against climate change
“I just start crying”
Sam Johnston, a young man from Manchester, England, spoke about his eco-friendliness for a BBC documentary.
“When you go to sleep you start thinking about the state of the planet, and you realize that being a single person can only have a limited impact,” Sam said.
“That is the main reason for anxiety, because you feel helpless.”
Eco-anxiety also affects scientists.
Tim Gordon, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter in England, does field research on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and in the Arctic Ocean.
“We are documenting the rapid deterioration of these sites, sometimes I am floating in the water looking around me and saying: ‘everything is dying'”.
“There are times when I’m wearing my diving mask and I just start crying when I see that tragedy.”
For Sam, anxiety also manifests itself in physical symptoms.
“I recently had a hard time sleeping, and I had palpitations.”
“I am optimistic”
What can you do to combat eco-anxiety?
The National Health Service of the United Kingdom (NHS for its acronym in English), offers on its site advice for the treatment of anxiety in general, such as medications and cognitive behavioral therapies.
Scientists like Owen Gaffney have another solution.
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