Teens Tips with Alicia Drummond teen-tips-so-every-child-can-thrive 2 The Mews,
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How To Counter Eco-Anxiety by Katrina Judge, Founder & Director of Young Climate Warriors

‘Nearly 3/4s of young people say they are worried about the state of the planet – 22% say they are VERY worried’. (BBC Newsround survey, 2020).

‘Almost 9 out of 10 children don’t think enough is being done to tackle climate change and 81% don’t feel they are being listened to’ (UNICEF UK survey, 2021).

‘45% of global youth surveyed say climate anxiety and distress is affecting their daily lives and functioning’ (The Lancet Planetary Health, 2022)

Eco-anxiety is real. Negative emotions associated with the perception of climate change are often voiced through an extreme concern about animals, for example the plight of polar bears, or about scenes they have seen on TV – such as ravaging wildfires, or an immediate concern about the impact of local issues like flooding.

It can often stem from a feeling that society, the government, or just the ‘adult’ world is not doing enough about it.  It is important to acknowledge their anxiety and validate their feelings. Let them know that it is a normal response to be worried about things going wrong in our natural world.  It is healthy to care and love the world around us, and worry is an extension of that concern.

Here are some suggestions for helping to counter eco-anxiety:

  • Spending time in nature is a great way to stay motivated and hopeful. Learn about re-wilding schemes and watch nature documentaries – especially balanced programmes like Planet Earth or the Green Planet series.
  • Engage with reputable sources of information that are reliable, accurate and not scaremongering.
  • Perspective is important. Look at what we have achieved.  Just shy of 200 countries signed an agreement to limit global warming to well below 2oC as part of the UN Paris Agreement – that was an incredible achievement.   Over 400 scientists work together as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessing the science and reaching consensus about recommendations. Globally thousands of top professionals are putting their minds together to help combat climate change. No one person is going to solve this global problem – but we are all working together!
  • Emphasise solutions – systemic change can happen. Globally, we do have the solutions and the technologies, we just need the political will and direction to motivate businesses and organisations to take action.  Millions of people around the world are working on these solutions today; projects, investors, entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, policy makers and more.  As Professor Myles Allen said ‘we can fix it, it is a fixable problem’ (FT for schools – Engaging with Climate Change – 1st March ’22).
  • Strive to share ‘good news’ stories and highlight positive projects and ideas – especially where they seem realistic, possible and are gaining traction.  Reinforce the notion that we are capable of affecting the course of events, we can have dreams and visions for the future. We can choose to build a better future together.
  • Make small positive changes, these can feel empowering and help to reduce anxiety levels. Learning about how we live in an interconnected world, but can take action as individuals is important, even if we don’t feel we can control the big world around us.
  • Take action as part of a ‘team’ – participating alongside others can help us feel less alone, and help amplify our voices.
  • Talk about it – Discussion, conversation and learning can help us feel empowered.
  • Be part of the movement for change. Nationwide campaigns can help show the power of public action, and highlights the fact that there are others in society who care about the same things we care about. There are many topic-based campaigns – choose those linked to big charities that are not politically driven. Being part of these types of campaigns that have a proven track record, helps us to influence others.
  • Live by example.  Make ‘sustainable living’ choices. Making changes to our everyday lives helps send a message to businesses that consumers are making conscious choices that are supporting a healthier planet. Making those choices also helps change our ‘social norms’.  However, as individuals we are not individually responsible for saving the planet. Be wary not to let the ‘green’ choices lead to a climate footprint guilt.
  • If you are feeling worried about climate change you need to know that you are not alone.

To learn about the Young Climate Warriors initiative – visit their website here

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