Illuminating hidden perspectives
If you google “eco-anxiety,” chances are you will mostly see narratives and perspectives from affluent individuals. Resources created by, centering, or targeted toward communities facing systemic barriers are noticeably scarce. Although this issue impacts everyone, discussions often overlook the experiences and perspectives of marginalized communities.
That’s why it’s critical that we examine eco-anxiety through an intersectional lens. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, embracing, amplifying, and understanding these hidden perspectives of eco-anxiety will benefit everyone in our collective journey toward a more sustainable and inclusive future.
Youth and Future Generations
Young individuals often experience intense climate anxiety as they confront the consequences of inherited environmental degradation. Despite the despair, youth groups have embraced their awareness of these implications and fostered progress through intergenerational unity. In Liberia, over 60 youth organizations collaborated to create a collective position on the nation’s climate goals, urging political leaders to act. Their collective position made waves, prompting the government to organize a national Youth Environment and Climate Action Summit to recognize this united effort.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, the youth-led grassroots initiative, the Green Generation, actively supports communities in implementing nature-based solutions to combat the climate crisis and address food insecurity. Their efforts make a tangible difference on the ground.
And let’s not forget the passionate Campus Ambassadors at Defend our Future. These trailblazers play a role in raising environmental awareness on their college campuses. They organize educational events, establish partnerships with local businesses and campus organizations, and engage decision-makers to fiercely advocate for the climate needs of their generation.
Through these inspiring examples, young people are demonstrating their determination to address their eco-anxiety.
It’s quite fascinating how some parents consider long-term the environmental impact of an unsustainable environment on future generations. During our Ask the Experts session on Eco-anxiety and climate activism, we had the privilege of hosting Aishah-Nyeta Brown, a climate literacy educator who actively contributes to Good Energy Stories, she expressed her desire to raise a child in an environmentally secure world. “But bringing children to an environmentally uncertain world does not seem fair.” It’s a genuine dilemma, isn’t it? On one hand the joys and social expectations of parenthood and on the other hand reproductive choices and anxiety surrounding sustainability. It’s understandable how eco-anxiety can be overwhelming. And discussions like these shed light on the complexity of our choices and the need for a sustainable future.
In some communities around the world, women are responsible for securing essential resources like food, water, fuel, and reproductive choices. This makes them more vulnerable to health, safety, and displacement impacts, leading to higher anxiety and stress levels.
Imagine living in a place where water infrastructure is insufficient, where women and girls are responsible for fetching water. Climate change, deforestation, droughts, saltwater contamination , water scarcity, increases the burden on these women. In Bangladesh, women walk up to five hours a day to fetch and transport water.
Sadly, this reinforces gender inequality and hinders girls’ education. For instance, Zufan is a 10-year-old girl from Ethiopia who doesn’t attend school due to water collection chores. Like many other girls, this contributes to eco-anxiety because she may feel trapped in the cycle of poverty. It’s disheartening to think that academic opportunities have to be sacrificed due to these responsibilities, leaving girls disempowered.
But there is good news, we can help reduce eco-anxiety by investing in time-saving water pumps, filters, and pipes, improving climate-resilient water storage facilities, engaging the community about the benefit of girls’ education, and creating flexible school options like evening classes to accommodate girls with domestic duties. This way, girls like Zufan can shape their own destinies.
People with disabilities
Did you know people with disabilities experience higher rates of social exclusion, discrimination, and marginalization? People with visual, hearing, or cognitive disabilities encounter barriers to accessing relevant information regarding climate change and environmental issues. The media, unfortunately is often not designed to be accessible to their specific needs. Education is a powerful tool, but if it does not cater to everyone’s needs, then its impact is limited. This exacerbates eco-anxiety and reinforces environmental injustice by leaving people out of the conversation.
Think about it: People with mobility or sensory limitations are also more vulnerable to the direct effects of climate change. During environmental disasters, evacuation and aid may become challenging. As events like major hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, and cold snaps increase, so does the anxiety of being unable to access health and safety services.
Exclusion, whether in education or safety services, intensifies eco-anxiety. Every form of communication and accessibility is a priority; we should design educational materials that cater to a wide range of disabilities and create policy frameworks that prioritize the rights of people with disabilities in mitigation strategies.
Indigenous people are deeply connected to their lands and natural resources, but climate change and extractive industries hangs like a dark cloud over their lands. The loss of traditional livelihoods and cultural heritage and the disruption of sacred sites can lead to significant distress and anxiety among indigenous communities.
In the video, Climate Justice in Sápmi, Jonas Vannar, a reindeer herder of the Saami people of Sweden, is witnessing firsthand the rapid environmental changes. They rely on reindeer herding and natural resources for their livelihood, but deforestation and climate change threaten their way of life. Rising temperatures, varying rainfall patterns, and shifting ecosystems have changed the quality of the reindeer grazing lands, causing anxiety about their personal and cultural futures.
Adaptive strategies to address this eco-anxiety could include land conservation, reforestation efforts, embracing traditional ecological knowledge, and extending mental health support can help the Saami people and other indigenous communities that are grappling with the weight of these challenges.
Refugees and Displaced People
Climate change has a ripple effect exacerbating conflicts and triggering mass migrations as people flee from areas affected by rising sea levels, droughts, or extreme weather events. When these people are forced to leave everything behind and seek refuge, it causes significant trauma, stress, and anxiety.
There is hope, one approach that could alleviate eco-anxiety among climate refugees is providing financial support to local mental health experts who can offer education, guidance, and counseling. This should be accompanied by proactive measures to address environmental concerns in high-risk areas. This will help us get ahead of the game through building resilience, disaster preparation and sustainable development.
Global North and Global South
Finally, let’s dive into the topic of the North-South divide! So, picture this: we’ve got the flashy, financially flexible countries of the Global North, strutting their stuff with their industrialization in full swing (Europe, North America, and parts of Asia.) On the flip side, we’ve got the Global South, home to vibrant regions in Africa, Latin America, and other parts of Asia, but facing economic challenges
Although the North-South divide classifies economic advancement, it also portrays environmental degradation. The roots of this divide go back to historical events like colonialism, unequal trade relations and power dynamics. In the discussion about Eco-anxiety and climate activism, Saiacharna Darira, a meditation facilitator and campaigner for Turn it Around, had eye-opening insights on how the scarcity of environmental resources and resilience in India intensifies the anxiety and uncertainty.
Developed countries have advanced infrastructure and technological capabilities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They’ve got their A-game on creating a sense of security and preparedness, hence reducing anxiety levels compared to regions with limited resources. The Global South needs a little more resources, infrastructure, and emergency response systems to cope with environmental crises. They are like the underdogs fighting environmental crises without the same level of attention or support
It’s not just about money or economics; it’s about how it shapes our environment and our emotions. It’s about recognizing discrepancies and working towards a more balanced world. Understanding and addressing these diverse experiences is important for developing inclusive and practical strategies to reduce harm. As Abhijit Barnerjee and Esther Duflo quote in their book Poor Economics, “Talking about the problems of the world without talking about some accessible solutions is the way to paralysis rather than progress.”
Inclusive solutions require proactive efforts to ensure accessibility, equal participation, and consideration of diverse needs in environmental policies, planning, and response measures.