What to Do with Our Eco-Anxiety in an Age of Climate Crisis
This month, we moved our focus a bit beyond the Mediterranean basin to explore the emotions that climate change can trigger in us. To learn more about them, we turned to two experts who live in Mediterranean countries: Spain and Italy.
We spoke with Irene Baños, an environmental journalist and author of a book on eco-anxiety. In our conversation, we touched on a more personal dimension. She inspired us with her journey into and out of her own eco-anxiety. Then, with Lorenzo Ciabini, a psychologist and co-founder of the Italian Climate Change Anxiety Association, we tried to understand those emotions that arise from our environment, and how to escape eco-paralysis.
We further delved into the media's role in provoking those emotions with either of them. When we write Lapilli, we do our best not to select only negative news but also to include constructive insights that give us hope. Besides caring for those who read us, we also do it for ourselves. Indeed, as we will hear from Irene Baños, journalists who cover the environment are also vulnerable to eco-anxiety.
Like Baños, for example, I have often questioned whether I want children. Most of the time, I have told myself it would be better not to since the world they will live in will be very different from the one I grew up in. But one thing Baños said resonated with me. It has to do with changing the narrative. Instead of focusing only on what we have lost, we can appreciate what is still there and what we can do to keep it thriving.
So the message to all eco-anxious people out there is: Let's remind ourselves that by doing our best at not worsening the crisis, we can still be happy, despite the climate emergency.
Irene, how would you describe eco-anxiety? To me, eco-anxiety is, on the one hand, the fear people feel in front of upcoming catastrophic events or the impacts of climate and ecological crises. On the other hand, it is also the frustration of feeling powerless in front of the wrath of such an upcoming future. I realize that frustration sometimes overcomes fear because the more we try to change things, the more we start feeling powerless. You get the information, and then you experience the problem and feel the fear. But that's just the beginning. Frustration or anxiety starts growing when you express your will to change things and improve the situation. Then you realize it's pretty hard or beyond your control. It doesn't matter how much you do at an individual level; it will never be enough to counter the crisis. So I think this is what creates the most anxiety in eco-conscious people. Then, observing inaction from governments also fuels that package of emotions to inflate: frustration, fear, and anxiety.
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