Last week the skies of New York City and Washington DC turned an apocalyptic orange, caused by particular matter spewing into the atmosphere from raging wildfires in Alberta, Canada. The midwest was also hit hard by a phenomenon than many Westerners are now familiar with - dismal air quality from wildfires.
Experiences like orange skies, dramatic heat waves, flooding and droughts mean that more and more people are connecting the dots between climate change and the extreme weather we're witnessing. The United Nations has declared the climate emergency "code red for humanity."
When you start the grasp the enormity of the challenge and the real threats, it is overwhelming. The fear, anger, sadness, and anxiety is real --- especially for young people. Called "eco-anxiety" this issue is defined by the American Psychological Association as the "chronic fear of environmental doom." It's a growing issue as mental health, public health, and the climate crisis collide.
Here are five ways to ease eco-anxiety:
1. Ask and the LISTEN to the young people you love about climate change.
Let the young people you love know they are not alone. Share some of the huge cultural changes you've seen in your life. Then pledge to take action with them. Develop an eco-action and check in.
Talk about the Held v Montana trial, the first ever constitutional trial for climate action, and its important example of how intergenerational partnership on climate action is real.
2. Put the phone down and spend time in nature when you can.
Time outside decreases the stress hormone cortisol, increases a sense of overall well-being, and decreases blood pressure. Stuck inside because of work or apocalyptic skies? Take a deep breath and look at photos of a special outdoor place.
Research shows that viewing photos of nature can help still the mind and help us relax. Go outside and play when you can!
Need ideas on where to go for nearby hike? Check out this awesome "Find Your Park" tool from the National Park Foundation and National Park Service.
Write down how you feel. Think of your connection to nature, your feelings about the future we're leaving the next generation, and your thoughts about what we're experiencing. Get it all out.
Check out the OneGreenThing tools, including our bullet journal as a resource.
Also consider the OneGreenThing 2030 Visualization exercise, too. Ask yourself what could a regenerative future look like? What if we got it right? What could it look like? Feel like? Try to start conversations on what we can create together if we act. We can create something beautiful, but it will take all of us.
4. Find Your Climate Superpower & Take Action
Get involved in climate action. Start small then build from there. Find your strengths in service and inventory your talents. Consider taking the OneGreenThing Superpower Assessment or sharing it with a friend to find your personalized plan of action based on your strengths and interests.
Remember that you don't have to be everything to all people, and that we didn't cause this mess - the oil and gas companies did.
But, we are all part of the solution. Our actions drive culture change.
Then take your Service Superpower and apply it everyday through your #onegreenthing. Of course our individual actions won't solve the climate crisis, but they can and will change the culture. All together they make a difference.
5. Find Community
Connecting with others who are focused on building a greener, healthier, more equitable future can inspire you, help ease eco-anxiety, and create a snowball effect of change in your community. Start with OneGreenThing, one of our founding principles is "Know You Can't Go it Alone."
Community connection and compassion are essential to climate action. Think about joining one of our interactive online workshops. Or check out the One Green Thing book, where I list organizations to explore based on your Service Superpower profile. There are thousands of climate and conservation organizations that need your passion, help, and support. Google is a powerful tool to find river clean ups, land trust events, and climate rallies in your neighborhood. There are so many ways to get involved. Make a plan and do it!
We need rapid adoption of global solutions, but your everyday actions matter because you shift the culture.
For example, skipping the straw might start a conversation about plastic pollution. Your daily habits are a powerful force for cultural change and all together the math adds up! Composting, avoiding single use plastic, walking instead of driving, reducing food waste, turning off the lights, switching to clean energy, buying less stuff. It makes a difference as we work to shift the culture toward climate solutions.