I remember watching the news back in 2009 when the devastating tropical cyclone Ondoy hit the Philippines. I was living in Manila, the country’s capital, and I saw that the heavy rainfall flooded many cities and towns. I was a student back then, happy that school was canceled but in disbelief over what was happening in the country. So many Filipinos drowned, with some trapped in their houses as the water level rose.
It doesn’t end there. I witnessed how destructive typhoons Habagat and Yolanda were, too. With the worsening state of climate change, I now worry we will inevitably face deadlier natural disasters. Some research suggests my home might even be under the high tide line in 30 years.
Knowing all of this makes me feel hopeless about the future. There is clear evidence of environmental decline every single day, and yet there are no drastic solutions for this global problem. It makes me feel like as an individual, I can’t make a big enough change for the world.
By searching through the internet, I found out that I wasn’t alone in feeling like this. My feelings have a name, “eco-anxiety,” defined as the chronic fear of environmental doom. This feeling is more common among younger generations, like Generation Z, which I am part of.
Although eco-anxiety isn’t classified as a medical condition, its manifestation in individuals like me is very much real. This makes the climate crisis not just an environmental issue, but a mental health issue as well. To combat my feelings of doom, I find that there are some ways that help me cope with it.
I’m very environmentally conscious, so actively making changes to my lifestyle makes me feel like I’m “doing my part.” I avoid single-use plastic as much as I can. I find ways to lessen my waste, and I encourage my family and friends to do so, too. I even make the effort to decrease my carbon footprint as well. By taking action, I am able to reduce that feeling of extreme helplessness regarding the climate crisis.
I acknowledge that my personal changes contribute very little in light of the big-time corporations that pollute the planet. For these companies to do more, international and local eco-friendly policies would have to be put in place by the government. Still, I help disseminate information by sharing important articles and news. By writing about the climate crisis, I feel that I am helping, even if it’s just a little bit.
Finding a support system
Even though everyone on Earth is affected by environmental degradation, not everyone passionately works to prevent it. It is easy to feel alone in the fight. Many of my peers are educated about the crisis but do not have the means, enthusiasm, or power to start making changes. I realized that I needed to find a community of like-minded people who can relate.
Through the power of social media, I can easily reach out to people around the globe. I follow environmentalists on Twitter and join sustainability groups on Facebook. It’s nice to hear the insights of other people, especially environmental journalists. It reminds me that I’m not alone, while also keeping me up to date about the movement.
Seeking out the successes
Most of the time, we tend to focus on bad news. There are habits to address, policies to review, new goals to set our minds to, and more. Talking about the future of the environment can quickly turn bleak – but it doesn’t have to.
It’s good to seek out positive news, too. We need to pay attention to the great discoveries and positive reports every now and then. Recently, the largest Arctic ozone hole closed up. Although the Antarctica hole is still worrisome, the good news was still hopeful to hear. We’re not losing this fight for the planet’s future just yet.
Disengaging when necessary
Being educated about the issue at hand is incredibly important for me. I need to be aware of environmental issues and discourse to advocate for greener lifestyles and systemic changes. This means that I need to spend a lot of time on online research.
However, it is just as important to know when to disconnect. It seems like every day, I read news about animal or plant species becoming extinct. Seeing devastating information constantly is harmful and can quickly become exhausting. I find it essential to focus on myself before I get too anxious and just read a book or re-watch my favorite animated series.
Solving environmental issues require social change, environmentally-friendly government policies, and corporate responsibility. I still worry about what the future holds for the entirety of the population and me. But, by focusing on the factors I can control, I work with the feeling of eco-anxiety and remain hopeful and more ready for the future.