Opinion

Climate crisis: “My eco-anxiety is at an all time high because we’ve stopped talking about the environment”

Posted by
Lauren Geall
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A woman experiencing eco-anxiety

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the UK back in March, many of us hoped that the lockdown restrictions brought in across the globe would have a positive effect on the environment in the short and long-term. But as lockdown has eased, conversation about the climate crisis has been non-existent. Here, one writer explains why that has made her eco-anxiety worse than ever.

It’s hard to comprehend all the awful, terrifying things that are going on in the world right now. 

It may sound a bit pessimistic to say so, but it’s true: on top of the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the planet, the climate crisis continues to loom large – and that’s not forgetting all the other individual crises being faced by countries all over the world.

With all of this going on over the last couple of months, I’m ashamed to say I’ve stuck my head in the sand when another dreary news notification has appeared on my phone. Keeping up with the news is part of my job, but outside of my working hours, I’ve been swapping the anxiety-inducing stories for lighter, more easily digestible content. 

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But this weekend, I wasn’t able to stick my head in the sand and ‘move on’ after reading the news. The climate crisis was brought into terrifying detail by the latest reports that Greenland lost one million tonnes of ice for each minute of 2019, and the footage from the California wildfires painted a stark picture of the situation the planet is currently facing. My eco-anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks – after months spent focusing on the coronavirus pandemic and the social impact of such a widespread event, I was hit by the realisation that the need for climate action is more urgent than ever.

You see, I had naively assumed that the coronavirus pandemic had given us more time to deal with the climate crisis. We all saw the reports about the environment “recovering” at the beginning of the pandemic – of the cleaner air in Northern India which allowed citizens of a remote village to see the Himalayan mountains for the first time, or the improvement in water quality in Venice which allowed people to catch glimpses of wildlife which are often obscured by the cloudy water. As a result, I’d come to believe that, at least in some way, the pandemic had improved things. But I was wrong. 

A melting ice sheet in Greenland
Eco-anxiety: the latest statistics from Greenland show that the country lost one million tonnes of ice for each minute of 2019.

While the environment may have benefited from the reduced CO2 emissions we saw during lockdown, the impact on the climate will be ‘negligible’ at best. Without a ‘green economic recovery’ which puts the climate first in all post-pandemic economic initiatives, or at least a strong push to reduce CO2 emissions as we move out of the pandemic, the small improvements we saw during lockdown will be but a blip in the otherwise worsening trend. And that’s what scares me the most. 

Why? Because while I’ve been sticking my head in the sand and telling myself it’s OK to focus on one bad thing at a time, so too have hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The coronavirus pandemic has taken our attention away from the climate crisis, and in doing so has stolen a significant chunk of the time we had to take action. 

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Although it may be uncomfortable to talk about, we need to ensure we continue to hold businesses and governments accountable for what they’re doing to address this urgent issue, by supporting eco-friendly initiatives, shopping and consuming sustainably and calling on the government to engage in green economic initiatives. 

Educating yourself and engaging with climate conversations around the world are also great ways to ensure you remain engaged in the long-term. 

The coronavirus pandemic has shown what can happen when the world is united by a common crisis – I only hope we can come together in this way to fight the climate crisis, too.

For more information on anxiety, including what it is and how to cope, you can check out NHS Every Mind Matters or visit the Mind website.

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Lauren Geall

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