Most global warming alarmists focus on changes supposedly occurring to the world we live in, but GW is also having an effect on another world—the world inside our heads. For instance, a recent study by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) showed that 80 percent of Sweden’s young people (ages 15-25) worry about how climate change will affect their future. Moreover, half of the respondents think about climate change once a week or more often, and no less than 25 percent experience stomach pains or unhappiness when they do so.
This is actually not a new phenomenon. In the 1990s, something known as “eco-anxiety” came into existence. It involved feelings of helplessness, despair or of not being able to do enough about climate change. Margaret Anderson, who holds a master’s degree in eco-psychology, calls it “that underlying feeling of fear and anger about the state of the Earth”. One person explained her melancholic feelings this way:
“The sight of an idling car, heat-trapping carbon dioxide spewing from the tailpipe, would send me into an hours-long panic, complete with shaking, the sweats, and staring off into space while others conversed around me.”
Another anxious reporter explained it as follows:
“Whatever steps I take to counter global warming, however well-intentioned my brief bursts of zeal, they invariably end up feeling like too little, too late. The mismatch between the extremely dangerous state of the earth and my own feeble endeavuors seems mockingly large.”
While eco-anxiety might be an unknown concept for most, that hasn’t stopped it from becoming quite a lucrative business for some. One website has compiled a database of people who identify themselves as providing therapeutic or educational services related to ecopsychology. In the U.S. alone, there are over one hundred people listed–charging up to $250 per hour–ranging from ecotherapists and ecologists to shamans.
Climate change/eco-anxiety has an eerie resemblance to another condition that popped up back in 2009: “Avatar blues”. The movie Avatar, which basically showed dirty mankind exploiting beautiful Na’vi people on the beautiful planet Pandora, caused people to experience depression–and in some instances—contemplating suicide. As one viewer said to CNN back in 2010:
“When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed … gray. It was like my whole life, everything I’ve done and worked for, lost its meaning … It just seems so … meaningless. I still don’t really see any reason to keep … doing things at all. I live in a dying world.”
The common denominator between eco-anxiety and Avatar blues seems to be the notion that earth is a unclean place, soon-to-be inhospitable to polar bears and on the brink of overall destruction. On its face this is similar to the “nuclear anxiety” that was widespread in the later half of the 20th century; the difference, however, is that fear of nuclear war was rather well-founded, while the alleged mega-catastrophes of GW have yet to appear.
Fortunately, there are ways of overcoming eco-anxiety, such as realizing that earth isn’t such a dull place. Our friends the ecotherapists have constructed more ingenious methods, such as advice on becoming more in tune with nature by always carrying around a small rock or twig. According to Carolyn Baker, a psychotherapist who offers eco-anxiety coaching, it helps to realize that “it’s OK to give yourselves a break for a few weeks or months,” and “focus on positive things, go see a comedy, [or] read a trashy novel”. Thanks, Carolyn.Another proposed way of dealing with anxiety is to “make a donation to a fund that protects the environment, like the Sierra Club”. This naturally raises the possibility that environmental groups might make anxiety-producing predictions, but there is no evidence that they are doing so. None whatsoever.
If we were to suggest some new treatments, we would probably go with electroshock therapy (using renewable energy of course), or classical conditioning by showing graphs which indicate that no global warming has occurred in the last 16 years. On the other hand, the latter might worsen the trauma, since dealing with such news is fundamentally counter to the belief systems of eco-anxiety sufferers. To use an analogy, those who repeatedly suggest that the world is coming to an end generally feel bummed out when they turn out to be wrong.
The constant fear-mongering by media, politicians and alarmist organizations are clearly having a destructive influence on people who care about having a good environment. When organizations such as WWF writes that a probable (which it totally isn’t) temperature increase of 7.2 degrees would result in a submerged New York City, the extinction of 40 percent of all animal species and the transformation of the Mediterranean countries into desert landscapes, it is no surprise that young people become worried. Such false propaganda should face much larger opposition, but meets no or little resistance in a media world where good news is no news, and no news mean no attention-grabbing headlines.