It feels strange to think about how the world changes so dramatically without us even realizing it. We aren’t always thinking about these changes, sometimes we aren’t even aware of them, but they still happen whether or not we are a part of them. A great example of this is the fact that the earth rotates at 1000km per hour. Most people know that the earth rotates. It is a fact we were taught early in life, after all. However it is a fact that is not always apparent to those living on the earth. Personally, I’m not always thinking about how I am slowly turning alongside the earth even though I move with the earth regardless. We can understand that the earth rotates, and yet we can go days without realizing that we are not in the exact same spot (in a cosmic sense) as we were a couple days ago. The same idea applies to our perception of climate change. Some people are hyper aware of the damaging effects of global warming and aim to reverse these changes however they can. Other people are oblivious to the ways in which we damage our world and how their actions impact the planet they live on. However, no matter any single person’s perspective on the matter, our world is still changing at a frightening rate. Though we do not share the same awareness or sense of urgency on these matters, we do share the same consequences. So then, what can we do to fix this outcome? Is there any way to stop the earth from spinning, even if some people are not aware that it does? Though that sounds like a daunting question, the answer lies within the question itself.
Climate anxiety refers to an individual’s worries surrounding global warming. Those who suffer from it deal with an intensive feeling of dread when thinking of the exhaustive efforts we as a population must undertake to reverse the negative effects of climate change. It is an extremely taxing emotional state that feels almost inescapable. It feels even more claustrophobic when you are made aware of the fact that those who contribute the most to global warming are those who are oblivious about the damages being done to the world. Climate anxiety is a perceived condition that only affects those who care about the environment. This is because those anxious over the state of our world are the same people who are actively conscious of their environmental impact. Laura Fisher describes climate anxiety as “feelings [that] are a signal of our connection with our world, both on a local and global level.” This connection is something that varies from person to person, its intensity changes depending on the individual’s sympathy for the planet. Chances are that if you’re reading this and searching through other sources similar to it, you are a person who values their connection to our planet. This appreciation for the health of our planet isn’t shared by everyone, though. The owners of major corporations rarely stop to consider how their actions cause the most damage to our environment because in their minds the health of the planet is not as important as the health of their wallets. Suddenly, our connection to the earth isn’t “ours” anymore. This dramatic divide between drastically different mentalities creates a clear distinction between “us” and “them.”
Going back to my previous comparison, there can be some differences between those who are aware that the world spins on its axis and those who are not. However, how you perceive this dichotomy doesn’t actually affect the earth. Whether or not you realize it, we are all spinning alongside the earth. This fact is the exact opposite of how we as a population should treat climate change. Ignoring the damage being done to the world is basically the same thing as letting those who do the most damage get away with it. So how is it possible to be constantly aware of one’s place in the world’s destruction while avoiding the inevitability of climate anxiety? By sharing the burdens of climate change, turning “us” vs “them” into “we.”
Per Espen Stoknes outlines this discussion beautifully in his TED talk entitled “How to Transform Apocalypse Fatigue into Action on Global Warming.” Individuals are always ready to dissociate themselves from news surrounding climate change because of how insignificant they feel within this grand dichotomy. Stoknes describes this dissonance as “leading a double life,” where individuals simply choose to ignore these problems rather than confront them. As a youth who treasures their connection to the planet despite the looming sense of dread these issues invoke within me, I can’t help but relate to his assertion. I try my best to reduce my carbon footprint, but how can my impact even help to reduce the damage that large corporations cause? What’s the point of paying attention to something I know I can’t change by myself?
The point of my plea is to highlight the fact that this year’s Global Climate Strike (#UprootTheSystem) is being held on September 24th, 2021. I feel as though I proposed many open-ended questions throughout this piece, I ask them because I am sure that others like me are asking them too. I don’t think any single person is going to be able to solve the many problems associated with climate change. However, I do think that we can come up with real solutions if we come together and share our perspectives on our planet. I might be too afraid to confront climate anxiety, and maybe you are too. But if we come together and express this rage and confusion, I know we will get a better sense of how we as individuals can help. Our perspectives might be different, but it is these perspectives that will help us to create meaningful change for our planet. In situations we have no control over, like our perspective on the world’s rotation, coming together only serves to point out the inevitability of a fact we already know. But climate change isn’t inevitable, our perspective on it matters immensely. By making each other aware of our complex relationship to the earth and the way that we treat it, we can call attention to the ways that we can help save our planet. No matter how small you think your impact will be, I encourage you to participate in the Global Climate Strike.
“Stressed about the Environment? Here’s how to Channel Climate Anxiety into Positivity” Laura Fisher – July 26, 2021