Eco-Anxiety, and Approaching Climate Action in 2020

Malka Doshi

January 13, 2020

2019, what a year it has been! In what is sure to be the second hottest year on record, the discourse and action pertaining to climate change has been woefully inadequate. Not much went right for the environment in 2019. Massive parts of the amazon burned, the COP25 ended in an uneasy impasse, parts of Europe suffered from an extreme heatwave, the ice melt in the Arctic reached a new record, the Bahamas was ravaged by hurricane Dorian and more bad news than the mind can process. 2020 is not off to a great start either, as the Australian bushfires have led to the deaths of over a billion animals!

Adding insult to injury, the politics surrounding climate change became increasingly partisan. Climate change deniers emerged from the woodwork (Sceptics one would say, morons I would like to contend) and economy and ‘development’ gained precedence over actual survival.

At the time of writing this, we are a week into 2020, and while it is not a long enough span of time to reflect on the year gone by, time is a luxury that is not afforded to us anymore.

In May of 2019, I joined the Don Bosco Green Alliance as a Communications Associate. As a consequence of the same, I have spent the past 7 months consuming more environmental news than I have ever before. As far as occupational hazards go, it’s not the worst one. However this constant barrage of news (most of it – not good) is exhausting.

I get it, turning a blind eye is not a solution, but sometimes, this hyper-awareness is also contributing to increased hopelessness. While there is good news, and the climate issue is far too complicated to be distilled into a simple statement, the human brain’s positive-negative asymmetry makes it easy to claim that the end is nigh. Every new bit of unsavoury information becomes the harbinger of the inevitable apocalypse. And for a moment, turning a blind eye seems just too good.

Doing the right thing for the planet is a labyrinth of landmines. Every supposedly ‘good’ choice can be countered with why it isn’t. Eating meat is bad, veganism is giving rise to monocultures, swapping out the plastic bags with cotton seems easy until you realize that cotton has to be used at least a 1000 times to have any discernible impact. Every choice is complicated, with a hidden impact that is practically untraceable.

Meanwhile, the big polluters continue to pollute. The planned jump in fossil fuel output has all but guaranteed that the Paris Agreement targets won’t be met. The world endlessly waxed poetic about giving up the plastic, yet its production increased, and climate sceptics (re: morons) are on the rise.

And despite all this, giving up is not an option. While doing the right thing is complicated, not doing anything is morally reprehensible. Empty platitudes aren’t going to cut it anymore. Small, even microscopic changes that are more sustainable are better than sitting by and watching what happens. Yes, it is mostly the industries that are responsible for this, and the ones most affected by the climate crisis have the least accountability, and in the grand scheme of things it may not really matter. Worrying about the climate is exhausting, taxing and may as well be a one-way ticket to despair, but not doing anything is repugnant.

Immersing yourself in the current climate discourse can become heartbreaking, alienating and despair-inducing, but the easiest way to fight that is to engage. Join your local environmental groups. Both Fridays for future & XR have local chapters. As a consumer, always strive to make the best choice you can make for the environment. Go to the climate strikes & protests, meeting like-minded people will do wonders to alleviate your anxiety!

If you are looking for small changes to make, on a personal level, or within your institute, you can look at our calendar. You can choose to partake in one of the campaigns, or maybe adopt a monthly action. Do some of it or do all, or something else. But do something. It may not be enough, but doing nothing is simply not an option!