Eco-anxiety is very real; It is psychological distress caused by a chronic fear of environmental doom. Generation next is fearing that they are inheriting a damaged planet with fast-depleting natural resources, melting polar caps with rising sea levels that will inundate bustling coastal cities, and air that is gradually becoming unbreathable. This presents a fearful picture to them.
Hyderabad-based psychologist and mind therapist Sangeetha Kosuru says she sees patients from all age groups presenting with eco-anxiety. Their main concern is how to live with no air to breathe and that they are leaving no future for the next generations. People also want to know how can they be of support to stop this scary future they are living in. She recommends they take small actions towards the preservation of nature within their capacity, like creating their own small green patch and making more sustainable and ethical choices. She says taking time out to raise awareness amongst others in your sphere of influence also helps by giving you a sense of purpose.
Meena Murugappan, our Director at Organo Et School, has worked with young people on experiential learning and is an advocate for education and action on sustainability. She has a few tips for young people to move from Eco-Anxiety to Action. To deal positively with eco-anxiety and convert it into your superpower, she suggests that it is important to understand a few things:
1) It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint: Turning around climate change is not a single day’s work. It’s a slow process; It is not a sprint but a marathon that requires patience, zeal, practice, and stamina. One can begin the process of change by taking proactive local small-scale actions.
These can be something as small as starting your compost garden, reducing plastic consumption at home, recycling and reusing containers in the kitchen, or something slightly at a bigger community level like organizing eco-awareness drive, participating in local water body cleanups, or creating your style of eco-revolution.
The idea is, to not get overwhelmed looking at the number of causes that need attention but think about taking one small step at a time and converting it into the journey of a lifetime. This will give one a sense of purpose and hope. This will also help one identify the cause they can associate with.
So, the next important step in the process is to:
2) Choose a Cause: It is correctly said “you cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.” An eco-sensitive person may get overwhelmed by the number of environmental issues that need addressing. Instead of getting drowned by the plethora of issues and feeling helpless, one must choose the cause they care for and a cause that they can do something about in their capacity and stick to it. They should aim for progress over perfection. All big leaps begin with small steps.
For example, one can start the cause of reducing plastic at home and progress to the local market and then reach out to bigger communities.
This takes us to the next step which is:
3) Understanding the Problem Empathetically: It is very important to look at a problem empathetically. An issue that superficially appears simple may have many stakeholders and factors at play.
For example, taking the case of plastic use here; one feels that asking people to bring their own bags to supermarkets and telling local vegetable vendors to not give plastic bags to the customer, will resolve the plastic issue to some extent. But if we dive deeper, we notice that the shelves of supermarkets are flooded with plastic-packaged food. So, even though we may be feeling good about carrying a cloth bag to the supermarket, we might still be carrying tens of plastic-packaged items back home in that bag and this defeats the purpose. So, using an empathetic approach one will understand that, in this case, a more radical outlook is required, as this is a bigger problem that requires a bigger solution.
This takes us to the next step that is:
4) Solution-making for the Cause of your choice: Once one has dived deeper into the issue and understood the problem, the next natural step should be to find a long-term sustainable solution. There is a lot of innovative work currently in the eco-solutions industry, so it is important that existing solutions be identified, researched and studied in detail; See how they can be improved or changed for better impact; And where there are no apt solutions, create new solutions for problems currently unaddressed.
For example, in the case of plastic use, we understand that it is difficult to remove the utility of plastic from our lives. So, a more radical solution-based approach being explored is to replace all the plastic at the manufacturing level itself with a earth-friendly options that has the same property and utility as the currently used plastic. Of course, this process will require research and development and will take its own time. (See point no 1 😊)
Hence, the next step which is very pertinent to the Gen-Next:
5) Future solution-making and look out for careers in that: The future is for the youth to inherit. Gen-next is aware, proactive, and passionate about environmental causes. They can convert this passion into a career by pursuing studies relating to environmental causes and help by providing rational well-researched solutions to the climatic issues that we are facing now. They can channel their energy and convert it into fuel for the journey ahead.
Even though eco-anxiety may sound limiting, it is a normal reaction to what is happening around us. If we can convert the worry and guilt into proactive actions, it will be the best remedy for our anxious souls and can spur us into action that will help improve the world around us. It is important to understand that, just as a tree begins its journey as a small seed and grows one branch at a time taking years to grow a shady canopy and bear fruits, the journey of environmental improvement also begins with small steps and will be a long and slow one, but its benefits will be far and wide to be reaped by generations to come.
We would like to thank our two experts for sharing their time, insight and contribution to this article.
We recognize that for any positive impact to be sustainable, it has to be long-term and inter-generational. Organo Et School strives to create an apt learning environment that will support and empower families as well as individuals to embrace sustainable living mindsets and habits.
Organo Et School is a learning initiative set up by Organo in 2017 and has been facilitating fields visits and workshops for Schools and Interest Groups. Organo Et School has had over 25+ schools, 6000+ students and 2500+ adults participate over the last 4 years.
If you are interested to know more about our experiential learning programs on Sustainability, please connect to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and by WhatsApp at 9154100775!