I recently read The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells and friends, after reading it I understand those videos of climate scientists breaking down in public. If you’re not already dealing with climate anxiety, here are just a few things we can expect in the next few years courtesy of climate change to get you there.
Reasons to panic
Heat death: it’s getting so hot, there are places where stepping outside your house will be an automatic death sentence in a few years. Heat death is said to be one of the cruellest deaths. First comes heat exhaustion, profuse sweating, nausea, and headache. After a certain temperature water won’t be able to cool your body. Your body will send blood closer to your skin, trying to cool it. The skin reddens, internal organs begin to fail, and the brain stops working sometimes after a period of agitation and combativeness. The episode is punctuated by a lethal heart attack. It’s been said, “When it comes to extreme heat, you can no more escape the conditions than you can shed your skin.”
Hunger: if emissions continue rising as they are, we’re going to experience not just extreme drought but permanent drought where those areas will be unable to produce food completely. Even worse, this is happening in areas that are the breadbasket. It’s worth pointing out that conflicts from Boko Haram to ISIS have been linked to crop failure.
Drowning: floods are going to become even more catastrophic, and they’ll be so frequent there will be no meaningful time to rebuild before the next one. This flooding will be everywhere from previous desert-like areas to places that are presently flood-prone.
Wildfire: places prone to wildfires are experiencing more frequent, more out-of-control fires, more frequently than ever before.
Freshwater drain: freshwater lakes and rivers everywhere have dried out and aquifers are becoming depleted. Many people already dealing with water shortages. Present-day water shortages are about to be the good old days of plenty. Given that no one can live without water, water is set to be an area of great contestation.
Dying oceans: the ocean and the animals that call it home are suffocating. For people whose primary source of food is marine, that means hunger. Climate-wise, the ocean plays a huge role in cooling the earth and all our carbon has messed with the ocean conveyor belt, so we’re doubly screwed.
Unbreathable air: there’s more carbon in the air than ever before. Higher carbon levels lead to cognitive decline which is unfortunate because now more than ever we need to figure out solutions. As emotions continue to rise, the air will be dirtier, more oppressive, and more sickening. Globally, one out of six deaths is linked to pollution. Animals are also dying from breathing in this polluted air.
Plagues of warming: diseases will spread faster than ever and the ones that have been extinct will make a comeback as arctic ice melts releasing these trapped organisms. Animals like the saiga in central Asia are already dying in mass epidemics linked to rising temperatures. The COVID-19 pandemic is but a foretaste of what’s to come.
Economic collapse: current estimates are that climate change will drag one hundred million people into extreme poverty over the next decade. Not 2050, but within the next 10 years. Rising heat will destroy infrastructure from buildings to roads and trains all while decreasing productivity and the ability of nations to rebuild.
Extreme weather events from tornados and cyclones to hurricanes and earthquakes.
Wars and climate conflict: As everything goes to hell around us, we will start fighting. No food, no water, extreme weather, polluted air, epidemics, destroyed homes, and infrastructure including things like electricity will have us in the fight of our lives for the limited resources. I don’t about you, but I can’t fight to save my life. Also, this is where we start talking about refugees. According to the UN projections based on current figures, there will be 200 million climate refugees by 2050.
Everything, everywhere all at once. All of this is about to become the new normal everywhere in the world, just worse in some places than others but no one will be saved from it. Hunger, thirst, war, unbreathable air, extreme weather, economic collapse, and armed conflict are about to become our new normal. And this is not in the far future, it’s already normal in certain places. If nothing changes, you just wait your turn and best believe, it will come soon enough. Are you scared yet? I am.
How to manage climate anxiety
Climate anxiety is a chronic fear of environmental doom. It is the generalized sense that the ecological foundations of existence are in the process of collapse and the accompanying worry. The anxiety can manifest in fear, helplessness, guilt, anger, and other emotions. It is overwhelming and terrifying and sometimes all-encompassing. Here are some ways to help manage it.
Acknowledge and talk about it
Allowing yourself to see what really is without flinching away and deceiving yourself is difficult. Acknowledging that your home and your community are at risk is just as difficult and just as necessary. Face it and allow yourself to grieve. Find like-minded people online and away from the keyboard/in real life to talk about it with. It’s too overwhelming to bear alone and you’re not alone.
One way to fight apathy, helplessness, and depression is by taking action. The first step is to explore what actions are being taken around you and which ones are right for you. Find out what groups around you are organized and doing something. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to climate activism. Climate change action fits more under a letting many flowers bloom framework. What matters is that you take meaningful action geared at producing positive change.
As you take action, it’s important to remember to reject solutions and approaches that focus on individual actions and things like individual carbon footprint. This is inefficient to mention a product of big oil’s propaganda so that the focus is shifted from the real perpetrators to individuals who are barely responsible. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global warming. Governments and people in power know what must change but because they benefit from the current system, they refuse to act. The changes required are too widespread to be implemented at an individual level with things like recycling. Keep your focus and your eyes in the right place.
Educate yourself and others
Part of taking action is educating yourself and others. Read, research, and discuss with others. Keep up with what other activists globally are doing. Learn strategy from them. Gain courage from seeing other people courageously act. The more worried people taking action we have, the better the odds of survival. There is yet hope, but only if we act.
Remember to take care of yourself. Activism is a long-distance race, not a sprint. You need to take care of yourself so that you don’t burn out. Do whatever centres you: exercise, meditate, eat right, and spend time with friends and family. Live. When despair creeps up and it will take comfort in the fact that you tried, that you’re trying. Seek support from your activist community. Grieve and try again.
Over two-thirds of young people between the ages 18 and 24 experience climate anxiety. Here are some things to keep in mind as a parent.
- Remember that you don’t need to be a climate expert. Learn and explore together if your child asks a question you don’t know the answer to.
- Try to validate rather than minimize the child’s emotions.
- Negative information hits harder. Bad news sticks and resonates more strongly, so you can go out of your way to find good climate-related news like global protests.
- Set practical goals as a family and follow through such as being part of tree planting exercises.
- Help your children find joy in the midst of the chaos and worry and overwhelming fear.
For all of us, it helps to keep in mind that it’s not a done deal. This is not the time to embrace nihilism and despair. Look around you, find people who are doing things, people who are pushing back, and join them. There’s yet change that can be done but it can only be done when we come together to fight back.
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Environmental Issues: How Climate Change Will Affect The Future Of Africa
Climate Change And The Environment: How Can You Eliminate Greenhouses Gases In Your Household?
The effects of climate change in Kenya
Parenting: Anxiety In Children – Symptoms And Strategies To Help