Siân Moxon, senior lecturer, sustainability coordinator, and environment lead for London Met Lab, offers her advice on feeling positive about the future of the planet.
Date: 16 November 2021
It is unsurprising that young people are experiencing ‘eco-anxiety’: a recent survey by Bath University found 75% of UK 16-25-year-olds think ‘the future is frightening’. Who can blame them when we are on course for global temperature rises that would result in widespread flooding, drought, crop failure, migration and conflict for humans, alongside extinctions of other species?
Amid such bleak predictions, some level of worry about the environment is healthy - and useful, if it spurs people into action. But when that concern spirals into panic, despair and hopelessness, with more than half of the 10,000 respondents believing ‘humanity is doomed’, it becomes unhelpful and threatens young people’s mental health.
While the youth justifiably feel let down by governments and older generations, we all have the power to contribute to environmental change, which must come from individuals, communities and governments acting in unison. Here are five ways young people can relieve their eco-anxiety by channelling this negative energy into positive action:
- Start with yourself. Check your personal carbon footprint and how you can cut it using WWF’s online calculator.
- Surf the web. Swap your search engine to Ecosia, who plant trees with the profits.
- Use your consumer power. Switch to an ethical bank or green energy provider. Shop via Easyfundraising to get a free donation to an environmental charity. Save money by buying reusable items, refurbished tech from Backmarket or mending things with parts from Espares.
- Reconnect with nature. Spending time in green spaces improves our mental health and wellbeing, and restoring nature is pivotal to addressing climate change. Join a ‘green gym’ to get fit while maintaining local green spaces or use Rewild My Street’s toolkit to encourage more wildlife to visit your home or campus.
- Be an activist. Read Greta Thunberg’s book ‘No One is too Small to Make a Difference’, sign up to Students Organising for Sustainability or join your Student Union’s green committee.
There is still hope and we are at too critical a junction in human history to let anxiety overwhelm us. Sir David Attenborough says we still have time if we “act now” and, at the COP26 climate-change summit in Glasgow, world governments made important progress on agreeing a way forward. It is vital that we now all do our bit to keep the environmental emergency in the spotlight and be part of the transition to a greener future. That way, future generations won’t need to worry quite so much.