Do you ever feel climate anxiety? As an Alberta millennial, I know I do, at least sometimes. But I also know there’s a cure, because I’ve found it — climate activism.
As a millennial who is passionate about fighting climate change, I’ve noticed many of my peers are complacent about the issue. They believe in man-made climate change but avoid thinking about it.
This attitude is weird, considering the stats. Last year the Lancet interviewed 10,000 people between the ages of 16-25 about climate change. Nearly 60 per cent reported being either extremely worried or very worried. My peers are well-educated and left-leaning, so I’m sure they’re also concerned.
They probably avoid discussing climate change because they care too much. Lakehead University asked 1,000 young Canadians how climate change impacts their mental health. Nearly 80 per cent of participants said climate change affects their mental health. A full 37 per cent claimed it affects their daily functioning, and 56 per cent said it makes them feel anxious, powerless and sad.
I get it. Climate change is terrifying when you take it seriously. After reading these stats, I realize my friends likely avoid climate activism because it’s frightening. It’s hard to function in a constant state of fear. So I’m dedicating this post to the young Albertans who are feeling the mental impacts of climate change. I want to let you know I’ve found a cure — climate activism.
CLIMATE, ENERGY AND ALBERTA’S FUTURE
Fossil fuels are damaging our home, our country and the entire world.
It’s time to talk about phase-out. It’s time to build a new province — an Alberta beyond fossil fuels.
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When It Feels Hopeless
Scientists say we’re on track for 1.5 to 2 degrees of warming by 2050, which will cause rising seas, refugee flows, food shortages, etc. I would add a joke here to avoid fear-mongering, but I’m incapable of writing one that isn’t cringe, so I got ChatGPT to do it:
“Why did the glacier break up with the iceberg? Because it was tired of their cold relationship and wanted to melt away from it all! #ClimateChangeHumor #GenZLaughs”
Well, that’s still cringe, but at least I didn’t write it.
No, but seriously, a press release from the Vulnerable Group of 20 found that according to data presented at COP27, “Unabated climate change will cause 3.4 million deaths per year by the end of the Century.”
To make things worse, the government isn’t taking it seriously. The only logical response to these stats is to make climate the number one priority. Instead, the Canadian Government’s current climate plan is severely lacking. In an interview with CTV News, climate scientist Simon Donner claimed that “The irony is, under the current government, we have the most comprehensive and aggressive climate policies that Canada has ever had. The problem is, even what we’ve initiated at the federal level is still not nearly enough.”
As a young climate activist living in Alberta, sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind. I have plenty of relatives who don’t believe in man-made climate change. They say things like, “The scientists can’t come to a consensus, David Suzuki has flown in an airplane, the climate is always changing, this is just another doomsday trend…” etc. I can’t be the only young Albertan who has had these conversations and thought to myself, “Am I the crazy one?”
Caring about the climate can feel hopeless and isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember that study from Lakehead University? I used to be one of the 37 per cent who had severe climate anxiety that impacted my daily functioning. Since I got involved in climate activism, that isolating, hopeless feeling is gone.
The Cure for Climate Anxiety
It turns out volunteering is good for you. Using data from a large, long-term study called Americans’ Changing Lives, Peggy Thoits of Vanderbilt University found that “People of all ages who volunteered were happier and experienced better physical health and less depression.” Another study out of the University of Texas built on this data and found that volunteering lowered depression, largely because of the social connection it provides.
I can personally vouch for this research. Volunteering with various environmental organizations stopped my climate anxiety, primarily because it makes me feel less isolated. I no longer wonder if I’m losing my mind because I’m surrounded by people who take climate change seriously. When you’re with a group of people who fight to protect the planet and humanity’s place on it, suddenly there’s hope.
This is ironic because hopelessness is why many of my peers don’t get involved with climate activism, even though hopelessness is the reason to get involved! And I don’t want to hear any of this “one person can’t make a difference” nonsense! Get involved for the same reason you vote. It may seem like one vote won’t make a difference, and maybe it won’t, but if no one voted, we wouldn’t have a functioning democracy.
If I’ve convinced you to volunteer to cure your climate anxiety, check out GoodWork’s list of Canadian environmental volunteer opportunities! And if you still need a push, this is what I selfishly tell myself to keep me going as an activist:
“Even if it’s hopeless, fuck it. At least I get to be on the right side of history.”
And if you want to volunteer but don’t know where to start, consider joining us at Alberta Beyond Fossil Fuels! The fact is, Alberta is a huge source of emissions on a global scale. And as residents of this province, we have a say about that. So if you’re down with oil and gas phase-out, we want to talk to you.
We’re looking for writers, social media managers, and video makers to join our team! Interested? Hit us up on our volunteer page.