In recent years, a new term has evolved amongst social scientists and found its way into mainstream news. The term is ‘eco-anxiety’, and it seems to have first appeared in 2017 within the publication Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance (Clayton et al, 2017).
Here, the simple definition is given – “A chronic fear of environmental doom”, that is, the fear of a bleak environmental future. ‘Sostalgia’ is a similar term, coined by Glenn Albrecht in his 2003 book Sostalgia: a new concept in human health and identity, but is distinct in its meaning of emotional distress caused by environmental change that has been experienced firsthand by the sufferer. Many articles have now been written to unpack and provide practical advice on treating these emotional conditions (including: https://thecarbonalmanac.org/252/).
Unfortunately, the cohort most vulnerable to ‘eco-anxiety’ is our school children. Innocent and impressionable, we need no imagination to understand why they may experience anxiety at any level – they turn on the TV to watch world leaders blaming one another for inaction; they witness the greed of mega-corporations with zero environmental credentials; they watch the pollution in our air, land, and oceans continue to rise; they hear that they will be the generation to solve the world’s problems. From bewilderment to frustration to hopelessness to anxiety – eco-anxiety.
Of course, anyone of any age may experience a degree of hopelessness when it comes to forecasting the survival of our most threatened creatures on this planet. What can we do to cope with these feelings?
Even if all the world governments and its citizens were to unanimously agree that no further loss of the earth’s biodiversity is acceptable and developed a collective plan to reverse the environmental errors of the past, we would, unfortunately, continue to see great losses in our lifetime. However, we would also see great increases in optimism towards the plight of the natural world. After all, we can acknowledge, and even complain about, the mistakes made by our ancestors (or indeed ourselves), but at the same time be renewed with a new energy of enthusiasm to be part of a collective movement of positive change.
I may have just described a fanciful dreamland scenario, but the important message here is that where small or localized elements of this scenario can be found, such as within a new government policy on the environment, the significant achievements of a private conservation organization, or even an active local environment group, there is to be found hope and optimism.
When writing about eco-anxiety, social scientists all agree on a number of key approaches to its management, which include:
- Aligning oneself to likeminded people and organisations;
- Adopting small changes to one’s lifestyle in line with their environmental values;
- Undertaking local environmental activities, i.e. protecting green spaces, joining a local conservation group;
- Getting more sleep and more exercise!
Wilderlands presents a unique offering to supporters of biodiversity, especially anyone who is seeking a positive environmental change for our fragile planet. In combatting biodiversity loss, we must seek pragmatic solutions. We firmly believe Wilderlands is one such solution and hold great optimism for a future environment that sees our most vulnerable creatures better protected and the lightening of ‘eco-anxiety’ upon our younger generation.
Chris Lindorff, Wilderlands Chief Ecologist, is an experienced ecologist and land manager with a degree in Science, and Forest Science, from University of Melbourne.