The Rise of Eco-Anxiety

by Adam Campbell

Towns and villages along the River Forth are susceptible to flooding.

By Adam Campbell

Evidence suggests young people are becoming more anxious about climate change and the ecological crisis.

The scale and intensity of climate change – and the cacophony of noise surrounding this subject – has led to the emergence of so-called “eco-anxiety,” a sense of fear and grief about the ecological crisis and about the future state of the planet. Last year, a survey published by the Royal College of Psychiatry (RCP) found that 57% of psychiatrists had treated young people for anxieties related to the environmental crisis. Similarly, a recent worldwide study, published in Lancet Planetary Health, found that 75% of young people “think the future is frightening,” while 45% “say that climate concern negatively impacts their day.”

Graham Cameron, 26, a recent graduate of Stirling University, has seen first-hand the devastating impact of climate change. He admits to some anxiety about the future and about the specific threat to his local community.

“I live in very close proximity to the River Forth. Thankfully, my house has never been affected, but other homes in the surrounding area have and have been completely devastated. It can wreak so much havoc to a person’s home, their livelihood, their possessions. Homes pretty much destroyed over one night of rainfall.

I do wonder what it would be like if this were a regular occurrence. Will it get to the point where I’m filling up sand bags last thing at night and putting them at the front door?”

Graham also explained how the climate crisis has influenced some of his personal decisions about the immediate future. He revealed his fears for future generations who may have to contend with more extreme conditions.

“It (climate change) is one of the reasons why I’m not in any hurry to start a family. I mean, towards the end of my life I think I’ll be living through whatever is going to happen, but I’d feel extremely fearful for a young child or a young adolescent growing up in a world that is seemingly falling apart.”

Eco-anxiety may become more prevalent as as we approach the vital twelve-year mark set by the United Nations in 2018. However, Mala Rao and Richard Powell, of Imperial College London, have suggested some ways to help combat anxiety associated with climate change. In an article penned for the British Medical Journal, they write that learning to connect with nature, learning to “contribute to greener choices at an individual level,” and taking part in climate activism can help to engender a more positive outlook.

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