Turning climate anxiety into action the focus of upcoming Laudato Si’ Dialogue

by | Nov 25, 2021 | Blog, News and Updates | 0 comments

On 30 November, mental health and climate crisis experts from around the world will come together to help this movement better cope with the ongoing climate crisis. The experts will share how all of us can turn our climate angst and worries into climate action.

Join the Laudato Si’ Dialogue: Turn climate angst into climate action

30 November
10:00 New York / 16:00 Rome

Featuring

  • Judith Anderson, Climate Psychology Alliance
  • Jennifer R. Marlon, Yale Climate Change Communication Program
  • Erin Lothes, Laudato Si’ Movement
  • Holly-Anna Petersen, mental health therapist, Christian Climate Action
  • Benson Makusha, International Young Catholic Students

Jennifer R. Marlon, Ph.D., Research Scientist and Lecturer at the Yale School of the Environment and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, is one of the leading experts who will be taking part in the dialogue.

Ahead of the conversation, she took time to talk about the importance of addressing climate anxiety and how “all of us have access to many powerful tools.”

Join the Laudato Si’ Dialogue: Turn climate angst into climate action

LSM: For those unfamiliar, how would you define climate anxiety?

Marlon: Climate anxiety is a great fear of impending doom – it’s a feeling that things are very bad and are getting worse. If left unchecked, climate anxiety can lead to hopelessness and a sense that nothing can be done to improve things. It’s a very difficult and challenging state of mind.

In the face of such a big problem like the climate crisis, what’s the most important thing individuals keep in mind so we don’t let the anxiety and worry of it all overwhelm us?

I think most of us feel anxiety sometimes. This is normal. How well we cope with it is the most important thing to remember. If we try to bury or avoid the feeling with quick fixes like distracting ourselves with excessive food, drugs and alcohol, or work, we are perpetuating the problem and only making things worse.

I find that a better option is to slow down and try to accept and understand the feelings and changes that I am experiencing. That can mean simply sitting in silence. Acknowledging that I may need to make some more space to slow down and breathe, to pray, or meditate, before I can understand why I’m feeling the way I am, and what can be done.

All of us have access to many powerful tools, in fact, for coping with anxiety. I think of praying as speaking, and meditation as listening, and both of these actions can help me navigate difficult emotions in a healthy way, when I remember to use them!

They slow me down, and can serve to remind me of the power I have to make changes in my life. I can reach out to trusted and supportive family and friends, or spiritual advisors, or a professional, if needed.

Leaders in the climate movement say that talking about the issue is the most important thing we can do to fight climate change. We talk about what we care about, and small conversations can sometimes lead to big actions when they happen at the right time.

So the most important thing to remember when anxiety hits is that it may be a signal to slow down and listen, and think of the tools you have that would allow you to respond in a healthy way to the signals, and to open your mind to a new perspective.

It can be tempting to want to throw up our hands and not act. But why is it important for all of us to turn that anxiety into action?

When we don’t cope well with anxiety, we stay trapped in patterns of thinking that lead to more frustration and sadness, and even to despair. We know that thought leads to action, so when we’re anxious we can waste our time spinning stories of doom and hopelessness. Wondering what dangers lurk around the corner.

But we can reverse that process when we remember that action also creates thoughts. Three deep breaths, a walk outside, a call to a friend, can lead us down a new path. You may have heard the phrase “move a muscle, change a thought.” It’s true.

Small actions can seem like a waste of time because they don’t match the scale of the problem, but this misses the mark. Small actions can change us, they can lead to cascading effects, and they can influence others around us. 

Recently a friend said she heard me talking about climate change. I shared a bit of hope about climate change that I had just learned – that a key solution was to reduce carbon pollution by “electrifying everything” – the idea that appliances and vehicles that run on fossil fuels ought to be replaced with their electric-powered counterparts, which have the capacity to run on clean energy like solar and wind.

Soon after, a natural-gas-fueled HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) unit died at my friend’s house. She decided to replace it with an all-electric heat pump, even though salesmen from two different HVAC companies tried to talk her out of it.

She wasn’t an HVAC expert, so she said it was unnerving to listen to sales reps steer her away from making the climate-friendly choice. But she also trusted me and knew I wouldn’t think getting a heat pump was weird. That helped her to muster her courage, respectfully disagree with the salesmen, and insist on the heat pump.

That little casual conversation helped my friend make a decision that will prevent the release of tens of thousands of pounds of carbon pollution during the next decade. 

Good ideas are contagious. When we channel our anxieties into conversations, we transform them into small actions, and some of those small actions will affect others, who will also share them. That’s how small actions turn into big solutions.

Join the Laudato Si’ Dialogue: Turn climate angst into climate action
Jonathon Braden
Jonathon Braden

Writer
Nebraska, USA
Jonathon Braden has more than 10 years of writing and communications experience. He seeks to tell LSM’s story.

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