As I begin to write this, I’m anxious enough I could have a panic attack. But I’m on a half-hearted journey of dealing with my anxiety, so in doing this, I’m using it to best express my recent thoughts about the future. Which is, when you boil it down, all anxiety is.
I have been concerned about the state of the Earth since I was about 5 years old. My primary school had taken us to the Eden Project: an educational centre and tourist attraction that holds two major greenhouses in an old clay pit. I was so lucky that this happened to me. It is a childhood memory that invokes so much fascination and joy with learning about things; being immersive in a practical space and being around an abundance and diversity of plant life.
At the age of 5 or 6, I had a dream. Dream, rather than nightmare, because it was so dream-like for its majority. My father and I on our local beach - armed with satellites and some other computers, he was observing the sky. My father is not a meteorologist, but he had adapted to be. I notice the entire sky is empty of clouds, quite a dark blue comparatively, and the sands empty of people. Not a seagull. I walk up to the sea. The sun comes closer and closer to us. And at the last moment before incineration and absorption, I find my mother’s hand. When I wake up, I become obsessed with how long it will take for the sun to engulf us all - distrusting what my family’s immediate guesses are; I think finding answers in my children’s encyclopaedia.
As I type up these two experiences, I have inadvertently realised that these are two halves of my emotional state. Fascination and joy, focus and fear. They have both instigated how environmental issues and climate change have become integral to my identity over the past 15 years. I also have had anxiety for as long as I can remember. This has also become integral to my identity: though I never chose it.
Those who have begun experiencing climate anxiety recently might be wondering: how do you feel? How do you cope with it?
And to be honest, my anxiety is often very separate from my concern about the environment. I get anxious about almost everything else. When I think about the impending doom of climate change, my mind shifts to a totally focused, passionate and driven state. It’s like nothing within me could prevent me from acting - (this is obviously not true, but it feels that way). When anxiety leads to inaction, these feelings can only lead to action. I live dual lives and I’m addicted to it.
Over time, I realised that school and socialisation would be essential to my ability to tackle climate change, on any level. My anxiety intertwined with my ability to perform so that I could act. Still, of course, this was not fear about climate change itself.
Over the past year, climate change has absolutely soared in levels of public awareness. With it, I have welcomed and been overwhelmed by the quantity of information, articles, and emotional responses to our dire situation.
What I have not welcomed is a new sense of the need to survive. As well as asking myself how we can prepare for our future, and how I can help humanity deliver an non-ecofascist and community-based future, I have been asking myself: how can I prepare for my future? And I have not always been asking myself this question in the most hopeful (or positive or conducive to good) manner.
While I have brainstormed on how to make myself more empathic, better at decision making and control my anxiety, I have also thought a lot about how I will take care of my nephew and niece when I am the oldest member of my family. I have thought about how to make myself and my family members so valuable in skillset that we are indispensable to a community - so that we aren’t abandoned by the community. Worst of all, I have concocted such dark and horrific scenarios that they would be worthy of a sequel to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
These are all deeply painful things to be considering, and they have been onset by the last year, but perhaps also by my recently deteriorating mental illness and loss of place in the world. Perhaps I am finally experiencing the climate anxiety that so many are. Perhaps I cannot disconnect the two any longer.
Where do I go from here?, I asked myself - and I came up with a few ideas. They all came down to building strong and hopeful communities. It’s like I forgot Earthrise Journal existed. Amongst all of the things I’ve been putting off due to my mental health, I’m working on constructing more workshops, fundraisers (to enable this website to continue running) and socials in the London area this autumn and winter. I can’t wait for more non-environmentalists to join this community. This can only get better and better - but only if I get better and better (and delegate!).
If you’re reading this, and especially if you have contributed to Earthrise at all, thank you so much. We may be small, but we can be mighty if we spread the message of this diverse, pervasive and fundamental issue.