What to do about climate anxiety

by Hallie Shoffner ([email protected]) 668 views 

From historic droughts to tornadoes and flash floods, some days watching the weather can feel like a real-life horror film.

The rise in climate change-driven natural disasters is taking a toll on our nation’s economy, our infrastructure and our way of life. But it’s also hurting our mental health. The American Psychological Association says that more than two-thirds of us now experience some climate anxiety. The Lancet Countdown reports nearly 60% of young adults ages 16-25 are extremely or very worried about our planet’s future.

Medical experts are clear — eco-anxiety exists. As Harvard Medical School confirmed, “Climate change is a real threat, and therefore it’s normal to experience worry and fear about the consequences.” But we can’t let it rule our lives. A good place to start — turning our stress into action.

Talk about it: Instead of joining the chorus of the “world is falling apart,” we should aim for productive conversations about climate change with our family, friends, neighbors and elected officials. These discussions are especially important to have with children and youth who disproportionally feel the impact of climate anxiety and need reassurance about how small acts, such as composting or contacting their federal representatives, can make a sizable impact.

Reduce food waste: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food loss and waste produce the equivalent of the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 42 coal-fired plants. This figure doesn’t include the impact of food once it’s in landfills producing methane. We can decrease our waste by doing regular kitchen evaluations of what we’re eating, being more resourceful with our supplies and picking reusable items, such as stainless-steel water bottles, instead of plastic.

Consider eating less meat: For many of us, giving up our favorite hamburger or steak dinner is a non-starter. Fortunately, we don’t have to cut these items completely from our diets to make a difference. Data shows that reducing our meat consumption by a small amount—even down to once or twice a week—can significantly help reduce methane emissions.

Make property improvements: The International Energy Agency found that nearly half of the energy demands in buildings stem from space and water heating. By investing in cost-effective weather-stripping or opting for solar panels or energy-efficient appliances, which can often be offset by federal tax credits, we can reduce our energy usage and save money, too.

When turning on the TV or scrolling our newsfeeds, it’s important to remember that the current climate crisis isn’t the end of the world. Whether we pursue one of the tips above or the plethora of others available, we can take action to protect our planet—and our peace of mind.

Editor’s note: Hallie Shoffner is a sixth-generation row crop farmer, the CEO of SFR Seed, a soybean and rice seed production farm in Newport, and runs the blog, FarmerHallie.com. The opinions expressed are those of author.