Over the years it has become common knowledge that green areas improve the quality of life. As the POSTnote Green Space and Health from Houses of Parliament states, “Areas with more accessible green space are associated with better mental and physical health.”
At Surefoot, we support communities and individuals to let their connection with the rest of nature take root and strengthen via creative approaches. The physical natural spaces can have many shapes and features, there’s no right and wrong whether you connect to the wilderness or a potted plant in a windowsill. Wherever you are, we hope you find comfort in our supportive materials to open up your personal ways of connecting with nature, others and yourself.
Texts, photos and paintings focusing on appreciating local nature are on display in the outdoors at Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve until the end of September 2023.
Finding your words – to support yourself, others and the Earth
During the summer we ran a couple of online writing workshops ‘Writing for EARth.’ The workshops were supporting elements of Surefoot’s Eco Anxious Resilient (EAR) Peer Support project, to encourage people to write a text for the series A Daily Reading for Earth. We hope you’ll enjoy the series of short texts to inspire and help you take one day at a time in the climate and natural crises.
The workshops illustrated the wonder and strength that arises when people come together to explore free range emotions, create meaning on paper and share fragments of their inner world when caring for the outer world. Comments from a couple of the participants:
“I'm taking with me the strength and beauty of what others have shared with me to make me braver and feel less alone when I do.”
“I appreciated the sense of connection and sharing, which was uplifting and inspiring.”
Your stories about caring for Planet Earth could also help tackle the nature and climate emergencies. Authentic communication and creativity are among the most important tools we all have.
“We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” – Jimmy Neil Smith.
If you would like to write a text (max. 380 words) for our collection Daily Reading for Earth on how to keep well in an age of climate and nature emergencies, please contact email@example.com.
We plan to run more Writing for EARth workshops, so please keep an eye on our social media or let us know if you might be interested in attending: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharing is caring
Inspired by feedback on our creative activities and on initiatives in our surroundings, we encourage you to take part in creative actions centred around nature. One way of capturing moments, thoughts and feelings in nature is via photos, and at Surefoot we’ll be happy to receive your photo(s) with a few lines about what each snapshot of places mean to you – how these nature elements affect you. We are convinced that such experiences can support others and give them a chance to feel connected whether it is to other people, places or resonate with oneself.
Please send them to email@example.com and we will share them on our social media platforms, credited to you, or anonymously if you prefer.
You might find other communities around you where you can benefit from art work about nature, and/or where you can contribute yourself. Gazelle, associate at Surefoot, created a piece ‘Sand dune walk’ to the Morton Lochs outdoor art exhibition at Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve, organised by NatureScot. Where do you find places to let your creativity unfold and share this with others?
The contribution to the exhibition by Gazelle Buchholtz. Photo: Chris Steedman.
Most people have noticed some changes in the weather over the past decade; that’s because the world is getting hotter, and weather patterns are changing. These effects and others will only worsen as we move past the planetary boundaries and tipping points of a healthy planet.
Climate Change: More Than the Weather
In short, climate change refers to the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases, including methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and nitrogen, prevent heat from being released into space, increasing the temperature of the earth’s systems.
Of course, climate change affects the weather. Changes in air temperature influences wind patterns and rainfall; ocean currents are also changing and make some places warmer or cooler. But climate change also affects habitats, settlements, and other planetary boundaries.
Climate Change: A Planetary Boundary
The nine planetary boundaries were devised by Johan Rockstrom at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. With other scientists, quantitative boundaries were established to determine the thresholds within which humans can live and thrive in harmony with the planet for generations.
Climate change is one of the primary thresholds in the model. At present, the climate change boundary is breached, but not to the same extent as biogeochemical flows or biosphere integrity. However, climate change affects and influences most other thresholds in the model.
Physical Feedback Mechanisms
One devastating effect of global warming is the loss of polar sea ice, which has been disappearing for decades. Contrary to popular belief, melting polar sea ice does not raise sea levels - it’s land ice that does that - but melting sea ice speeds up climate change processes.
This is an example of a physical feedback mechanism. A physical feedback mechanism is a tipping point that changes the natural dynamics of earth systems. Melting sea ice reduces reflection of sunlight and absorbs it instead, accelerating the disintegration of sea ice overall.
There are many other examples of physical feedback mechanisms in the processes of climate change. Scientists have identified 16 tipping points that are likely to be crossed as global warming moves from 1.1 - 3.0, including the loss of the Amazon rainforest and permafrost.
The Impact of Climate Change
Climate change is set to have a devastating impact on the planet. Rising sea levels will displace coastal populations; the rainforests will diminish and become deserts, further increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and changes to permafrost and rain patterns will affect food supplies.
While there is a risk of runaway climate change - an ultimate tipping point from which the planet cannot recover - it is unlikely, according to scientists. The world is on course for a 2-3C rise, but reducing human-caused CO2 emissions in the atmosphere can rebalance natural systems.
Meeting Challenges With Climate Action
The climate of the planet is changing more rapidly than ever before, and the catalyst is human activity, but global carbon emissions continue to rise. The UN climate change conference is an excellent example of international cooperation; now, strict policies are needed for climate action.
This was a difficult read. If you found it particularly hard, please see our eco-anxiety resources.
What is nature to you? Not only impassable wilderness, dense forests, untouched bays, bottomless lakes and snow-covered mountain peaks are nature.
Forests, gardens, parks, balconies, potted plants in the window sill, a flower bursting through the asphalt on the pavement and the wind touching your face are also parts of nature.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question about what nature is to you. The relevant matter is finding the kind of nature where you feel recharged, nourished and comforted - a place to be energised and to connect with the inner and outer world.
Finding your nature path
If you are not sure what kind of nature works for you, try different approaches. A stroll in the park, a restful moment by a pond or walking through fallen, dry leaves. Where do you feel your breathing calm down and slow down stressful or spinning thoughts?
Mental Health Foundation states that ‘For many of us though, 'being in nature’ may not be as easy as it sounds.’ In the article Our top tips on connecting with nature to improve your mental health the organisation shares ideas on how to connect to nature.
TRVST shares 19 Ways to Connect with Nature. The tips invite us to use our senses together with the opportunity to bring creativity, relaxation, reading, writing and presence in the present to support a bond with nature.
I was 43 years old when I realised that living near mountains, rivers and wilderness is essential - to me. On returning to Denmark after a year in New Zealand, I had a sense of grief at not living in these landscapes anymore, and in retrospect I began to understand why I had felt out of place in my home country. This initiated my move to Scotland where I’m fortunate to have found work, friends and my partner.
In a chaotic and violent world where countless people and nations face the horrors of war, famine and persecution, I’m humbled by my privileged position to be able to move to a country because its nature resonates with me.
Diving into techniques
Your relationship with nature is shaped by you. Finding a stream to put my feet in is one of my personal favourites. This often involves a walk through areas with a mixture of different tree species, another of my favourites. Walking outside your front door, closing your eyes and listening to birds in the neighbourhood for 10 min. could be your technique to recharge for the next Zoom meeting.
If you want to explore and develop nature connections further, there are various methods to follow. One is the Japanese concept of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku). The introduction from Forestry England explains the core of the practice, ‘The simple method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, observing nature around you whilst breathing deeply.’
Research, published at the Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine journal in 2010, indicates the health benefits,
‘The results show that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.’
(‘The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan’). In other words, forest bathing helps your body to relax and calm signs of stress.
There are several reasons why spending time in nature is beneficial for both physical and mental health. The Surefoot article Eco-distress - how to respond states, ‘One of the reasons we experience eco-distress is that we feel disconnected from the natural world and our ability to influence or manage the situation.’
By connecting to nature, eco-distress can be eased. Connecting to nature with writing and reading can strengthen the senses toward nature. Via the British Association for Holistic Medicine & Health Care (BHMA) you can free of charge download their magazine issue Nature Connections, which includes the article Your world in words: connecting to oneself and nature.
Together with social work lecturer Ann Hodson, I wrote the article about how my workshop, using creative writing and shared reading which has nature and the natural world at its core, can support vulnerable groups. We concluded that it can benefit individuals, helping them to engage in reflection and enjoy connecting with nature.
Since the way we talk about nature reflects our connection with nature, it is also worth mentioning the discipline of ecolinguistics. It’s defined by The International Ecolinguistics Association as,
‘Ecolinguistics explores the role of language in the life-sustaining interactions of humans, other species and the physical environment. The first aim is to develop linguistic theories which see humans not only as part of society, but also as part of the larger ecosystems that life depends on.’ The free online course The Stories We Live By provides insight into how we connect with nature in everyday life and on a societal level.
Connections. Healthy, happy connections are what we need to thrive as individuals and as part of communities. Matsuo Basho (1644-94) became a renowned haiku master and managed to embrace both the connection to the natural elements as well as the joy of sharing these experiences with others, as in this haiku from the book On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho:
Together let’s eat
ears of wheat,
share a grass pillow.
Nature connection builds resilience
May efforts and joy in creating and developing nature connections inspire others to do the same. Hopefully will these gentle steps contribute to the bigger picture towards a just and resilient world. RSPB’s article Connection to nature not only points to the benefits for individual well-being and health, but also to benefits that go in the other direction; from people to nature,
‘Research shows that people with a greater connection to nature are more likely to behave positively towards the environment, wildlife and habitats.’
The methods to connect to nature are many. Do you have a story about your nature connection you would like to share via Surefoot? Perhaps with ideas on how this contributes to a healthier community? Please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s have a chat.
Text and photo by Gazelle Buchholtz, Surefoot associate
There is a fire in the attic! An electrical panel became overloaded, and no one noticed. Then one day, on their way home, someone did notice something, smoke rising from the roof; they assumed it would go out by itself, and if not, someone else would notice before it was risky.
Since then, the fire has progressed, and the inhabitants of the house have become concerned - they can even smell the smoke and feel the heat. With climate change, we find ourselves in a similar predicament, but we are aware of the fire and our need to act now to begin rebuilding.
Key Takeaways: Climate Change
What is Net Zero and Why Does it Matter?
The future is in our hands! The choices and actions we take in the next two decades could determine the future of the planet, which is in jeopardy - due to accelerated climate change - if we continue with our current trajectories and approaches. But, there is also cause for optimism. The world is waking up, and we are starting to make sustainable changes in the right direction.
Net Zero Definition
Net zero is a global target to completely negate the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by absorbing and reducing carbon emissions. The planet is now 1.1°C hotter than in pre-industrial times - the late 1800s - resulting in melted sea ice, heat waves, and droughts. This is happening at a 1.1°C rise, but we are currently on a trajectory for an over 2°C rise.
Throughout the twentieth century, the warming was gradual, though not invisible, but since 1981, there has been an exponential rise in the planet’s surface temperatures. The year 2022 was the sixth hottest on record, according to NOAA data, and records will continue to break.
Climate Change Consequences
Climate change is caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; these are heat-retaining gases that prevent the incoming sunlight from escaping back into space; they warm the surface of the planet and increase ocean temperatures. The primary greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, and ozone.
Of these greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide accounts for almost 65% of the total; the majority of it is produced by human activity through energy production, agriculture, transport, and industry. The consequences are seen in rising sea levels, habitat losses, heat waves and wildfires. Without moving to Net Zero, these consequences will worsen throughout the 21st Century.
The impact of human-made climate change could be catastrophic for human and animal life. Rising sea levels caused by melting land ice will make some regions uninhabitable, and there will be food and water shortages. Human and animal communities will be displaced by rising temperatures, and conflicts are likely to break out over limited resources. But there is still time.
Net Zero Targets
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the planet is on course to increase temperature on average by 2°C in the next few decades, affecting all regions of the earth. Climate change already has a significant impact, causing wildfires, hurricanes, and habitat losses, but the severity of the damage will depend on human carbon emissions.
To move to Net Zero emissions by 2050, human carbon emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 to stay on course; this is a massive challenge for humankind - perhaps the biggest existential threat we have had to face. One key to cutting emissions quickly is resolving our global energy consumption, which accounts for three-quarters of the planet’s overall emissions.
Net Zero Business Changes
Everyone has a part to play if we want to reduce carbon emissions and reach Net Zero by 2050, but businesses and industries produce the majority of greenhouse gases and must be tackled head-on. It’s crucial for businesses of all sizes to make a Net Zero strategy as soon as possible.
Creating a Net Zero company seems like a daunting task, but The Surefoot Effect can help to optimise your business for Net Zero emissions. Creating an effective Net Zero change plan can be done over 3 to 12 months by your own Net Zero team, working with Surefoot consultants.
Net Zero Strategies
When it comes to creating a Net Zero strategy for your business, there are two steps - quick wins followed by significant changes. Quick wins - also known as low-hanging fruit - are the simple adjustments you can make today to reduce emissions, like switching energy providers.
After the quick wins, it’s time to turn your attention to systemic changes that can make you a carbon-neutral organisation. The Surefoot Effect operates a series of in-house workshops, instilling teams with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to develop a tailored action plan.
What is Eco-Anxiety and Why Does it Matter?
Everyone has some anxiety and stress from time to time; it is usually a pattern in their life, like the fear of getting onto a podium and speaking in front of an audience of peers or completing a sizable chunk of work before the deadline. Eco-anxiety is slightly different; it’s the fear you have on lunch break about what’s happening to the planet, a fear calling everything into question.
Eco-anxiety means a chronic fear of environmental doom according to some definitions; it has also been described as the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm. This existential fear is as real as the climate challenges facing the planet, and it can affect life quality and life choices.
Anxiety is caused by fears about the future; which range from mild to severe; but when faced with climate catastrophe and the idea of an uninhabitable planet, the sense of dread is crippling. People with eco-anxiety might experience some sleep disturbances, nervousness, and stress.
Causes of Eco-Anxiety
Eco-anxiety is caused by observing environmental changes caused by climate change; these include more frequent heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and floods; there are also visible habitat changes for animal and plant life. The changes coincide with increased media and lead to a proliferation of catastrophic images in the collective imagination, causing deep fears.
Eco-anxiety - or solastalgia, is still a fairly recent phenomenon. It does not have a place in medical terminology yet, but psychologists around the world are noticing its effects. When fear and confusion are triggered by news of information about climate change or environmental destruction, you are experiencing eco-anxiety, which requires emotional resilience to manage.
Although solastalgia can be experienced in the short term, it is more likely to be a persistent long-term condition with elements of anxiety and depression - it can also be accompanied by other mental health issues. Solastalgia tends to affect people in different ways. Someone predisposed to the condition will experience more distress when they encounter climate news.
That said, there are some signs and symptoms that everyone with solastalgia will experience. There is likely to be anxiety and depression with accompanying thought patterns; despair, distress, and sleeping issues are also common. People with solastalgia might also experience anger - especially towards governments and industries. Emotional resilience is often needed.
Eco-anxiety doesn’t always require an official diagnosis; someone might be aware of their triggers and choose to practice mindfulness or attend an eco-anxiety workshop, but an official diagnosis can be made. A medical professional will look at the primary cause of the distress - media or climate changes in the local area - along with the medical history and symptoms.
Solastalgia is a form of anxiety and is treated in much the same way. What makes the condition slightly different from conventional anxiety is the lack of agency over the cause - it’s not possible to avoid the effects of climate change. A medical professional can prescribe medications for solastalgia, but it can also be treated with mindfulness, CBT, and online community resilience.
Eco-anxiety, solastalgia, climate anxiety: people of any age can be affected by the stark realities of the global situation. That said, children and young adults are very vulnerable groups when it comes to handling the difficult realities that they will have to confront in their futures.
Emotional resilience is crucial. We must not hide the realities of climate change from people; it is counter-productive. Instead, we need to face the scientific data that shows the planet is in crisis to free up the energy needed to process anxious feelings and create the best possible future.
The Importance of Having Future Conversations
The future starts today because the actions we take on a daily basis determine our future happiness and prosperity. This is true in all walks of life, including creating a sustainable planet for future generations. But if we don’t have the conversations, it will be impossible to adapt.
What are Future Conversations?
Have you ever been on a road trip with family or friends? Unless you have a direction in mind or an idea of where you’re going, you are likely to end up somewhere you didn’t intend; by the time you reach your destination, it might be too late. This analogy is also relevant to climate change.
“Future conversations” is a process of developing and implementing ideas about the future that help individuals and communities to create a roadmap for how they would like to live, relate, and work together in a low or zero-carbon world. The conversations also help bring people together.
Eco-anxiety can be crippling, but it can also be enabling. Future conversations replace future fears with future hopes, building resilience and creating a collective vision that can be pursued proactively. In the end, it is better to have a positive, proactive vision than no road map at all.
Nine Planetary Boundaries
Back in 2007, Johan Rockstrom, a director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, developed the nine planetary boundaries - these are limits that must be met to sustain modern life on the planet. The boundaries include climate change, biosphere integrity, and biochemical flows.
Credit: Azote for Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on analysis in Wang-Erlandsson et al. 2022 More information The “novel entities” planetary boundary encapsulates all toxic and long-lived substances that humans release into the environment — from heavy metals and radioactive waste to industrial chemicals and pesticides, even novel living organisms Biochemical Flows are Phosphorus and Nitrogen - essential for farming Biosphere integrity refers to species loss; e/msy = extinction per mammal species years - technical measurement of extinct rate
In January 2015, Rockstum stated that the planet had moved past four of the nine boundaries needed to maintain stability; as of 2022, it is thought to be six. But Rockstrom’s message is not a doomsday one; the planetary boundary system is an efficient way to gauge how well the world is adapting to a sustainable future. Current performance is poor, but systems exist to improve it.
Resilience and the Future
Bringing the planet back from the brink of disaster and onto a more steady and sustainable footing will require emotional resilience and future conversations. Through decades of inaction and business as usual, the planet has reached a point where the climate is changing very rapidly; species are going extinct, and ecosystems are being lost at increasingly alarming rates.
In order to navigate this perilous course through the 21st Century, governments, businesses, and individuals must recognise the realities of climate change and channel any fearful energy into positive action. Climate action takes place at all levels of society, from governments creating greener infrastructure to businesses using less energy and the everyday changes of individuals.
At one time, people and nature were inseparable, but then agriculture happened for better or for worse, and suddenly, nature was used as a means to an end. Through the centuries, there have been attempts to reconnect with nature - eg, the Romantic movement in the 18th century - but it is needed now more than ever. Connecting with nature and animals again can inspire our future.
When it comes to climate change, our minds ping-pong between positive outcomes and catastrophic consequences. We know that we want a sustainable, thriving planet to live on, but our human habits are not creating this future - it’s the opposite. A dystopian vision can offer a cautionary tale, but a utopian vision is powerful: it is a collective long-term vision for the future.
To continue our analogy, the house fire is upon us. There is black smoke billowing at the top of the staircase, and the walls are becoming hot to the touch, but there is still plenty we can do to save our home. Using the visions, technologies, and creativity of the collective, humans can find a way to collaborate with the planet, reduce consumption, and then build a progressive future.
What are the 5 main effects of climate change?
At present, we can notice at least 5 tangible effects of climate change; these include record temperatures, heatwaves and wildfires, hurricanes and flooding, sea levels and melting ice.
What will happen if climate change keeps going?
If we do nothing to stop climate change, the 5 main effects will worsen and become more extreme. We can also expect there to be food shortages, geopolitical conflict, and displacement.
What does it mean to have a Net Zero planet?
A Net Zero planet is one that is in balance; it means that human-produced carbon emissions are lessened to the point where they can be reabsorbed by the planet through trees, technology, and the ocean. It is not in the atmosphere.
Eco-distress is how people feel when they hear bad news about the planet or environment. Often, there is a sense of disempowerment and vulnerability, so what is the best way to respond? Climate distress is fairly new, and new approaches are needed to resolve issues.
Anxiety happens when there is a perceived threat to a person’s life; this is a primitive response that has evolved to protect us from imminent dangers, such as large-toothed animals. But as large-toothed animals don’t exist in the modern world, anxiety may be an overstated response.
However, when it comes to the climate crises, fear is not overstated; in fact, it is a realistic response to an existential turning point. Instead of minimising the situation to resolve anxious feelings, it is better to accept the realities of crisis along with fear. Although it can be challenging to accept these strong emotions, it can help to make us more resilient climate contributors.
Take Climate Action
One of the reasons we feel fearful and vulnerable in the face of the climate crisis is our inability to influence it in any meaningful way. However, once we accept the existential fears of the climate crisis, we can channel this energy into taking action that has some real-world impacts.
Start by optimising your lifestyle so that you reduce as much carbon output as possible; this is called “low-hanging fruit”, and it comes in the form of reducing overseas travel, switching to a no-meat diet, and using less energy and water. You can also join a more sustainable economy.
Find Professional Help
Eco anxiety, climate anxiety, and eco distress are some of the terms used to describe a newly emerging form of mental health issue. Some conventional forms of anxiety treatment can work for eco distress, but it is a slightly more challenging condition to manage and requires an expert.
If you turn on the news or glance at your social media feed, and you are triggered into a state of distress, or you have a panic episode, you probably have eco distress. If you need support for eco-distress, visit the Climate Psychology Alliance, who may be able to help you with strategies.
Find a Community
It is easy to feel alone with your fears; in fact, most people think of their fears as subjective, which is why talking therapies can be so helpful. When it comes to climate distress, however, you can count on there being more people with a similar condition to you instead of fewer.
There’s good news; a climate community is easy to find nowadays, thanks to online platforms and an increase in climate communities. If you want to try a climate community for solidarity and support, look out for Eco-anxiety Peer Support organised and run by The Surefoot Effect.
Spend Time in Nature
One of the reasons we experience eco-distress is that we feel disconnected from the natural world and our ability to influence or manage the situation. One of the best responses is to reconnect with the thing you fear losing; it fosters strength and inspiration for the challenges.
If you are worried about the climate crisis, you are in the right place. Many people have concerns about what businesses are doing to achieve Net Zero and how they can contribute with personal lifestyle changes. Equally, there is an overpowering sense of anxiety that comes from changes to the natural world. Connect with others at one of Surefoot’s free eco-anxiety workshops.
Discover New Inspiration
If you have made it along to an eco-anxiety workshop, chances are you’re feeling stressed and a little bit pessimistic. Don’t worry; not only can the climate pressures be leveraged as fuel for positive action, but you will encounter new inspiration to enhance your wellbeing and lifestyle.
As part of Surefoot’s free eco-anxiety workshops, you will have the chance to listen to daily readings from community members. They take the form of poems, short fiction, and excerpts that help to illuminate how people in the network feel about the climate crisis. New members can contribute.
Learn Resilience Strategies
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your life and the world, and you don’t have the resources to meet the challenges? You are not alone. This is a common experience for people trying to balance working life, family life, and some of the existential pressures inherent in the crisis.
Attending a free eco-anxiety workshop helps you to develop the skills and strategies needed to navigate a personal crisis, a collective crisis, or both. These strategies include mindfulness training, self-care planning, community resilience, and solidarity sharing personal experiences.
Self Care Planning
A crisis, such as a panic attack, an anxiety attack, a low mood, or something else, can strike at any minute. In relation to the climate and ecological crises, someone might simply read their social media feed and suddenly find themselves triggered into a crisis mode. That’s why self-care planning helps.
Self-care planning is all about becoming more aware of the patterns of your personal crisis and putting the pieces in place to navigate the crisis effectively. A free eco-anxiety workshop can help you to ask the right questions and build a self-care plan that has your back when needed.
Connect With a Community
One of the best parts of attending a free eco-anxiety workshop is the chance to connect with a like-minded community and enjoy a sense of solidarity and shared experiences. In the workshop, you will have a chance to talk about your experience of climate anxiety, and you are sure to recognise the experiences of others. It should leave you with a sense of optimism.
The climate crisis is here to stay; it’s the greatest challenge of the 21st Century, and everyone has a part to play, even individuals with climate worries and no climate support. The good news is there are plenty of practical ways to respond to climate concerns. Making small changes in our lives is not only beneficial to our emotional wellbeing and the planet; it can inspire change.
Petition Local Political Leaders
The climate crisis can leave us with a feeling of paralysis, especially when we hear about some countries at the UN Climate Talks stating that the 1.5C target is unrealistic and should be increased - needless to say, low-lying countries like the Maldives disagree. It is not time to abandon these ambitious targets; it is time to step up and make an effort to achieve them.
If this kind of news leaves your stomach feeling knotted, you might be experiencing eco-anxiety. Eco-anxiety is unpleasant, but it’s also an indication of where your passions lay and can be used as a source of motivation. In Scotland, you can attend political party workshops to express opinions or create a petition to be debated in the Scottish Parliament with enough signatures. Joining a local community group is a good way to start.
Attend Eco Anxiety Workshops
Eco-anxiety can be defined as extreme worry about the present and future harm to the environment caused by human activity during the industrial age; it is a kind of extreme fear that is existential in nature and needs to be taken seriously. The good news is that eco-anxiety - sometimes called climate anxiety - can be treated in ways that are empowering and productive.
There is no need to start a course of medication for your climate fear; instead, attend an eco-anxiety workshop, and connect with like-minded people. Eco-anxiety workshops create a space for individuals to explore fears, worries, and grief about the loss of habitats and species; they are also a chance to meet a community of activists and become another agent of change.
Change Energy Consumption Habits
There’s no doubt about it the dangerous levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere generated by various industries. In fact, the vast majority of energy use comes from heavy industries, transport, and energy use in buildings, so while individuals are not to blame for the crises directly, we can have a significant influence in the economy by changing our habits.
The economy operates on a system of supply and demand, with capitalistic marketing efforts creating demand where none existed before; however, the economy will adapt to a change in supply, meaning that consumers have agency and power within the system. This is worth keeping in mind when we make everyday choices about how we use energy and transport.
Change your Commuting Patterns
Each year the UK government must report the country’s carbon emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), outlining the Co2 emissions from transport. In recent years there have been promising signs, with estimates suggesting that emissions from 2020 are 22% lower than figures from 1990. But there is room for improvement.
If you are feeling eco-anxious and you want to empower yourself to make a difference, changing your commuting habits is a simple and effective strategy. Although private vehicles are more eco-efficient these days, it helps to reduce carbon in the atmosphere if you use public transport or car share. All of these eco-choices take pressure off the system and help to reduce carbon.
Switch to a Vegan Diet and Lifestyle
Nowadays, it’s generally accepted that a plant-based diet has fewer carbon emissions than one that contains beef and other meats. It’s not hard to see where this idea comes from since raising cattle requires huge amounts of carbon and releases methane into the atmosphere. That said, a vegan diet will still produce carbon emissions but not on the same scale as an omnivorous one.
At one time, a vegan or plant-based diet was a novelty, and those who followed one needed to be deeply connected to their ethics to make it work, but that is no longer the case. Again, the economy has changed to accommodate the demands of consumers; as more people made plant-based choices, more companies started to produce plant-based products reducing carbon.
Some Final Thoughts
Eco-anxiety can make us feel guilty, regretful, and powerless, or it can make us feel empowered and optimistic; either way, it’s important to take action to resolve the inner crises we experience and make a positive contribution to the world. Every practical step you take towards making your life greener helps dissolve the tension of climate fear and inspires the people around you.
It can be hard to figure out why we are feeling unwell at times; is it the stress of overworking, financial stress, or the lack of time we have for self-care?
Eco-anxiety can affect us in the same way as Cold War fear in the twentieth century; it is a cultural fear that is realistic and valid.
Feeling worried about the planet's future
Anticipatory anxiety is very common; it's the feeling of worry and stress we experience about a future event, such as a job interview, an encounter with a difficult person, or the outcome of a situation. In some cases, the anxiety motivates us to act; other times, we feel powerless with it.
Eco-anxiety is an extreme form of anticipatory anxiety; it is a future-based fear that exists in the present moment. While concern about the future based on rational analysis is helpful, eco-anxiety is likely to reduce life quality. The best response is present-moment awareness.
Feeling as though you are not doing enough
The human brain has a strong negative bias which can be helpful to some degree, but the negative visualisation must lead to positive outcomes. If you feel as though you are not doing enough for the planet or your carbon footprint is too high, it's time to focus on the positives. Reflecting on what you are doing helps to bring the brain into balance and grows positivity.
Feeling worried about your past choices
One day you are scrolling through your social media newsfeed, and you notice a post about plastic pollution and its devastating environmental impact; as you read it, you feel an overpowering sense of guilt and regret about the single-use plastic you have recently used.
While regret can lead to rumination and more anxiety, it can also be a helpful way for us to change our habits and adapt our lifestyles. Sometimes, regret is the psyche's way of stimulating positive change, so if you feel continually regretful about plastic use, it might be time to switch.
Ruminating on internet newsfeeds
A brain is a problem-solving machine, among other things, and while this is good news for solving the daily Wordle puzzles, it can be unhelpful in the face of climate catastrophe. When the mind is stuck in problem-solving mode, you might start looking for answers obsessively.
If you find that you are scrolling your social media newsfeeds for the latest information on the climate crisis and it is affecting your quality of life, it is a warning sign of eco-anxiety. Notice that you are becoming stuck in a pattern and set some limits on your daily consumption of eco news.
Feeling paralysed by existential dread
Eco-anxiety can be compared to Cold War anxiety in previous generations; it’s a real fear about the future of life on the planet, coupled with a feeling of powerlessness in the face of it. Again, the feeling of paralysis is a warning sign of eco-anxiety, and the best response is to notice the underlying fear and respond with emotional resilience, perhaps by contributing to a collective.
How to respond to eco-anxiety symptoms
Now you have some warning signs to look out for; you need to know what action you can take to alleviate the symptoms. Anxiety is uncomfortable, but it is very common. The good news is that many forms of anxiety can be treated in a variety of ways that don't require any medication.
Discover your personal power to take action
Eco-anxiety is an arresting experience that can make us feel powerless in the face of the challenge presented to us; there is little we can do about the wheels of industry or the decisions made by politicians, and this only serves to fuel the sense of paralysis that is gripping us.
In reality, we have mountains of personal power to discover and express in the world, and even small things can make a huge difference. Find your core values and live them more truthfully, calculate your carbon shadow and make lifestyle changes; you are not the only one doing this.
Learn to build up your emotional resilience
Emotional resilience is someone's ability to handle stressful situations with integrity, so while feelings of anxiety can arise due to the climate crisis, they don’t have to derail everyday life. There is a difference between pain and suffering - see parable of the arrow. This shows there might be little we can do about our pain for the planet, but we have agency over suffering.
Find a climate community and connect with them
There are many ways to find solidarity in the world; one of them is to live our values and thereby connect with others in the world with the same ethics; this is like linking up with a community of engaged people. Another way is to find some people who are dealing with eco-anxiety to connect with.
If you are feeling eco-anxious, you are not alone; there are people all around you with the same concerns, so why not join a local group online through The Surefoot Effect, a local allotment project, or trash collecting? Connecting with like-minded people can improve your wellbeing.
Open up the topic of realistic climate concerns
Fear is a feeling, but it can become a distressing emotional state when it goes unexpressed. Climate anxiety is like this; it develops internally and festers because it does not have an outlet for expression. Talking about climate fears to a friend, therapist, or working on projects with local community members gives expression to the fear and validates the concerns you have when you feel you are listened to.
Practice mindfulness and nature appreciation
Mindfulness can alleviate the suffering caused by climate concerns; it can also help us to create emotional resilience and strength to address the challenges in our personal lives and in the wider world. Mindfulness is very easy to learn and practice; start by noticing the body breathing.
Nature appreciation is also helpful. Whether you travel to a local country park for some forest bathing or simply appreciate the music of bird song in the garden, you are reminding yourself of the joys and pleasures to be found in nature and in being alive. It is this we are trying to protect.
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Eco anxiety is starting to affect business productivity and consumer habits meaning that companies that don’t address the rising issues will be less productive and less competitive moving into the second half of the 21st century. If you’re unconvinced, read on; this article covers 5 ways eco anxiety is affecting businesses across the board, and what can be done.
Some businesses are more aware of climate change than others due to consumer demands or internal climate change remits, but the clock is ticking and it is only a matter of time before businesses everywhere notice the increasing pressure to take action and protect their futures.
Eco anxiety is not as well understood as social anxiety or general anxiety, but it is just as important and can affect the productivity of the business. Eco anxiety increases with awareness and affects the motivation of employees, so it is something to look out for in your workforce.
In recent years there has been a shift towards more compassionate workplaces as businesses recognise the productivity gains that can be made from looking after employees in the right ways. In the past, the issues were pain from long periods of sitting, but now it is mental health.
Looking after employees mental health is not only the right thing to do, it is also the best way to ensure your business stays productive and profitable. As the issues around climate change become more prescient, business owners can expect lower productivity due to eco-anxiety.
Young people aware of the climate crises and worried about the future are changing their lifestyles, habits, and expectations in line with current beliefs and attitudes. In some cases, people will even avoid starting families because of a bleak world view and lack of life meaning.
Such extreme world views are becoming more common in a workforce that should be motivated to find solutions to the present-day climate challenges. When businesses make efforts to support climate initiatives, it makes workplaces more meaningful and reduces climate anxiety.
Eco anxiety can affect a business internally, but it can also affect it externally. As the effects of climate change become more visible in the natural world and the conversations become more frequent and prescient, consumers are thinking seriously about the effects of their buying habits.
Again, this is a result of eco anxiety. It might seem as though there is little a business can do to alleviate the effects of eco anxiety in their customer base, but that is also incorrect. In fact, internal changes to the structure of the business and supply chains affect consumer mindsets.
Businesses that don’t take action on climate change today could be setting themselves up for a difficult time in the near future. Net Zero efforts are to be stepped up in the next few years making non-compliant businesses less competitive; not only that, consumer mindsets are changing with more support for businesses that address eco anxiety internally and externally.
Have you experienced feelings of worry and fear about the future of the planet? This is called eco-anxiety, and it's becoming more common. Eco-anxiety is a newly coined term, but it is relevant to the experience of individuals and organisations in the modern world. Find out more about eco-anxiety and why it matters at The Surefoot Effect, along with our net zero offering.
Anxiety affects everyone to some degree; some have occasional worries and fears, while others suffer from chronic and debilitating conditions. Medical professionals have separated these anxious feelings into categories that include general anxiety, panic disorders, OCD, and others.
But we don't have to have a disorder to suffer from anxious feelings from time to time; in fact, most people experience some worry, stress, or fear, on a daily basis. Thanks to our biological evolution, our brains are encoded to search for life-threatening dangers, even in a home office.
If you're feeling anxious and don't know why it could be due to the condition of the world at the moment and your fears about the future of society and the wellbeing of future generations; this is considered a form of eco-anxiety according to the American Psychology Association (APA).
As with all anxiety, it affects different people in different ways, but it's clear that people with eco-anxiety have a greater awareness of the climate challenges faced by the planet and a realistic view of where we stand. As with other types of anxiety, it can range from mild to severe.
Climate change is the biggest challenge of our generation, thanks to a legacy of inattention and profiteering in previous decades. Today, it is hard to find anyone unaware of the impact of climate change in local communities and on a global scale. That's why eco-anxiety is growing.
The more information and awareness a person has about the effects of climate change, the more likely they are to experience the symptoms of eco-anxiety; these include stress, sleep disturbances, nervousness, and in severe cases, it can lead to depression and hopelessness.
Eco-anxiety is an existential condition arising from reflection on recent political changes, environmental challenges, and general attitudes in society; it can lead to despair about people’s lives and future. Employees might start to question the usefulness of their roles in the company.
Employees affected by this kind of anxiety can be less motivated and less committed. On the other hand, if a company is committed to climate action in the form of net zero practices like green supply chains, the opposite is the case. Eco-conscious employees respond to the call.
Have you experienced eco-anxiety, or does it affect the quality of work in your business? It's easy to access support for eco-anxiety through The Surefoot Effect, which offers workshops and a peer support service to individuals and companies. We can only serve the planet if we have the strength, resilience, and motivation to make a difference in workplaces and communities.
Here’s a collection of some of our articles which have been in our newsletters or published elsewhere.