Thousands of delegates gathered in Glasgow for the COP26 summit to discuss ways to deal with the environmental emergency. AFPThree youth activists from around the globe spoke openly about their experiences with climate anxiety.
Sohanur Rahman, an activist from Bangladesh, said that he feels overwhelmed by concern about what he perceives as a lack in political will to stop the destruction. Bangladesh is ranked seventh among countries most affected.
“(The) climate crise is to me mental stress, trauma, and nightmare,” says the 24-year old, who lives in Barisal and remembers the 2007 supercyclone that claimed the lives of thousands in South Asia.
“It kills inside,” he softly said, adding that he worries about his parents who live in Nathullabad which was destroyed by cyclone.
According to the American Psychological Association, climate anxiety or eco-anxiety is a “chronic fear about environmental doom”.
As with other anxiety forms, long-term living with it can lead to a loss of daily function and aggravation of underlying mental health issues.
Research has shown that children and young adults are especially vulnerable as they consider a future filled with rising seas, destructive floods, storms, and scorching heatwaves.
A recent survey of 10,000 young people from 10 countries by researchers at the University of Bath, Britain, revealed that 77% of them considered the future to be frightening due to climate change.
Nearly half of the respondents stated that environmental change was affecting their daily life.
Fear, anxiety, and anger
Dominique Palmer, an activist in London, said: “I’m looking to the future, what we face in that future, and there is a lot anxiety and fear. There is also anger.
At a climate protest in advance of the COP26 summit, the 22-year-old stated that “young people, myself included feel betrayed and world leaders.”
She uses the internet to manage her anxiety.
She said, “Sometimes it can seem quite hopeless until you are back and organizing with your community.”
Garret Barnwell, a clinical psychologist, showed compassion and understanding to the young people in crisis.
“It’s a fact that children are facing this changing environment. Barnwell stated that they are experiencing fear and anger, hopelessness, helplessness, and even hopelessness.
He stated that the climate change pressures can also increase pre-existing social injustices. This is why younger generations aren’t only concerned about the environment but also about healthcare access.
Barnwell explained that, despite this, young people who express their fears to adults like teachers often find their feelings are “invalidated”.
He was happy to see the growing awareness of climate anxiety worldwide and added that therapy can be helpful, but ultimately it is political action that is required.
“We bear the weight”
Many young activists feel that this lacks in concrete action.
Numerous countries signed a pledge by the United States and European Union to reduce methane emissions at the COP26 summit.
Experts believe the initiative could have a strong short-term effect on global warming. It follows an agreement between 100 countries to end deforestation by 2030.
The fragile nature of the talks was revealed by a simmering diplomatic spat between Russia, China, and the United States over their climate change ambitions.
Jennifer Uchendu, a 29-year old eco-feminist from Lagos, stated that the previous COP, COP25, “really sort of brought forth this eco-anxiety… I felt.”
She stated that climate anxiety was a major concern for young people who grew up in countries that are disproportionately affected.
She said, with a frown on her face, “We bear all the consequences of climate change, even though our contribution was minimal.”
Uchendu said that rather then trying to hide her fears, she prefers to accept them as valid.
She said, “It’s OK for me to feel overwhelmed.”
“It’s okay for me to be scared, scared, and anxious when I face something so huge and overwhelming.”