Eco-anxiety issues

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - December 1, 2019 - 12:00am

I just got diagnosed.

Well, self-diagnosis. That came by way of reading an article on psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren, who confidently asserts that "I actually have no hesitation in saying that on some level...everyone now has some climate anxiety."

Yes, climate anxiety. Global warming and environmental disaster fears that trigger personal, individual problems. People who are kinda, sorta, somewhat and even very worried about climate change. CNN defines it as "distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people". That's climate anxiety.

How is this manifested? An example offered was a couple in the United States that refuse to have a baby. How did Kate Schapira and husband arrive at this decision? Perhaps, for fear of bringing in an innocent life into a cruel, unsustainable world? To avoid generations of climate sufferers? That's almost inter-generational suicide, come to think of it.

So yes, I might have anxiety issues. I try to bring cloth bags to the supermarket and chastise myself for forgetting sometimes. I look askance (just like the title of that famous column) at my rubbish bin and think how many of those items are going to stick around for a thousand years. I dutifully fold plastic bags and keep them, there to accumulate for...how many years, five or six? I use ziplock bags forever, until they become tattered.

(However, these anxieties have not cured me a compulsive need to buy water bottles in grimy places for fear of ingesting worms or getting hepa. A classic case of two anxieties warring against each other, with one emerging victorious).

My latest refinement of these anxieties was recycling and stocking plastic utensils. Not a hundred percent of the time, but when convenient, I set aside plastic forks, spoons, and knives after having been served them, and then washing them at home later for future use in a non-existent, future beach house.

Did I mention that a couple of columns this year have been about climate change?

Before readers get worried about my mental health, let me offer up some stranger examples trawled from the web.

Christine Ro writes in bbc.com that she and her partner couldn't muster the conversation about having a child for several years. They kept putting off that conversation, and she traces this to fears of a potentially unlivable planet. Does that sound strange?

Fatalism. Helplessness. Conflict avoidance. Paralysis caused by fear. All these are symptoms. A Computer Science student who woke up at 2 a.m. and cried for two hours about the ocean. Caroline Hickman, a psychotherapist, is reported as counseling parents who fantasize about killing their children - just so their children can be protected from a future, unlivable planet.

And what do we think about Greta Thunberg, who probably will not land on the million-milers club of Philippine Airlines. Mademoiselle Greta refuses to fly because of the tons of carbon-emissions emitted by jet planes. And she will probably never be a flight attendant as well. Greta reportedly fell into depression and wouldn't talk at age 11, because of her concerns for the climate. Hence, Great has been traveling via environmentally sustainable ways around the world, like catamarans, bicycles, and such, to get where she needs to go.

Hopefully, Thunberg doesn't have a seizure when entering an airplane. And while I write this facetiously, who knows how deep her anxieties are, and what physical reactions could be triggered by these environmental circumstances?

There are ways to relieve eco-anxiety. And perhaps one way is to believe that we are, on many levels and many ways, in our individual and collective capacities, trying to address climate change. Like, using this column as a platform, for example.

(Let's try not to think about the print editions, shall we. Darn, another anxiety triggered.)


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