Some youngsters are worried about the state of the planet in 2100 ― and, according to the climate predictions, this won’t look good. Environmentalist Andreu Escrivá advises on how to cope with climate anxiety.
A striking 82% of the young in Spain has suffered some level of eco-anxiety, as noted in a report presented to the Parliament. How much are the young affected by this phenomenon?
There is very little data on this issue. There are several studies on the concern on climate issues, but most are not segregated by age or with a specific question about the psychological effect. But I would be very cautious: everybody agrees that the climate has to be protected, but the problem appears to be how to change our behaviour.
Nevertheless, experience shows that concern about the climate is growing, and the most worried groups are the youth and, curiously, the elderly. Perhaps intergenerational alliances can be forged.
How does this eco-anxiety in the young manifest itself?
In frustration, anger, fear. There are two types of this: anxiety and discomfort provoked by seeing the future we are heading towards, and anxiety because of the fact that climate change is an enormous problem which requires global and immediate action, but nothing is done. The latter is more common among the young. They feel this should be a global problem, but the pressure is put on individual behaviour, especially on the younger generation.
The story of climate change is going to be the story of their lives. But what worries me most is that it also generates apathy, and a feeling that “nothing can be done”.
So what are the options to help the young tackle this anxiety?
Just today, a girl writing her thesis wrote to me, genuinely worried about what to do. She wrote to the Spanish government, and other institutions. I don’t have perfect answers, but I recommend doing everything as a collective. To scrape off the individualism of climate blame. When your forces are exhausted, it’s not a failure, because you have like-minded colleagues who keep fighting. And vice versa.