Should we all be feeling eco-anxiety?

Róisín Phelan

Protests have taken place around the world to draw attention to climate change.

Climate change has become a prominent subject of concern among teens, students and young people in Ireland.

With campus wide campaigns and clubs and societies set up in an attempt to voice an opinion on and limit the impacts of climate change, the youth of Ireland have begun to show a real concern for the world’s future.

Each day we hear reports of skyrocketing temperatures and devastating storms. We feel the extreme changes in our own weather this summer here in Ireland. Are we finally starting to experience the real visible effects of climate change. Effects which were easier to ignore before they reached our doorstep.

In 2018, the IPCC of the United Nations issued a report outlining the consequences of global warming. It stated that preventing the warming which the world is on track to reach would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

The report proceeded to mention tipping points and irreversible changes which may have already been reached.

This information and its implications has been alarming to many members of the public including young people, who could interpret it as detrimental to the future they have yet to fulfill. Although instilling action into some groups, the panic has sent some into a state of helpless concern and fear.

In an Instagram poll answered by 100 young adults, 81 per cent said that they have felt worried, anxious or in despair about climate change at some point.

With the reality of climate change and the statement of irreversible damage, this concern has sprouted legs to become a real anxiety, which has been coined as ‘eco-anxiety’ and is described as a “recent psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis” by Psychology Today.

This wave of eco-anxiety has occurred undoubtedly due to climate change itself but also due to the lack of response and action from those in power.

Activists such as Greta Thunberg have tried to bring these concerns to governments and large organisations in power across the world in an attempt to force action. Although Thunberg has achieved the goal of bringing the facts of climate change to the forefront of conversation, the change that she has called for and that she says the planet desperately needs is still to come.

In his 2017 New York magazine article, ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ David Wallace-Wells essentially justifies any anxiety about climate change and furthermore says that the situation is even worse than we can imagine.

Wells promises that climate change is in fact “worse than you think” and that our fears are probably only “scratching the surface of what terrors are possible.”

“Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century. Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope,” wrote Wells.

Róisín Phelan

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