Climate grief: Mourning for our planet

Shauna Burdis

With overwhelming transformations taking place to our planet as a result of climate change, it’s totally normal to feel the effects of climate grief on our emotions.

Climate grief can be defined as a psychological response to loss that is caused by the devastating destruction to the environment. Emotional response to this climate grief comes in many forms, such as bereavement or anxiety.

Hearing the words “natural disaster” is bound to stir some emotions, especially when this catastrophe can happen in your lifetime. The term climate grief is not just reserved for the feeling of mourning or bereavement.

It’s an umbrella term to describe the anxious feeling brought up by climate change, which refers to a wider loss and anxiety related to the overall effects of climate change.

The obvious and increasing visibility of climate change, combined with bleak scientific reports and a state of denial towards climate change by some world leaders, is taking a serious toll on the mental health of society. Especially on young people who are worried that the effects of what older generations have done to the climate will be irreversible.

Flooding of coastal areas caused by rising sea levels, drought, food shortages and severe natural disasters are all of the terrifying effects of climate change.

Coupled with the latest report from the United Nations (UN) released in October, warning that without “unprecedented” action, by 2040 the world could be facing catastrophic conditions, it’s normal to experience climate grief or a sense of hopelessness.

The youth of today is perhaps the most passionate generation about the climate, since the effects could directly impact them, so it is understandable that they suffer the most from climate grief. There’s a sense of impending doom on the youth, their lives will be directly affected by the climate crisis and the older generations and those in power are appearing to do little about it.

Money and the economy is always an excuse when it comes to the climate, as world governments blame the expensive budgets it will take to try and reverse the damage of climate change and how they will impact the economy.

But the truth is, doing nothing about climate change will cost the world so much more. What is the point in having a stable, thriving economy, when there is no planet to live on because it’s been destroyed by drought and natural disasters?

Although it’s hard to forget about the looming climate crisis, there are ways to try and cope with climate grief. First you need to acknowledge that as someone living in a carbon-fuelled system, you are part of the problem but you can also become a part of the solution.

Go outside and enjoy nature while it lasts. Taking a walk in a park can be a therapeutic experience and helps not only with climate induced anxiety, but other stress-related and overwhelming feelings.

You need to make sure that you are doing your part for the environment, by using reusable bags, recycling, replacing disposable plastic items with reusable ones, saving electricity and water. These are all obvious steps, but by contributing positively to the environment, you can help heal the planet and relieve climate grief.

Shauna Burdis

Image Credit: Michael Held on Unsplash