Climate fatigue -an experience of feeling overwhelmed by the climate crisis.
I have seriously been suffering from this lately, it’s something my daughter and I talk about regularly. Every day we’re bombarded with news stories about climate change migration, extreme weather events, and related tragedies. Per Espen Stoknes, a psychologist at the Center for Climate Strategy of the Norwegian Business Institute and author of What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming suggests that the majority of media reports about climate change have been framed as doom and gloom and disaster, which gives people an aversion and leads to avoidance behavior.
I completely agree- I’d rather avoid the news and pretend that it isn’t happening, something American sociologist Kari Norgaard and author of ‘Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life’ has documented. “People have a real fear about what climate change means for the world and their future…Then a sense of guilt comes up because they realize that our high quality of life through our use of fossil fuels is directly linked to this problem. Then there is a sense of helplessness, because it feels so large and we see the lack of political response.
Her suggestion is to shift away from portraying climate change as a paralyzing threat and instead focus on opportunities for practical behavior as a way to prevent the emotional need for denial. Makes sense to me- so right now, I’m focusing on what I can do in my little corner of the world to improve the planet.
The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers are responsible for 71% of emissions. How can bringing my own bags to the grocery store or choosing not to use a plastic lid and straw for my drink make a real difference in global warming?
In all honesty, it won’t. Averting the worst of climate breakdown and ecological crisis demands individual actions which are connected to larger efforts for systemic change. We need changes in how we all live, work, consume, travel, eat, interact and so on.
But here’s the deal.
If we want our co-workers, family members, neighbors, businesses and politicians to understand there is a climate and living world emergency going on, we had better signal through our actions that we truly believe this emergency is real.
This is our opportunity to be the change we wish to see in the world. People learn to change when they see others doing it: effectively, individual change is leading by example. It demonstrates to your co-workers, neighbors, family, etc that (a) this change is practically feasible; (b) people in their immediate circle are doing it (i.e. it’s not that weird); ( c) this is a direction the world might go in, so they should learn about it.
I am making a public pledge here to lead by example and work toward reducing my carbon footprint. I’m in the process of researching and determining what I can do to that end. I’ll share my plans in a future blog post.