Episode 4: Coping with Climate Despair in Four Steps
With the urgency of our climate crisis increasing by the day, many scientists and climate leaders are calling for global action on the scale of World-War II mobilizations. Yet in the face of this daunting task and the existential threat of climate disruption (both present and future) many find themselves paralyzed by fear, hopelessness or cynicism.
Luckily, there are steps we can all take to overcome despair and start contributing to solutions. This episode outlines 4 basic strategies to beat the climate blues and become an agent of change.
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
- The Talmud
Written and narrated by Jennifer Atkinson
Music by Roberto David Rusconi
Produced by Intrasonus UK
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England
Dr. Jennifer Atkinson is a professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, where she leads seminars that help students cope with the despair, anger, and anxiety that arise from environmental loss and mass extinction. Her teaching and research have helped activists, scientists, and students build resilience to stay engaged in climate solutions and avoid burnout. She has also spoken to audiences across the U.S. about the global mental health crisis arising from climate disruption, and advocated for addressing emotional impacts in the fight for environmental justice. This episode introduces some of the experiences and insights behind that work, and explores how we can move the public to action by addressing the psychological roots of our unprecedented ecological loss.
References and Further Reading:
Mike Pearl. 'Climate Despair' Is Making People Give Up on Life. Vice. Jul 11, 2019
Zhiwa Woodbury. "Climate Trauma: Toward a New Taxonomy of Trauma." Ecopsychology. January 2019
Emily Johnston. Loving a vanishing world. Medium. May 9, 2019.
"Columbia University experiment": J. M. Darley & B. Latané. "Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 8: 377–383 (1968)
Julia Rosen. "Feeling distressed about climate change? Here’s how to manage it." Los Angeles Times. Jan. 11, 2020
Leslie Davenport, Emotional Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017.
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Climate Change in the American Mind: April 2020. May 19, 2020
George Marshall. Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. Bloomsbury, 2015
Reene Lertzman. How Can We Talk About Global Warming? Sierra, Jul 19 2017
Florence Williams. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. 2017
Nutsford, Pearson, and Kingham. An Ecological Study Investigating the Association Between Access to Urban Green Space and Mental Health. Public Health. Vol 127; 11 (2013)
Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light. 1988
Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in without Going Crazy. 2012
Vaclav Havel. Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Huizdala. Vintage, 1991.
Donatella Meadows. Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. The Sustainability Institute, 1999.