Responding to Eco-Anxiety: Educating the Next Generation Back to the Land


Bea Picking Tomatoes 

A few weeks ago, the world learned the Amazon rainforest, affectionately referred to as "the earth's lungs" is burning at an alarming rate. Upon hearing this news, I caught myself spiraling down into a dark place, feeling hopeless about the future of Gaia.

Sadly, after a growing season that started with torrential rains and rolled into months of urban drought, our little urban farm in Columbus, Ohio is offering a clear analogy to the climate crisis. The soil is dry despite my best efforts to keep it watered and the rats are stealing the last few tomatoes. Our farm, a place I can usually turn to at a moment’s notice to immerse myself in beauty and to do something meaningful, has become another site for my eco-anxiety.

Psychologists define eco-anxiety as “the overwhelming and sometimes debilitating concern for the worsening state of the environment.” Eco-consciousness led me to begin farming, could eco-anxiety propel me to keep going? Or would it cause me to give up?

Caroline Hickman, a psychologist who works with the Climate Psychology Alliance, works with adults and children to better understand and address eco-anxiety. When asked recently on the podcast World Affairs what advice she would offer those of us feeling anxious about climate change she replied, “I hope you do feel some eco-anxiety because that’s the price you pay for being alive and awake in the world and in connection with yourself and others and the reality we’re facing.” She went on to add “Feel enough to take action but not too much that you collapse into despair.”

I admit I have been despairing more than a bit lately. But Hickman reminds me I need to take a moment to celebrate the small differences I have been able to make. Because, while it’s increasingly clear we can’t control legislators in Washington, we can control ourselves. I need to recognize I’m making a difference everyday, on my own backyard farm.

9/28/2019 4:40:32 PM

Sent to me via email in response to this post. Name withheld. "After reading " Responding to Eco-Anxiety" I felt the need to respond to your statement that the climate demonstrations on Friday might not make much difference. They do. They just take time as they gather more and more supporters. In the 1960s and early 1970s more and more people demonstrated against the war in Vietnam until the US pulled out. Demonstrations do make a difference and young people always lead the way. More and more people are realizing that we must make major changes to survive as a society. Even though the profiteers don't want change, the people will insist and change will come. We each do what we can, you are doing good."

9/25/2019 1:52:49 PM

As a geologist (retired) I suggest one look up where all the food in the world is grown, then the history of rising seas thru' the millennia. You will notice that most of these agricultural places will be under water, and I dare anyone to grow rice in the Rockies..... This is an E.L.E. event (Extinction Level Event) and it will get much worse before it even thinks about getting better. More articles about hydroponic gardening on a large scale, trees that clean water of pollution (start with willows), water storage on a large scale; in other words, survival skills of all kinds. We are going back to the stone age and we had better be prepared for it.

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