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2021 New Global Crisis: Climate Anxiety

Under the pandemic, discussing climate change seems like not a priority, but that does not mean that it’s still happening. 

I Am Greta, a documentary about climate activist Greta Thunberg, aired on Hulu last month. However, it resulted in polarized comments. Reflecting on the film, we can see traces of many young people who are suffering from climate anxiety. Greta participates in a number of international climate conferences and issues climate declarations that are generally recognized as serious. Most adults scowled at her, but she has brought climate change to the attention of countless young people all over the world.

The documentary‘s beginning is quite ironic. The voice-over plays couples of traditional views on climate problems interviewed by the producer under the scenes of forest fires, heavy rainfall, floods, and hurricanes. Under this background sound, the back of a little girl carrying a schoolbag slowly appears in the camera. She walked to the wall, put up the sign, and sat against the wall. People passing by gave strange glances, but few stopped. Greta had come to oppose climate change outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm for the first time. She would come here every Friday after that to do the same thing. The advent of events was known as “Fridays for Future.”

Greta explained the reasons for her protest in an interview with the Swedish Parliament: “I’m protesting about the climate crisis because it’s such an important issue.” She became a household name after giving a speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference less than five months later. She then inspired millions of people all over the world to join the “Friday for Future” climate protest, and she was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 2019. Greta is not as lovable as other typical girls her age. She has Asperger’s syndrome and spends much of her time in her own little world. However, it was also due to Asperger’s syndrome, she was able to educate herself on climate change. She kept checking all kinds of climate-related information and became more aware of the seriousness of the climate problem. What made her constantly anxious was that adults weren’t doing anything to solve this problem. She started to ask her family to use fewer lights, avoid driving gasoline cars, avoid flying, but to take subways and trains outside. However, she discovered that a person’s actions alone cannot bring about fundamental change and that more people need to be made aware of the gravity of the situation. She started to show up at the Swedish Parliament’s entrance, sharing the details she discovered into a draft, printing it out, and sending it to people. Greta’s influence is enormous. She encountered more influential people, and more people became aware of climate problems. Greta’s supporters are more likely to be adolescents, who can empathize with her the most. Then a growing number of young people who are concerned about the environment joined her protest. We need to see more children like Greta who are concerned about the environment. 

person holding a sign that says "planet over profit"
Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash

Climate anxiety is impacting the mental health of young people. More than 1,000 clinical psychologists signed an open letter warning of the acute trauma from severe weather incidents on a global scale at the start of 2020. More than half of the patients seen by British child and adolescent psychiatrists were concerned According to a study, Dr. Patrick Kennedy-Williams, a clinical psychologist at the University of Oxford, said, the more they pay attention to this problem, the more they realize what needs to be done. Yet, gradually this has caused them to feel more anxious, exhausted, and powerless. The adults who now control the right to talk have not given adequate protection and confidence to the children who are about to live in the unknowable future. They have no choice but to communicate their own fear and survival in their own unique way. 

Change is on the way, as Greta predicted. However, it all began with a group of children who care about the environment and the climate. So, please keep in mind that everyone living on the planet has a role to play in resolving this current climate anxiety crisis. Protecting the Earth is saving ourselves.

Sign at a climate change protest
Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash

Yolanda is now majoring in Communication and Cinema&Digital Media at UC Davis. She usually works as an amateur photographer focusing on portrait, landscape, humanity and international cuisine. She hopes to use the power of photographs and writing to inspire and educate peers and spread more positivity.
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