Coping with Climate Grief: There is Hope

It’s no secret, climate change is a real threat and it’s really happening. It’s something we’ve been talking about for years, but it seems like the time has actually come where its risks are actually taking effect. We’ve experienced this firsthand with all the horrible wildfires that raged across Northern California burning down homes, and in extreme cases like Paradise, entire cities. 

But according to scientists, the fires, along with the hurricanes, extreme droughts, and flooding, are only a taste of what’s to come. Scary, right? I’ve known about this for a while, we all have, but for the past month, I’ve really felt the weight of its impact. Every sad post on Facebook, every National Geographic article about yet another species facing extinction or seeing that picture with Bill Nye the Science Guy standing next to a globe on fire is like a punch to the stomach. 

For a while, it’s really been depressing me. The unthinkable started to cross my mind. Is going to school worth it anymore? Will I ever be able to start a family or do all the things I want to do in life? These questions ate away at me until I finally researched what I was feeling.

And what I was feeling has a name: Climate grief. 

Not surprisingly, tons of other people have similar feelings. For example, a young couple was having second thoughts on bringing a child into the world, a guy mentioned that he started feeling unmotivated to go to work, and a young college student felt her entire future was at stake.

Obviously, there’s only so much we can do as individuals that will have big impacts. Going vegan, using reusable bags at the grocery store and buying reusable straws are helpful, but the real solution lies within the hands of lawmakers, corporations, scientists, and other such important people. Knowing this, it’s easy to feel hopeless since the problem is much bigger than what we can directly control at this point. But allowing it to get the better of you won’t help either. 

While awareness is essential to solving the problem, so is hope. I mean, what’s done is done right? We need to focus our energy on getting back on track, and we can’t do that feeling hopeless. Because after all, there is hope. 

Even though the Paris Agreement has faltered in the last three years, it hasn’t failed, and there is still time for countries to meet their goals. This, along with the fact that renewable energy is on the rise, new “negative emissions technologies” are becoming a thing, and world coal production is starting to peak, there are many reasons to stay hopeful. Just knowing that we have the time and resources has made me at least peek out of my bottomless pit of despair. 

In the meantime, vote for an elected official who will make climate change a top priority, write a letter to your local congressperson about your concerns, create meaningful art that will inspire others to make change, pick up some trash at the beach, cut down your meat consumption, or donate some money to your local activist groups. These are really small actions, but even small ones are a step closer to accomplishing our goal. And of course, to make you feel better. 

As a disclaimer, it’s okay to be upset. If you want to be upset, you should. I didn’t write this article to tell you to be positive. I wrote it mainly because I know there are people like me out there who are so torn up about climate change to the point where they don’t feel motivated to live their life anymore. So for those who need it, hope and positivity are there for you. But for those who are angry...good, because being angry is the start of change. 

To learn more about students making a change, check this article out!