Climate activists, journalists, residents of coastal areas and wildfire zones, and just scores of people who care about the fate of the planet, have been feeling it more intensely: a mix of fear, rage, frustration, and helplessness in the face of something as daunting and frightening as climate change.
Dr. Britt Wray, author of Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis, describes this feeling, and others like it, as falling into a newly-coined experience of “eco-anxiety.”
“‘Eco-distress,’ ‘eco-anxiety’—it’s not a pathology. It’s not a disorder. Because actually, it’s a very reasonable and rational response,” said Wray. “What’s happening is that you are feeling the effects of profound unhealthiness that surrounds you, promulgated by business as usual.”
For Nigerian climate activist Jennifer Uchendu, the feelings came at an unexpected time—when she arrived to present at the UN’s “COP” Conference, the most influential gathering on climate in the world. Originally told she’d get to promote her views on climate change, she was told she’d only have 20 seconds to speak.
Similarly, when Arielle Duhaime-Ross worked as a climate reporter, they’d fly around the world documenting some of the worst-hit places of the climate crisis, then return home to NYC and feel waves of grief, a sense of futility that even the best journalism wouldn’t stop the Antarctic from melting. Only later would Arielle recognize this as eco-anxiety.
In this episode of VICE News Reports, we speak with Dr. Wray about naming, accepting, and understanding our eco-anxiety, as well as climate activist Uchendu and climate psychotherapist Caroline Hickman.