How climate-anxiety can fuel climate-action

By Lucia Perasso, The Sustainable Restaurant Association

A couple of weeks ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C. The report followed what has been yet another season of climate disasters in Europe, including floods and wildfires to mention a few. As the news was out, on Wednesday of the same week, a small town near Syracuse, Sicily, hit 48.8°C, unofficially breaking the record of the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe. I was in Sicily when both these events occurred, in the middle of a devastating heatwave where we had been told not to go out to avoid heat strokes. The feeling was very much of hopelessness and frustration in the face of temperatures increasing at an exponential rate and of the effects of global warming we now regularly witness.  

For some people, this whole summer might have been a fast descend into that feeling that has lately been identified as climate-anxiety, which Juliane briefly introduces in the last few lines of this blog. In my case, the extreme temperatures of the heatwave had me confronting the criticality of climate change first-hand for the first time and were the real trigger. Climate-anxiety is justified, but it can often unlock a wicked dynamic of disengagement from the issue at stake as a natural reaction to worry, anger and frustration; the risk is that valid feelings become detrimental to the cause, generating passivity rather than action. 

So is there a way out? Channelling the climate panic toward simple individual actions has helped me with soothing the impacts of the climate emergency on my mental health so I am able to still take a stand and act on it. Simple actions are not easy actions, but rather are shaped by what is within reach for and accessible to each person. And keeping a flexible mind is also vital. For instance, while avoiding plastic packaging for food was a piece of cake in London, it has been quite tricky in the past few weeks in Italy, so I focused my attention on other mitigation options I had instead of labelling this as a total personal failure to the climate cause: local, seasonal and organic produce is an effortless find here (and utter delicious)! Staying adaptable in the way(s) I reduce my impact finally takes a bit of the climate-pressure off my shoulders without affecting individual engagement, but instead fuelling action that motivates for further commitment. 

We must now not only look at the evidence but actively shape our actions on it. This is not only a duty, but an opportunity to create the most change one can possibly generate. 

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