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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Townsend

Navigating the psychological impacts of a warming world

"our mental wellbeing is just as vulnerable to global warming as is our earth."
— the American Psychological Association

from wildfires and drought to heat waves and rising seas, we are facing an undeniable climate crisis threatening our existence. while we are seemingly aware of the visible impacts including disasters and disturbances, we often dismiss the health consequences of our climate emergency including poorer air quality, crop failure, fading food supplies, water scarcity, dehydration, and heat exhaustion and stroke due to rising temperatures. it's no surprise then that our mental health is at risk, too. with increased vulnerabilities like economic inequality, lack of access to healthcare, decreased sense of social cohesion, as well as the geophysical impacts of a warming world, we are seeing higher rates of depression, stress, anxiety, grief, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, uncertainty, fear, and helplessness. we're questioning our leaders, politicians, corporations, and even personal sustainability choices and ethical decisions (like having children in an era of looming environmental catastrophe).

climate change is scary AF. here's a few things you can do about it:

1. empathize //

we are already living in a state of climate emergency. communities are having to forcibly migrate, homes are being destroyed, and people are literally dying from the environmental effects of climate change. this crisis will affect all of us in time but some communities and populations are particularly more vulnerable. empathy can help us far more than apathy towards change and action. 

2. do your part //

drive less, take public transit, use reusable bags, eliminate single-use plastic, reduce purchasing unnecessary packaging (do your tomatoes really need to come home in a plastic container that you're just going to throw out?), byocup to your fav coffee shop, recycle, reuse, shop local, compost, use a biodegradable toothbrush (like one made of bamboo!)these small lifestyle changes become big changes when we all participate collectively. 

3. take care of your mental health //

talk about it. engage in nature. see a professional. move your body. write, dance, run, stretch, lift, play. it's important amidst overwhelming environmental changes to take care of yourself, too. do what feels good, prioritize your mental health, commit to healthy habits that are respecting of your mind and body. you are deserving of love and care, just as the planet is. 

4. connect to your community //

not only can our communities help us feel supported, validated, and normalized in our climate change fears and anxieties, but we also have to work together to address solutions. change happens through collective impact. attend a community event or get involved in a local nonprofit. 

5. support climate solutions //

be a climate voter, sign a petition calling for climate action, write a letter to your local, state, or national elected official expressing your concerns and asking for action, attend a march or rally to bring awareness and put pressure on policymakers. 

"one of the most important issues of our time regarding human health and mental health is the impact of climate change [...] discussing these overwhelming and fearsome issues is far healthier than pretending that they do not exist or that it is too soon or too late to worry about them."

— David Pollack, M.D., Psychiatrist & Professor of Public Health


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