The Kids Aren’t Alright
In a world sullied by pollution, a mental health crisis has emerged that particularly affects today’s youth. As Earth’s global temperature rises, young people ponder how their life and the future of their families, mankind, and the planet will be altered. Statistics show that young individuals globally are struggling to adapt and feel comfortable with the way the world is changing. In a 2021 survey of 10,000 people aged 16-25 from countries in the global south and north, 77% said “the future is frightening”, 68% felt sad, 63% felt anxious, and 39% felt “hesitant to have children” in response to climate change.
Scientists find that these feelings of anxiety are only exacerbated by the worsening effects of climate change. People, especially the younger Millennial and Gen Z generations, are feeling physically disturbed by what is happening in their environment. Increasing temperatures are linked with mental fatigue, aggression, and higher rates of suicide. In one study of a large population of US adults, days of extreme summer heat were associated with higher rates of emergency department visits related to mental health. Moreover, studies correlate natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires with poor mental health. These types of events cause financial and emotional hardship for those who have lost their homes, loved ones, jobs, possessions, and more.
It’s a vicious cycle: Anxiety and stress caused by the direct effects of climate change are linked to poor mental health outcomes which in turn can exacerbate further climate change anxieties. This is a generational phenomenon that has not been experienced before, with Millennials and Gen Z bearing the brunt of the mental strain.
4 Things You Can Do Today for the Climate
For these younger generations, it can feel like an overwhelming amount of information is being spread about the severity of global warming. People do not have to drastically change their lifestyles to reduce their carbon footprint, and being good to the climate is something all people, in all communities, can take part in. We can all participate in one way or another when it comes to tackling climate change, and as a global issue, it is every human’s responsibility to be a part of the solution. Everyone needs to play a part if we want to see big changes.
Let’s discuss what it looks like to do what you can when you can. Baby steps.
1. Awareness: The best thing you can do immediately for climate change is simply to have an awareness that it exists. By acknowledging its presence, we can start to educate ourselves and see how our consumption of resources contributes to the problem.
2. Daily Climate-Friendly Activities: To address our individual contribution, we can engage in more climate-friendly activities. Small lifestyle changes like using reusable straws, water bottles, shopping bags, containers for food, etc. are easy to do, and these make an impact on communities at large. Everyday activities that are good for the climate can benefit us greatly health-wise, like having home-cooked meals more often to prevent excess trash, or walking and biking instead of driving to minimize carbon emissions. The average American produces about 4.9 pounds of trash daily, which leads to millions of tons of garbage every year. A sea change is attainable when lots of people are operating with climate consciousness and participating in reducing personal impact on climate change.
3. Applying Individual Talent: Remember that humans earned our place as the dominant species on Earth because of our adaptability and inventiveness, especially when it comes to building technological solutions–and climate tech is no different. Getting involved in climate organizations or transitioning into a climate tech career is now easier than ever. Climate tech is a booming industry that needs a range of skillsets to flourish. All talents, from mechanical engineering to design to marketing expertise, can be applied to finding and applying climate solutions. For more information about getting involved in climate change solutions or transitioning into a climate job, check out Climate People’s resource page. Careers in organizations like this allow individuals to use their abilities to pursue their passion of helping the climate without taking a loss.
4. Finally, vote!!! Voting is a great way to understand what is happening at the political level regarding climate change. You can express your beliefs about climate change by putting leaders in place who care about the planet at the local, state, and federal level.
Sustainability doesn’t need to come in the form of an electric car, expensive organic cotton clothing, or solar panels. It can begin with saying no to a plastic bag at a grocery store! As more people get involved at a personal and community level, the climate can be brought back to balance. When others see you make these small sustainable changes, many will be inspired to do the same. Keeping calm and taking care of ourselves has a role in the bigger picture, as when we nourish our minds, we can help nourish the planet.