Opinion: Eco-anxiety shows that responsibility continues to fall on the individual

As the climate crisis progresses, helplessness grows because of not being able to do much about it. Individuals become anxious while our leaders make decisions that put us in danger.

Hands holding a globe figure

Eco-anxiety is the “chronic fear of an environmental cataclysm that occurs when observing the seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change.” Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Opinión: La eco-ansiedad demuestra que la responsabilidad sigue recayendo en el individuo

The term "eco-anxiety", has recently begun to be used , refers to the anxiety that some people feel due to climate change and the constant dangers it poses. According to the American Psychological Association, eco-anxiety is the "chronic fear of an environmental cataclysm that occurs when observing the seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change , and worrying about the future of oneself, our children and future generations" .

And how could each of us should react to the fact that, for international entities such as the UN, there are only twelve years left before the climate crisis has no turning back ? How else could you react to the fact that literally our planet is dying and that just means our own extinction? What do you do when faced with a reality that, no matter how catastrophic it sounds, it is actually that: catastrophic? How can we not feel such a great helplessness in the face of a fear that cannot evaporate because somehow, as individuals, we can do very little or almost nothing compared to how big the problem is?

Yes, suddenly at some point in your life you wake up, you see a headline that catches your attention, you read the news that most of the countries that signed the Paris Agreement have not met the Sustainable Development Goals, and you start to investigate more about it. You get scared: those beautiful and curious texts have catastrophe behind them. Everything is ending, there is almost no going back . You decide to do something because, after reading a lot about it, you came to the conclusion that you are part of the problem. You turn your life upside down: you strictly recycle, you use your bike exclusively, you go to the ecological marches, you vote for the candidate who shows interest in the environment , you inform yourself, you inform your acquaintances, you share an Instagram post every time the Amazon is on fire and you are even going vegan. And still, every time you get up, the headlines don't change for the better; in fact they get worse. What are you doing wrong?

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We cannot ignore the existence of the climate emergency, and yet it seems that it is something that is not talked about enough. More importantly, it is something that is not acted upon enough . And no, I am not talking about individual actions, because the fact that eco-anxiety is a real thing shows that the responsibility continues to fall on the individual . It shows that who is affected (now in his mental health) is the individual who, no matter how many actions the person takes, he/she cannot do much if there is a corrupt government above us that does little or nothing in the face of this impending crisis. A government that does not protect environmental leaders, that does not promote collective actions to change the paradigm, that from the lobby allows large industries (which are also the real culprits of the problem) to continue doing and undoing with the environment without having real or immediate consequences.

Sure, individual action is the first thing to lead to collective action, but how long will that take? We are talking about something that is an urgency, an end that has its years numbered. We do not have time to wait for each person to react and initiate individual actions that put pressure on political leaders. And that is the main problem: there is no more time .

Then, what are we going to do? For now, all that remains is to demand, continue with our individual actions, and try to remain calm. But you have to demand first of all, you have to put the subject in conversation and not only feel helpless, because in the midst of everything we are doing individually, a change is being generated.

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