Don't Leave Me Hanging: Practical Solutions to Climate Anxiety
If you’ve been seeing a pink, lilac & green poster here and there on your Instagram feed, all sharing one thing in common- a text message bubble reading Don’t leave me hangin’, you didn’t catch yourself being an early arrival to a new social media trend. During Earth Day weekend, Whering partnered with Bottletop to host an event series named Don’t Leave Me Hangin’, offering something for the earth, your wardrobe, and last but not least, yourself.
The first of these events (you know, the one we’re dedicating to Mama Earth) was a panel- featuring 6 wonderful speakers, with a steady foot in the sustainability ecosystem: Hannah Phang, Tolmeia Gregory, Wilson Ormeya, Tori Tsui, Jemma Finch, and Mya-Rose Craig. The group offered an extremely well-versed discussion of everything from COP26, barriers to sustainability and practical solutions to climate change - it was incredible, to say the least, to have the opportunity to learn from the panellists in person.
If you weren’t lucky enough to make it- and don’t worry we’re not holding any grudges, but we hope to see you at the next one- we’ll walk you through the highlights from the talk and reveal all the insider information provided by the sustainability experts. Join us and get to grips with climate anxiety and discover practical solutions to overcome feelings of helplessness and fear residing in all of us as of late.
For those who might not have heard of it, COP26 is an annual environmental conference held in Glasgow from the 31st of October to the 13th of November. It’s a chance for politicians and eco warriors to come together from all corners of the world and engage in crucial debates that can lead to real change. However, the most recent conference was not the most successful for reasons our panellists brought to our attention.
Discussing the effectiveness of COP26 is important to challenge event planners and politicians to create more inclusive and engaging events that reflect the people’s wishes. Mya-Rose Craig commented on the fact that it felt like the people who were truly passionate about the environment and social change were protesting on the streets - excluded from important conversations.
Not only were serious debates only open to certain officials (minimising the variety of voices heard) but many people who required translators and language support were not properly catered for. As people come together from all over the world it is crucial proper systems are in place to allow people of all language abilities to contribute and learn from discussion. The lack of translation support further reiterates the notion that western culture is central to climate change and anything outside of this is not a priority. Mya-Rose highlighted the extent event planners need to go to ensure climate events are inclusive; enabling everyone to have their say and benefit from discussions.
Tori built upon Craig’s observations, pointing out that ‘no one is free until everyone is free’. She drew attention to the fact that COP26 is a prestigious event that has become more inaccessible as a result of COVID19. To enter Scotland you need to have a vaccine, which meant some people had to travel to the US to get vaccinated. Upon arrival they would need to quarantine for fourteen days in the US, before quarantining for ten days when they enter the UK. The fact that vaccines are not readily available in all countries puts some people at a severe disadvantage when it comes to global conferences like COP26. Everyone in the sustainability field deserves to have their voice heard, but as Tori points out, the amount of time and money it takes to get to Glasgow makes it extremely difficult for some people. Annoyingly for those that did attend the event, they were not met with the correct translators which limited the extent they could participate in the conversation. Most of the attendees can speak good English, but many of them are most fluent in Spanish. If they are not able to speak their first language, one ends up with a group of people severely restricting and limiting their vocabulary.
Mya-Rose Craig concluded that COP26 was sadly underwhelming this year and many promises were made but not delivered. However, a momentum of hope always follows COP26, so let’s find out how our panelists channel their positive energy into making a difference.
Dealing with Climate Anxiety
The general consensus from the panel was that we all deserve time to process how climate change is actually making us feel. Too often we are encouraged to react instantly to news and events due to social media, but taking time to process how we feel about climate change is very important. Friends, Tolmeia and Tori, reveal they often give each other space to digest climate news before they discuss it. Tori suggests coming together and finding solace as a community is the most important thing, and whatever time we need to take to enable us to do that is necessary.
If we react emotionally, we react in a way that is unsustainable when it comes to achieving long term systematic change. Reacting in a way that enables us to learn from other people and come up with creative solutions and practical ideas to combat the climate crisis, is what Tori believes is important. We couldn’t agree more.
Young people place too much pressure on themselves to come up with solutions to undo damage caused by millionaires and big corporations, but Tolmeia reminds us that it’s okay not to feel hopeful all the time. We are only human and remaining positive about the climate crisis is not always realistic. There are ways to use your climate anxiety for the better, such as finding a way to use your strengths to benefit the climate crisis. For example, Tolmeia used her artistic skills to create educational and shareable gifs about the environment. Utilise your talents to raise awareness of climate change and inspire those around you.
Wilson Ormeya shares Tolmeia’s perspective, claiming we need to think about how we can restructure our personal power to combat the climate crisis. He suggests it is important to think about people we know that do not care about the environment and consider how their life path has influenced them to be unconcerned about climate change. Once we factor in those who are disenfranchised, we have a chance at helping them utilise their own power for positive change, as well as our own.
In keeping with the positive theme, Jemma Finch suggests making an active effort to spin negative conversations about life’s trajectory into positive chats is key to remaining hopeful about the future. Thinking about what we are excited about in the future will help us feel less hopeless about the state of our planet. She comments on the importance of making an active effort to rebalance conversations to include positive news as news outlets often focus on the negatives.
Mya-Rose Craig spoke about the importance of turning anger into action. She states that ‘covid hasn’t distracted us from bigger issues at play’ and we need to make sure our local MP’s know this. She insists sending persistent emails and letters to your local MP is an effective way to outline your concerns and demonstrate what is important to the people to encourage MP’s to factor in climate change into their policies. If we continue to take every opportunity to let people in power know climate change matters, they cannot ignore us forever. Sometimes the best way to manage climate anxiety is to take proper action to feel like you are doing all you can. Like the others, Mya-Rose agrees being eco conscious can be mentally exhausting, she seconds the importance of managing climate news intake for mental well being.
Barriers to Sustainability
Although, worrying about sustainability is a privilege in itself. Tori draws attention to the prevalence of class divide in the climate movement, claiming the climate crisis should not burden working class people. Not everyone has extra space for environmental concerns and many do not have enough money to shop at zero waste shops or buy eco-friendly alternatives. We cannot expect those that cannot afford it to make changes to their lifestyle when they are struggling to make ends meet. Tori also highlights the fact that working class people are often more likely to suffer the effects of climate change. Therefore, it is up to those in power to create systems that uplift everyone and enable minorities to flourish. As Tori says, ‘no one is free until everyone is free’. It is crucial we work on inclusive climate change solutions.