Eco anxiety | ditch the stress and create change
What is the hottest topic on the planet as I write this? The planet itself. Fires are raging in Australia killing an estimated half a billion animals and counting, tearing through homes and towns and creating a vast smoke and ash cloud visible from space. Glaciers are melting, the human greed for palm oil is decimating habitats and destroying the life giving rain forests that we know are crucial for the survival of every living thing that inhabits Earth.
Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano shared this image of an ash cloud over Australia on Jan. 13, 2020.
(Image: © ESA/NASA)
Scary stuff. Developed countries have a habit of ignoring disasters unless they are on our doorstep. Well here they are. We all know how we (humans) have destroyed parts of our planet, which is partly the point of this post, so I wont list any more. Basically- Earth needs to heal and needs our help.
What should we do?
The above mind map is enough to make anyone anxious. (I would like to point out now that my handwriting is not as bad 'in real life' but writing on a screen is not as easy.. I actually think it adds to the chaos though so shhh...) This is what, according to all sorts of media channels, we should be doing and all of the issues that arise from them. Now- add in scary news headlines and the stress of running your daily life and, if you care enough, it is a recipe for a mental health disaster. Along with conflicting messages around what we can do to help our earth repair, there are totally different mind sets surrounding the matter. As with any contentious, or even more gentle issue, we are only human and therefore have different backgrounds, experiences and cultural influences to help us form an opinion. In my recent experience, the minute we (family/ friends/ colleagues) start to discuss the welfare of the planet, it lights the touch paper and there follows a long and, sometimes heated, discussion about the best way to reduce our impact. There's nothing like telling someone that you're vegan if they are not open to the idea- believe me. This creates added stress all round to a subject that doesn't need to be so divisive. We are talking about being kind after all.
What can we do?
I don't really know of course. If anyone knew then we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place- but I will tell you how I plan to stop being paralysed by fear and hopefully do my bit to help. This is more about mindset rather than the physical acts. For those I highly recommend a book by Sarah Allen '52 tips to reduce waste' which you can find here - it is a really easy to follow guide and I will pop a proper review of it on the blog soon!
1) Do what you can. You forgot your shopping bag? Get an empty box from a shelf or ask for one and use that to transport your shopping. You have to get a 'convenience lunch' because your whole family has a bug and food prep didn't happen this weekend? Don't go for your number one choice if it is covered in plastic. Get the next best thing and then buy your (plant based) ingredients and prepare your meals for the rest of the week tonight. What I am saying is that you can't be everything to everybody all of the time. You can, and should, aim to be the most perfect, carbon neutral eco- warrior known to humanity but the chances are you'll occasionally slip up and it's not your fault. Modern life is hard and if you can't get local, organic veg every day- don't panic.
2) Take time for yourself. This sounds odd in this context but stick with me. People use meditation in different ways but by simply focusing on your inner self, and your breath for just a few minutes a day, you will have a better chance of not allowing the'headlines' and chaos to get to you. This in turn may help you approach life in a calmer manner in general and allow you to let strong opinions and terrifying news reports wash over you. Once your mind is more settled you will hopefully be able to see new ways of achieving your environmental goals whilst acknowledging and accepting others. I can hear you now... 'I am a working parent who doesn't have time to meditate... bloody hippy' (Ok you wouldn't say that- I am sorry- I added that for comedic affect) but you DO have time. You owe it to yourself to have time and I promise that just 3 to 5 minutes (increasing the more you love it) per day of calm, reflective space to focus on your breathing, gently brushing your other thoughts away will be the best thing you do this year.
3) Remember not everyone is at the same point on their journey. I was listening to the 'Rich Roll podcast' - who's guests include athletes, doctors and in this episode a person called 'Guru Singh' (who I don't know much about but seems to be a font of positive well-being) and I heard the phrase 'wilful ignorance'. This really changed my thinking around the impact we can actually have on other people in terms of their views and aspirations. If a person knows about the climate crisis but has not reached a point yet where they are willing to do something about it. If the concepts that you want to show them throws their whole view of reality out of the window. By suggesting something that goes against what they have been conditioned to think for their whole life, why would they listen? So you listen to them. If you see a glimmer, an opening or some kind of will to change their habits, speak to that. Be careful not to go off on your soap box (I am guilty of this) but instead be kind, gentle and acknowledge other peoples fear of change. If you focus on changing those who aren't ready to change, this will only leave you feeling exhausted and unmotivated and add to the anxiety. If you look to those who are open to the idea of change, you can feed off of each others motivation, energy and the shared goal of leading a kinder life which will help heal the planet.
And that's a (hummus... obviously) wrap!
What has this all got to do with children's books? Well, for me everything! The other thing I chose to do for our planet was to write books which would inspire the next generation to care for it. Hopefully, by the time they are adults, they wont be dealing with the concept of 'eco- anxiety' and will just know how to be kind to themselves and the environment. Not just through books and formal education, but because we would have role modelled kindness and awareness as a necessity and acted quickly enough to stop the environmental crisis in it's tracks.
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