More and more people are suffering from eco-anxiety: worries about climate change and its consequences. This is not surprising, because every day there are reports in the news about global warming, forest fires, floods, endangered species... Especially among young people, this can lead to feelings of stress, helplessness, and depression. How do you deal with these feelings? How do you stay confident despite everything?
Last June, the TU/e campus hosted Green Week: a week dedicated to sustainability. As part of this Green Week, we as TINT gave a workshop on 'eco-anxiety', to offer students a place to exchange experiences in this area and come up with new ideas on how to deal constructively with feelings of eco-anxiety.
When preparing for this workshop, I was inspired by the book "Zen and the art of saving the planet” by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He describes how he constantly seeks a balance in life between being an activist (he was actively involved in the peace movement during the Vietnam War, among other things) and mindfulness (constantly seeking sources of inner peace and focus). This is also how you can sustain working for a more beautiful earth in the long run. He also explains that there are many different ways to contribute to a more beautiful planet. For some, it is by demonstrating, for others by contributing to sustainable innovation, while others are good at listening and thus can alleviate the suffering of others.
Sitting comfortably on picnic blankets under a tree, we exchanged how each of us deals with climate anxiety through a series of exercises. I found it interesting that the experiences varied widely. There were students present who were fully involved in climate demonstrations. They talked about how this gives them the feeling of at least being able to do something and not being alone in this battle. However, it is challenging for them to stay aware of their own limits and not get a burn-out. Another student mentioned that she is still searching for how she wants to contribute. She thought about getting involved in a political party with green ideals. Yet another student said he regularly lists his concerns and then chooses the three most important ones to work on. Addressing all concerns at once is too much and this way it becomes manageable.
After the workshop, the participants said they were glad to be able to share these feelings and to experience that they are not alone. On your own you cannot save the planet, many people together perhaps can. Who knows...
Margit van Tuijl