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Home School of Communications, Media, Arts and Design Blog 2021 December 14 Climate Change: from anxiety to action - Public Relations Student Event Re-cap

Climate Change: From Anxiety to Action - Public Relations Student Event Re-cap

Introduction

The news coverage of the flooding in B.C. has brought the impact of climate change very close to home. A group of postgrad PR students from Centennial College recognized many are feeling anxious, afraid, frustrated and powerless about climate change, so they hosted a virtual panel discussion called ‘Climate Change: from anxiety to action’ on Monday, Dec. 6 to share strategies for coping with climate anxiety.

The distinguished panel of climate change experts and activists provided insights and ideas for addressing feelings of distress about climate change and taking action to help the planet.

The four panellists were:

  • Rebecca Weston, co-president, Climate Psychology Alliance North America;
  • Susanne C. Moser, PhD, leading climate change and social science researcher;
  • Laura Zarta, founding director, Global Warning Agency; and
  • Aliénor Rougeot, climate and energy program manager, Environmental Defence.

Key takeaways

  • Breaking the silence about climate anxiety: People often keep silent about their feelings of distress about the planet’s future. Those who are anxious about climate change may busy themselves with individual action and feel guilty about the lack of impact they are making.

Rebecca Weston explained climate psychology involves breaking this silence and the barrier between therapy and the external world. At climate cafés, meanwhile, participants can discuss their fears and confusion about climate change, connecting and collaborating with others.

  • Preparing for a changing climate: Humans are creatures of habit. However, we can expect change in all parts of our lives, from trauma due to natural disasters through to transformative change of whole systems. Climate change will affect virtually every field of work.

Susanne Moser has been working on the Adaptive Mind Project to provide individuals and leaders with the skills and capacities needed to handle change.

  • Using art and activism to make the uncomfortable visible: It’s common to undermine youth by telling them to wait until they’re wiser and more experienced, yet a lack of experience with the status quo provides a fresh perspective, an ability to look at things differently. Art can raise awareness of social issues and move people from understanding to commitment and action.

Laura Zarta’s NGO, Global Warning Agency, works with youth in Colombia to build bridges between sustainability and creativity through art projects and education.

  • Take action based on personal skills and interests: Climate action activism is not necessarily speaking into a megaphone at city hall. Aliénor encouraged guests to identify the form of activism that makes them happy and makes the best use of their skills and interests.

Aliénor Rougeot discussed three main routes into activism: volunteering with an existing group, signing up to receive calls-to-action from an environmental charity such as Environmental Defence and influencing those in your network.

Conclusion

During this time of change and extreme weather events, individuals and groups are taking a range of actions to ease their climate anxiety, from discussing the issue with others to creating art or becoming an activist.

If you are feeling anxious or uncertain about climate change, know that you’re not alone. The first step is to acknowledge your feelings, then you can find the form of action that feels best for you.

Resources

Climate and mental health:

https://www.climatepsychology.us/ [list of resources]

https://www.climateandmind.org/ [list of resources]

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Saving-Us/Katharine-Hayhoe/9781982143831 [book]

https://www.brittwray.com/gen-dread-newsletter [newsletter]

Environmental groups and support:

https://ecotoronto.org/toronto-environmental-organizations/ [directory of Toronto groups]

https://www.climatepsychologyalliance.org/events/500-climate-cafe-jan [virtual climate cafés]

https://climateawakening.org/ [virtual climate conversations]

 

By Eleanor Willner-Fraser, Public Relations - Corporate Communications Student