by Erika Dilling, Global Health and the Environment Honours Major, 3rd year at York University
“When I think about the climate, I feel…” One Resilient Earth founder and director, Laureline Simon, prompted the virtual group of scholars and climate activists. Despite being a relatively straightforward question, I found myself struggling to answer it. Twitter debates, university lectures, and Netflix documentaries have taught me the mechanics of climate change but left me somewhat inept in reflecting on my emotions toward the topic. It made me wonder whether I have ever had an honest conversation about climate change.
Climate anxiety, “an overwhelming sense of fear, sadness, and existential dread in the face of a warming planet”, is an understated effect of the climate crisis. Creating a sustainable future requires resilient individuals, communities, and ecosystems – all of which are strained when climate anxiety goes unaddressed. A study in The Lancet revealed that climate anxiety is far more pressing than originally hypothesized, particularly for young people. Seventy-five percent of respondents agreed that the future was “frightening”.
“We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back.”
— Greta Thunberg, House of Parliament speech, 2019
Concern over the warming planet, unresponsive governments, and profit-driven corporations are not unfounded – far from it. But as Laureline Simon emphasised, “it should be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful.” Integrating “earth belonging” (a sense of being wanted and welcomed by the earth), imagination, creativity, relationship well-being, body wisdom, and emotional fluency can help widen our individual and collective windows of tolerance. The first step can be daunting: talking about our feelings.
When I think about climate change, I feel, at times, numb, guilty, and frustrated. I choose to believe in a positive future for our planet, not because I think it is the most likely scenario, but because I do not know how to cope with the alternative. I invite you to the space Laureline Simon has built through her own vulnerability. If we truly believe we belong to the earth, then we also must believe we belong to each other. Moreover, from that belonging comes reciprocity, vulnerability, and acceptance. In a time of intense overwhelm and unprecedented catastrophes, loving is a radical act.
As Congress 2023 comes to a close and regularly scheduled life resumes, remember the importance of taking care of yourself. Nurture yourself like the planet depends on it. More resources are available at oneresilientearth.org.