Avoiding environmental catastrophe: From challenge to emotion to action

The systemic, interconnected problems that the planet faces are undeniable. They are exacerbated by humanity’s action and by its inaction. And they threaten our future.

The systemic, interconnected problems that the planet faces are undeniable. They are exacerbated by humanity’s action and by its inaction. And they threaten our future.

It is not surprising that this threat to our continued existence – as a species, along with other species, – and as a society, has led to the naming of climate-related existential anxiety and related emotions as ‘eco-emotions’: eco-depression, eco-anxiety and eco-anger.  The question is, can we – and if so, how do we – harness these feelings and help them support our mobilising ourselves to drive change and inspiring others to do the same? 

To celebrate Earth Day 2021, Routes to Resilience is hosting and participating in a series of events that look at this chain of consequences – read on to discover more and how to take part in the discussions! Registration links are at the end of this article.

The global polycrisis is caused by our collective inaction

The problems facing the world today are complex and interconnected and can therefore seem too difficult to overcome. The result is that humanity, as one, tries to bury its head in the sand and hope they will go away. Alas, the opposite is true. As Dr Gary Kendall will argue in his presentation next week, our collective reluctance to reconceptualise paradigms commits us to a future of growing systemic risk. Those problems will only become more complex and more interconnected as they deepen, so the best time to tackle them is now. In his talk, Gary will seek to uncover some of the assumptions about the global polycrisis we face and explore how we think about ‘wicked problems’ and the challenges they pose to a sustainable future.

Eco-emotions are on the rise

Clover Hogan, a young environmental activist, said in her TedX talk, ‘environmental disaster is the biggest mental health issue of our lifetimes’. In this undeclared but nevertheless very real war against nature that we have declared through our behaviour, young minds are the collateral damage. Facing a crisis that is not of their own making, and being told over and over again that they are the last generation with a chance to save the planet, it’s unsurprising that young people today suffer from ‘eco-emotions’.

Research carried out in the UK in 2019 showed that 70% of 18-24 year-olds were experiencing eco-anxiety, including feelings of helplessness, anger, insomnia, panic and guilt. We must do all we can to support these young people as they navigate their emotions, but can we also find ways to help them harness these emotions in order to drive change? After all, it is often anger that propels revolution. 

Routes to Resilience is excited to be participating along with an impressive group of young climate change leaders, in an important, youth-led conversation about eco-emotions and the need for transformative change. Our very own Nwabisa Mjoli will be joining five other youth activists to discuss their experiences and how they have brought them to where they are today. The conversation, being hosted by WeContainMultitudes, will be moderated by Gerry Salole.

Creating meaningful, actionable solutions

Once we have harnessed the power of our emotions and channelled them into a determination to drive change, the next step is to hone our ideas and create actionable, meaningful and effective solutions. It can be daunting to take this next step, let alone persuading others to join you in taking action. This is where it can be helpful to come together with others who share your drive and determination, and to learn the skills and mindsets that you need to turn your ideas into action. As part of our Earth Day events, Routes to Resilience will be hosting a workshop that will help participants to hone their ideation, innovation and design solution skills. It will be based around the Crazy 8s method, which challenges participants to come up with and sketch eight distinct ideas in eight minutes. The goal is to push beyond the first idea, and generate a wide variety of solutions to your challenge. After the eight minutes, participants share their ideas with their group – it’s fun, fast and a great way to learn those all-important pitching skills.

The journey to creating a brighter future for our planet will be long and difficult, but the first step is recognising that there are huge challenges and that we – as individuals, as communities, as a society – must act to address those challenges. Routes to Resilience’s series of events to celebrate Earth Day will, we believe, help to signpost some of the journey, and will offer perspectives and ideas for how we can recognise the challenges we face and harness the resultant emotions to turn ideas into action. We hope you will join us.

Routes to Resilience – Earth Day events

  1. Four Dilemmas of our Time, with Dr Gary Kendall (21st April 2021 at 5.30pm BST). You can join the waiting list for this event, and it will be held again in May for a wider audience – people on the waiting list will be given first priority for May tickets!!  Find out more and sign up to the waiting list here.
  2. A youth-led conversation exploring eco-anxiety, eco-anger and the need for transformative change (22nd April 2021 at 5.30pm BST). In a conversation moderated by Gerry Salole, four young climate activists will discuss their experiences of eco-anger, eco-anxiety and eco-depression, and how they have turned those feelings into activism and supported others. Find out more and register here.
  3. The Crazy 8s Challenge: Design Pitch and Sprint Workshop (24th April at 3pm BST). A workshop that provides an opportunity to work with others across the world to ideate and design solutions to complex problems, build confidence in public speaking, articulate ideas clearly and meet others with a similar commitment to solution-seeking for good. Find out more and register here.