Ellie Wilkes, our graduate intern, gives a personal account of how she tackles her climate anxiety
To say I’ve suffered with climate anxiety would be an understatement. I could spend time quoting academic articles and mental health studies, but actually the best way I’ve seen it illustrated is in a scene from a TV show in which a character describes how, in the complexities of the modern world, it’s almost impossible to do a completely ‘good’ action.
Whilst this shouldn’t overshadow the joy that the act would bring, and the positive mark it would leave on the world, it highlights the intricacies of our decisions. This can be found when food shopping; do you prioritise local produce, cost or nutrition? What’s worse for climate change; tofu or British beef? In the clothing industry, how can you find sustainable, local and affordable clothing on a high street dominated by fast fashion? Which energy suppliers are really 100% renewable and which are greenwashing?
I’ve spent hours, days even, dwelling on such complexities. Living in the information era with headlines like these, it’s a wonder I haven’t spent longer.
So why is it I haven’t gone running into the forest to live off the land and make my own clothing? For one I enjoy chocolate too much, but in reality, I’ve found my coping mechanisms:
1. Acknowledge that the modern world is complex
How are we going to fix it? I have no idea, but also I, as an individual, don’t have to know – that’s up to all of us. Instead I focus on what I can do and what I care about the most. Whilst it may not be a lot, it’s my best; I try and reduce the air miles of my food when I can, I use public transport and walk most places, and I try and buy fair trade. There are some things I’m not able to do, like switching energy supplier, but it’s certainly an impactful action for those who can. Everyone’s best will be different – you’re also not always going to be your best, but it’s worth trying and practice helps. This helps me feel like I’m having a positive impact on the world because, whilst one choice might not be perfect, it’s a better one.
2. Use routes available to you to raise issues when you can
Through my job, I have opportunities to have a broader influence. Regen has its own internal sustainability task force that allows us to raise new ideas to reduce the impacts of our organisation that we may not have considered before. This includes things like reducing the carbon impacts of events by having more sustainable catering, or thinking about where our pensions are being invested. This begins to bleed into the thinking of other aspects of the business as well; if we’re thinking about the sustainability of our caterers, why not also our auditors?
Externally, we run the Electricity Storage Network’s Sustainability, Safety and Supply Chain working group that is looking at the whole-life sustainability of electricity storage and is taking steps to try and improve the supply chain and increase recycling and re-use.
The ideas above that have been raised by staff or our members could influence the wider community, not only in its direct action, but also by showing good practice. Knowing this influence could lead to great things gives me hope for our future.
But finally, you’ve got to remind yourself that you are fighting for this planet a bit at a time, so don’t give up. As my TV character described, the world is complex and no action can be completely good. I think nothing sums this up better than a recent BBC headline, which I will leave you with: solar panels are being used to expand opium farms in Afghanistan
If you’re feeling a little lost, here are a few resources that will hopefully make those complex decisions a bit easier:
Which? have an article on how green your energy is, including a tiered system showing how renewable each supplier is.
There are a number of articles on how you can buy sustainable clothes on a budget, such as this one from Money Crashers.
The giki app allows you to assess how sustainable, ethical or healthy your food choices are, allowing you to make an informed decision based on your priorities.
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