OPINION: Community and collective action is the key to fighting climate crisis

Nov 10, 2023 | OP-ED, Opinion

My daughter really likes to look out the window. She’s only 10 months old, but it’s as if she’s attracted to the outside world that’s constantly in motion. Watching her point to cars, passersby, or tree branches moving in the wind is always a wonder.

Sometimes, however, the more I look at her, the more I wonder what future she is destined to face.

Anthropogenic climate change is the greatest crisis ever faced in the history of humanity. It deprives current generations of confidence in the future by replacing it with climate anxiety.

This collective feeling will not limit itself to persecuting only Millennials and Gen Z but will go further, influencing the lives of future generations.

I believe the main solution is to bring people together and create a deep sense of community. No one is alone in the face of climate change.

We need to break this mental bubble where we believe nothing is going to change and reach out to one another. If we did, we’d find that persistent fear and anxiety are shared by many people in our neighbourhoods and city.

CAMH’s senior scientist and clinical psychologist Dr. Sean Kidd says collaboration is the key to tackling climate change.

“The most effective way of reducing climate anxiety is to bring children and youth together to sort of learn about what the issues are in a way that’s not all catastrophic,” Kidd said. “A sense of purpose can come out of that, and that’s the best way to reduce anxiety because you’ve got a group of people that feel like suddenly they have a role, they have a voice, and they can really do something.”

It’s not that anxiety suddenly disappears. That’s not the point.

Anxiety, and everything related to it, will still be there because climate change is not going anywhere for a long time for sure. But it’s the psychological outcome and the personal reactions that are different.

I really hope I’ll be able to make my daughter understand that it’s normal to feel scared and anxious and that those feelings are very reasonable responses to such an overwhelming issue like climate change.

But she will not be alone in this. The global consequences of climate change can’t be ignored anymore, even in the face of the most stubborn and blind denialism.

It’s easy to feel angry when looking at the political inaction towards climate change. Canada likes to play the part of a country that abides by climate agreements, when in reality, its emissions reduction plan for 2030 is consistent with 2° C — the threshold the world must respect if it wants to avoid a total catastrophe — rather than the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C warming limit.

That was confirmed just a few days ago by an audit from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Office, reporting Canada will miss its 2030 target of reducing carbon emissions 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels.

In this way, policymakers and world leaders can’t ignore the anxiety-turned-anger of this generation and the subsequent two generations that can also vote. We need to rise above easy solutions that are not solutions.

We need one another and to build actions together. That’s how people could look at a hopeful future, just like a child looking outside a window for the first time.