Climate change is one commonality that affects us all. The issues that arise from a shifting world — including environmental disasters like floods, super-storms, drought, ocean acidification and mega-wildfires — have resulted in an increased amount of mental distress that can be traced to a sense of bleakness about the future of our planet.
The decision we all must make now is whether to do anything about it. The choice to take action is not always an easy one, and the threat of climate change can definitely make you feel like the odds are stacked against you.
But that isn’t the case.
Before I began my journey as an environmental activist, I frequently found myself paralyzed by fear of the climate crisis, often feeling helpless and as if nothing worth doing would make a difference.
Eventually, I grew so tired of not being able to sleep at night and being depressed that I knew I had to finally do something. The small steps I took led to my becoming more involved with my community and gaining many amazing mentors along the way.
While developing relationships with many of the activists, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one haunted by the anxiety and depression that often comes with the knowledge of climate change.
Developing an understanding of the struggles of my mentors, along with the struggles of our natural environment, helped me form a willingness to both learn more and gain a passion for making connections and educating myself as well as others on the wonders of Mother Nature.
Jeannie Chari, professor in the Biological and Environmental Sciences Department at College of the Canyons and coordinator of the COC Biodiversity Initiative, was able to share her experience and offer some words of encouragement to those who want to take action.
She stated, “Biodiversity loss and social and environmental injustice have bothered me for a very long time, and sometimes I find myself losing sleep and chasing worried thoughts in my mind. However, being present and using my time to do things that align with working toward solving these problems is very fulfilling, and mitigates the worry and often replaces the concern with calm. My advice to students that feel a sense of hopelessness is to get involved. There are many ways to do this, and you definitely don’t need to major in environmental science to be involved. The solutions will come when we are all working together from different places toward common goals for the common good.”
Knowing that those I admire have also struggled with the mental state of grief due to the climate crisis made me realize that I wasn’t losing my mind or actually being helpless at all.
Rather, I was experiencing a metamorphosis from fear and anxiety to empathy — a path that many environmentalists take in order to propel us toward the road of activism.
Though it may seem like there’s a wall blocking your path, that wall has a door, and all it takes is for you to take a small step through it and let your journey begin.
Carly Perl, adjunct professor of environmental sciences and geology at College of the Canyons, shared that the best part of her career as an instructor was witnessing her students become environmentally conscious and motivated to take action.
Increasingly witnessing this as a professor negated the anxiety and fear for the future and replaced it with a strong sense of hope and confidence in future generations that are already making massive changes in our society and around the world.
Professor Perl, as well as many other environmentalists I’ve met, loves talking about how proud they are of the younger generations partaking in the climate fight, and they love encouraging them in it.
So for someone looking to get involved, it can seem scary at first, but taking the first step will lead to an abundance of people who can and want to guide you through it all.
It can be so easy to get caught in negativity these days. However, the path of sustainability is one built on hope and understanding. Although you may feel anxious and depressed about the state of our world, there is a vast community of people who care and are waiting to welcome you. Why not take the first step toward them today?
Jacob Morales is member of the Santa Clarita chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and is an environmental sciences major at College of the Canyons.