Worrying about climate change has an adverse effect on our health and addressing this has to be part of the fight. (Shutterstock)
For over a quarter of a century, United Nations climate negotiations have failed to reach a legally binding treaty. For instance, the failed 1997 Kyoto Protocol was modelled after the success of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which legally required all nations to phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a chemical used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
Eco-anxiety — the difficult emotions caused by environmental conditions and knowledge — is on the rise. Global mean temperatures are rising, as are sea levels. Eco-anxiety will further rise if non-binding agreements, such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, don’t succeed.
An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the impacts of global warming predicts that if the current trend of global warming continues there will be a major climate catastrophe within our lifetime. More than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries warn that climate change is threatening ecosystems and humanity. Biologists fear the sixth mass extinction of species. According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, currently, one million species are at risk of extinction.
Our food systems have become vulnerable due to the loss of biological diversity of plant and animal species: we are anxious about hunger and food security, safety and fraud. As a researcher who examines just and sustainable transitions in food systems, I clearly see that climate change puts additional pressure on already vulnerable food systems and populations.
There is no shortage of commitments and declarations. Governments at different levels across the world have been declaring a climate emergency — over 1,000 jurisdictions and counting. On June 17, 2019, the Canadian House of Commons passed a motion to declare a national climate emergency.
Escalating fear and anxiety
The declarations of climate emergency might help to increase the mobilization of financial and human resources for climate actions. Additionally, the use of wartime language can exacerbate fear, panic and depression among those who are already vulnerable to other sources of anxieties. These sources include anxiety arising from chronic food shortages and ethical production and consumption.
Eco-anxiety can further exacerbate food anxiety, which has been provoked by a range of food scares, food poisonings, distancing of food supply chains, hunger and farming crises.
Disrupting food systems
The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land, to which I have also contributed, recommends eating less red meat. This report estimates that livestock, crop, fertilizer and fossil fuel use in agriculture account for about 21 to 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Canada’s Food Guide recommends reducing meat, egg and dairy consumption in favour of plant-based protein sources. In Canada, agriculture was responsible for about 10 per cent of national greenhouse gas emissions, the largest share coming from livestock.
Nearly 70 billion animals are slaughtered for consumption annually. Eating more plants can achieve benefits for the planet as well as human health. The 2019 Food Policy for Canada promotes low-carbon, climate-resilient and less wasteful food systems that also support local economies and jobs.
A low-carbon food future will clearly disrupt employment and jobs in industrial food systems. One way to secure a sustainable and just food future could be to promote agroecology, which combines science and social movements to transform carbon-intensive industrial agriculture into low-carbon and climate-resilient food systems.
Eco-anxiety should be recognized and addressed as a social practice together with other sources of anxieties, including food anxiety. We should avoid isolating or blaming those who are affected by it. And people are increasingly refusing to live in a constant state of fear. As a result, climate anxiety has sparked mass movements across the world, like the school strike for climate and the Extinction Rebellion.
People who are anxious about climate change can benefit from facilitated engagement in climate science. The Environmental Health Clinic at New York University provides a space to talk about climate concerns and prescribe local climate actions as a social practice of reducing eco-anxiety.
Despite high stress and depression, Canadian farmers hesitate to seek help because of social stigma. We obviously need a new generation of competent fighters, science engagement professionals and community development workers in record numbers. We also need to mobilize mental health counselors, psychotherapists, learning circles and support groups.
About The Author
Laxmi Prasad Pant, Senior Lecturer, University of Greenwich; Adjunct Professor, Associated Graduate Faculty, University of Guelph
Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities
by Peter Plastrik , John Cleveland
The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future. Available On Amazon
by Elizabeth Kolbert
Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Available On Amazon
Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats
by Gwynne Dyer
Waves of climate refugees. Dozens of failed states. All-out war. From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts comes a terrifying glimpse of the strategic realities of the near future, when climate change drives the world’s powers towards the cut-throat politics of survival. Prescient and unflinching, Climate Wars will be one of the most important books of the coming years. Read it and find out what we’re heading for. Available On Amazon
From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.