Climate Change, Mental Health, Costuming & Me

Warning: this post contains triggers.

Sometime in late April my brain figured out how bad climate change is going to be.

I’ve been aware of climate change for as long as I can remember. I wrote a paper on it for school when I was 15. I got into a massive argument with a professor about it my first term in university and derailed the entire lecture (still not sorry).

But I managed to be aware, without grasping how bad it’s going to be.

It’s going to be bad. High likelihood of completely dead, un-swimmable oceans bad. Mass extinction bad. Potential death of all humans by 2050 bad.

My mind took the realisation…badly.

By badly I mean I went from blithely happy to extremely depressed in less than 24 hours, and became so anxious that in one four day stretch I spent more of my awake hours having panic attacks than not. I had so many panic attacks I pulled a muscle in a my chest from hyperventilating. It was not good.

I’m seeing a doctor, and a counsellor, and am coping. Not well, but better than 7 hour long panic attacks coping.

It turns out there is a name for what I have: eco-anxiety. The name is only a year old, but the amount of people dealing with extreme depression and anxiety about the environment is growing every day.

That’s actually a relief. It’s a comfort to know that other people have also looked out at all the people in charge who are pretending this isn’t a problem, and looked out at the horror of what is to come, and had a complete melt down. That actually gives me hope. It means that not everyone is pretending it’s business as usual. It’s impossible to go on living a wasteful life feeling like I do, so the more people who do, the more we will have to change.

But feeling this way is horrible.

I talked a tiny bit about counselling, and dealing with depression last year, but this time everything I do to keep myself on track is a trigger.

I can’t make plans into the future, because the future is so uncertain.

I can’t travel, because it’s the biggest thing I do to contribute to climate change.

I go for walks along the coast and have a panic attack because there will be no more beaches.

I go for walks in Zealandia, and have a panic attack because so many people have worked so hard to save the native birds, and we’re probably going to loose them all anyway.

I try to costume or work on Scroop Patterns, and I think: what’s the point? Sure I may not be hurting the environment, but what am I putting all this work in for?

I’m also having a complete crisis of faith in humanity.

I’ve always treated morality as personal: you do whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. But now lots of people who I otherwise liked are doing things that are hurting others, even if it isn’t in front of their face. If you’re still choosing to build a big house and drive an SUV and eat tons of meat and dairy and drive and fly a lot, you’re contributing to the deaths of people. You’re effectively committing murder. How can I treat you as a friend and a decent person?

How can I treat myself as a decent person when I don’t give up every possible thing that I do that contributes to the problem?

I don’t have answers to any of these questions.

I’m trying my best to be happy now, because now is OK, in any way that I can that isn’t contributing to the problem, but it’s not easy.

I wrote about giving up flying, and the most common word people used in reaction to that information, here, on Facebook, and on IG, was selfless.

I’m not acting out of selflessness in stopping flying for pleasure. I’m acting out of self-preservation: I literally can’t cope with the guilt.

This post is rather disorganised, because I’ve been trying to write it for two months, and can’t figure out how to put it together.

And how I feel changes from hour to hour: I swing between having hope, and feeling that I should do everything possible to help, and feeling that the world is totally and utterly screwed, and I may as well just eat all the fish and dairy and spend everything we have travelling, because we’re all going to die young, horribly, so might as well have fun now.

Here’s what I’m trying to hang on to:

  • Cutting back, having less, could actually be good. If being a historian and the Fortnight in 1916 has taught me anything, it’s that there are many aspects of the modern world we could be much happier without. You can live an amazing, happy, life in a small neighbourhood, with much less amenities and sensory input. For many of us it would be a healthier lifestyle: physically and mentally. The trick is to move quickly enough that we can preserve the good parts of modernity (medicine, increased human rights).
  • There are other people who care and are trying.
  • Costuming and pattern-making, while not exactly saving the planet, can at least be less planet-detrimental than most other jobs and hobbies, and are based on useful skills that will help to preserve civilisation, if we can manage to survive.

Here is what I’m doing to help:

  • Giving up flying for work and pleasure. I’ll still fly for family, partly because my parents are getting older and really need me, and partly because I’ve figured out that they live such an eco-friendly lifestyle that if I go for long enough, and go at the right time of year, I can actually reduce my carbon footprint by living with them instead of living in Wellington.
  • Cutting my dairy consumption in half. I’m working on giving it up, but down is better than nothing.
  • Treating fish as an extreme treat food/giving it up entirely. We have a bunch of cans of salmon and sardines and tuna in our emergency kit, so I haven’t stopped eating it until they are gone, and I may eat it in Hawai’i since my parents trade veg for fish from friends, but I’m definitely not buying it anymore. Sure, probably the oceans will go acidic before we’ve completely fished them out, but I’m trying to operate from a place of home.
  • I’m still eating hunted introduced pest game, but no other meat – in my circumstance I’m pretty sure that eating hunted pest animals is better for the environment than mono-cropped vegan protein.
  • Planting trees. This is harder than I had anticipated. I feel like we should be in total panic-mode ‘plant trees anywhere you can squeeze them in’ mode – but not yet. 🙁
  • Learning to cycle again, so I can cycle to work. I’m still figuring out the part where exposure to cold in winter is really bad for my health.
  • Buying an electric car. We’re car hunting as soon as I get back from Costume College, and I’m so excited. (and for anyone who is going to point out that they read some article that says electric cars are really bad for the environment, the Venn diagram of ‘studies that say EV’s are bad for the environment’ and ‘studies funded by petrol companies’ is one circle).


  1. Stafford Belinda says

    so, we who live now, must act now. to save whatever can be saved. I think I know that, but i’m still hiding from the knowledge. My excuse is that it is unclear how i can act constructively. An electric car? joining a group/community or making one? getting away from plastic? I think the greenest thing I do is make (most) of my own clothes. The worst? car or plane?
    working where one lives, and trading locally and globally would have to be a good plan. so I think the Dreamstress should be a sound proposition. Lead on, please.

  2. Jane Cadieux says

    I’ve seen that wall of depression looming and have been burying my head in the sand to avoid it. I’m working on small steps to reduce my footprint, but it’s pretty damn big. Living in the suburbs of LA doesn’t lend itself well to eco-friendliness. things are just too spread out.
    I have been speaking to some of the companies that I rely on about ways they can help cut down on trash (mostly plastics). Any recommendations on books/resources for learning how to eat vegetarian? I don’t know how to make balanced meals without meat or cheese.

    • Robin Gorsich says

      There are hundreds. I like the Moosewood cookbooks, but I recommend going to your local library and checking out a bunch and seein what works for you.

    • Elise says

      I live in a big sprawling city, too. Luckily, it is only temporary. But I am learning a lot about what I can live with and cannot live with. My first hope is to live in a city that does not require air conditioning, and one that has decent public transportation. I feel with you so hard.

      The Guardian has wonderful recipes, and even a column called “no waste cooking”. Since you are in LA, do check out traditional Mexican food, which is bean heavy and features vegetables, and relies on eggs for extra protein as needed. (Mexican food is thought of as meat-heavy, but only because of the role of cows in the culture–“cattle” and “earnings” are the same word in Spanish, after all: Ganado) Of course, there is also all the fun LA-type food, too!

      Looking forward to reading other people’s takes on this. Thank you so much for starting a conversation!

    • Ari says

      I really like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It’s got good recipes that are actually useful for everyday life. I would also echo Elise and say to look for cuisines that are heavily vegetarian such as Indian or Mexican. Diet for a Small Planet is of course the classic tome on vegetarianism and well worth reading. Also, entirely anecdotally, having grown up in a vegetarian/occasionally pescetarian household, you don’t need to stress as much as you think about getting a balanced diet. Eat some beans and get your b12 and iron checked every so often and you’ll be fine.

      • Elise says

        Ari–I avidly read the Guardian’s coverage of diets that help our mother earth. So your cookbook recommendation will be on my next to-read. Thank you so much!

        And replying back to Robin’s original post, so many traditional diets are earth-friendly: Mexican, Indian, Mediterranean…I have been Paleo far too long (I have celiac, and husband lurves meat so…our family has some work to do. Thank you so much for the recommendation!!)

        I see that your last name appears French, and I can say that I have had delicious vegetarian meals in France: taboule (ok, that’s Middle Eastern, but I ate it in France a lot!), Omelettes for dinner, bread and cheese, carrot salad with lentils…

        Sorry to write so much, just that food is lovely!

  3. Natalie says

    I didn’t finish reading. I can’t right now. But I’m commenting because I need to go back and read this in a time and place where I myself won’t start to panic because from the first few paragraphs I feel… Exactly. The. Same. Way.

  4. vivien dwyer says

    I went through this too and then did some research. We will not kill mother earth, she will survive even if we don’t. So will life. Even oceanic acidification has happened before and been overcome (excessive vulcanism last time). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, it just means that one needs to be aware that we are not that important in the giant scheme of life, the universe and everything.

    Perspective is everything.
    Chin up 🙂

  5. Christina Kinsey says

    Thank you for this. I am by nature an optimist, so l do hope we will get this sorted. The fact there is so much awareness now gives me hope. Personally, although l am terrible when it comes to sorting my recycling, l travel by bus, make my own clothes and buy as much as l can from charity shops for things like shoes etc.
    OK it’s not much but better to do something l think

  6. Diya says

    I feel the same about the environment. I try my best to buy any alternative available for plastic articles. I save up tiny piecesof fabric and use them up. But to do more i really dunno how to proceed. I wish i could contribute more. Prayer(if one believes in a higher power) and imagining the world is going to be a better place helps. Nature reciproates humans thoughts. So we all must start thinking earth is greener , full of flora fauna,. We must think thst rains will pour in dry lands. We must not once imagine what we don’t want to happen. I am not preaching. But just sharing my thoughts. Wish u speedy recovery . I feel what you feel

  7. Sewstine says

    Thank you for speaking up. This was so brave of you. I feel the same way but haven’t spoken up before. As a leader in the community, I am so glad you said something.

  8. I feel this a lot too. I also think of it as “load-bearing anxiety”, because there is is extremely little that I can do personally that will do anything to save the planet (I already do many of the things on your list, or a variation, for example) so I’m just having an anxiety attack and this is the thing it chooses to focus on. I’m sure theres more I can do, but as an individual consumer, it’s not much. I’m glad you’re able to access help.

  9. Brodie says

    I feel this so deeply. I try and do what I can but it feels like it’s hopeless sometimes. It’s really hard to still have respect for people when you go to their house and there are 20 different plastic moisturiser bottles in their bathroom and they are constantly buying new plastic toys for their kids that are discarded after a week. I just want to say to them, hey, see your three year old sitting over there? The world she is going to grow up in is going to be terrible and harsh if you and everyone else keeps acting like there’s nothing wrong. That’s not polite though. I’m not perfect and there’s still lots of ways I need to improve but you just have to keep trying.

    • Elise says

      I struggle with this, too. How do you love someone who denies global warming and wants to cage children? (talking US, here)

      So much of the punting the global climate crisis depends on ambivalence to others if not the outright hatred that blames parents for fleeing violence. I don’t want to be the hypocrite who struggles with respecting those who harm others. But how does a person overcome that? Then again, maybe I am not the one who needs to overcome, but rather those who excuse or even exacerbate the crises.

      I do think that loving each other will spur movent on the climate crisis and solve the refugee crisis at the same time.

      That was a lot of typing for ‘you are not alone’. In fact, I have read a considerable amount on how this (US) presidency has broken up families as family members cross the Rubicon into supporting hate.

  10. OK, so here are some counterfactuals and perspectives. When I was a school kid, our exercise books had back covers all featuring different horror stories about the future Stuff like, by 2050 there will only be 2 sqm of space on earth for every person. That was one of the less terrifying ones. And I went into a three year long panic attack. Nightmares, terrors, it was unspeakable and I don’t like even remembering it.
    The other thing is that one of my day jobs is working on the 1 Billion Trees project, one of the aims of this is to get 40 million more native trees into the ground in the right places etc in the next three years. and it is happening. And that’s just one of the goals. And our government is making that happen and it gives me faith.

  11. dropping stitches says

    Thank you for continuing to draw attention to this. It can all be so overwhelming. Please keep talking about it with us. It might lessen the burden just a bit, and I like learning about what others are doing to stem the tide.

  12. Claire Payne says

    I recently did the Marie Kondo tidy up and now have 50% less stuff. I can highly recommend the process for anyone who wants to be mindful about what they consume. It really made me think about how much is enough. I could probably do it again and part with another 50%. There is a huge difference between what we actually need versus what we consume. It also made realise that everything we buy has an impact. I am both ashamed of my previous level of consumption yet proud that I realised and took action.

    I hear you about consuming less dairy. As a vegetarian, I feel that I have made less impact than if I had eaten meat but the dairy industry seems to be ramping up on an industrial scale which is threatening the water supply here in Canterbury, New Zealand. I think I will try having dairy free days every week to start with and see if I can take it further.

    In short, my motto for life now is to live with less. I use up what I have before I consume more and aim for zero waste. We will be moving house soon (I hope) and want to down size to simplify and consume less.

    You aren’t alone in thinking as you do Leimomi. Thank you for sharing.

  13. I often wonder if people are ignoring this because looking into that abyss is paralysingly terrifying. I don’t know how to live with those thoughts either, so I push them into the very back of my mind too, but they do pop up occasionally.

    That said, I purposely don’t own a car (bike commute to work), refuse to get air condition and try to cut back on single use and plastic stuff. When I do fly, I feel guilty. When I talk about those things with people around me IRL though, most just give a blank stare and shrug. Or they try to justify themselves “oh, but I NEED …”, “but this other alternative isn’t perfect either…”.

  14. Anita Joy says

    Several years ago, I came across an interview that recalibrated how I received and integrated the
    cacophony of messages about the environment. Messages that gained a momentum when Rachel
    Carson’s book, “Silent Spring” was published September 1962.

    Perhaps the perspective of Lynn Marguilies (first wife of Carl Sagan) could be added to your
    reading list….

    Google “Gaia is a Tough Bitch”. Personally I find the discussions at edge.org to be measured and
    considered in a climate of doom & gloom merchants. Do not lose heart.

  15. Peach says

    Yes. Get it. Agree. Am also struggling. And I have the horrifying reality of living in Australia, where my STATE is the primary reason we don’t have a Climate Change reality government in place nationally, because: Mining Jobs. Australians are addicted to big eco wasting homes, big SUVs and big steaks. The paralysis I feel is devastating. How to manage? One step at a time. And make every decision matter. And cats.

    • Elise says

      Yeah, my cavalier comment earlier does indeed hide the this of existential depression. The US politicians along with the other myopic evildoers make it even harder to hope.

      No comfort to give, just empathy.

  16. Bravo! Education is key. Please continue your wonderful platform.

    There are many simple ways anyone can contribute to saving our beautiful planet.

    Plant a garden beneficial to pollinators. Even a pot of milkweed on an apartment balcony is something!

    Try and avoid plastic at all costs. You can start with something simple such as carrying/using cloth bags or using paper or metal straws. Say no to water bottles.

    Educate yourself on what “clearing the clutter” and “throwing something away” really means. Because our things don’t go “away”. They just move locations. The key is to consume less.

    While just these small simple steps won’t eliminate anxiety, it can’t help ease it.

  17. I think the things you’re doing to change your impact are commendable. I’m struggling with this right now myself, though I must admit I think most of the reforms need to be systemic and regulatory. However, for perspective I’d maybe try and look at some geological/palaeontological history. Mass extinctions have happened before, and while the scale and scope is kind of beyond our individual understanding, life does continue and will rebuild. The atmosphere and the oceans have changed before, sometimes rapidly. When the dinosaurs were alive, there were no polar ice caps. Those started forming after Antarctica reached the South Pole, and wiped out every piece of native life on that continent.

    This doesn’t mean we’ll survive, or that we shouldn’t try to change things, but it helps me mitigate the panic.

  18. Dee White says

    My heart goes out to you and others who have been affected similarly by the irresponsible “crisis fear mongering” that has been flying around media.
    Please know that others do care and that while some things do change beyond our control, as is always the case over our lifespan, other things will remain constant. You are resilient. And so is our planet.
    Try to find one little beautiful thing in every hour. It will help. Keep your calm and find the faith that sustained your grandparents through tougher times than these. Their blood runs in your veins. They made it through and so will you. Have hope.

  19. Elaine says

    Hi, longtime lurker here. I feel this deep in the soul, especially since individual actions to slow climate change are but the tiniest drop in the ocean compared to the impact that even one of the 100 companies that contribute 70% of greenhouse gasses in the world would have if they a) acknowledged climate change and b) committed to changing their practices.

    The best thing, imo, to do to combat climate change is to work to elect officials that will commit to regulating corporate greed and environmental impact. Start at the very local level. Get your city councils, your mayors, your local representatives to hear your voice. Urge them to support renewable energy sources at a macro level.

    It also helps me to remember that the earth won’t die, though we might make her too hostile to support humanity. The earth will abide, with or without us.

  20. Rozy says

    I’m so sorry you are having a crisis! Take heart, the predictions I heard in my teens (70’s) and twenties (80’s), which are the same ones frightening many today, have never come to pass. They are simply scare tactics by those who want to take power and control the wealth of the world and enslave the rest of us. Don’t give in to them. Do you believe in God? If not, I feel sorry for you. If you do, have faith that He knew what he was doing when he created this world. There is enough and to spare for all His children; it is only because of evil (think of dictators in Africa who keep their people in poverty in the most resource rich areas of the world) that there are inequalities of distribution and opportunities.

    People are the answer! People see needs, study it out, get the inspiration, and then solve the problems. Don’t listen to those who tell us to give up our way of life (flying, driving, eating health giving foods, A/C, etc.) while flying on private jets, driving huge vehicles, owning and living in multiple homes, etc. They are hypocrites and liars! There are fewer cattle in the USA now than there were buffalo in earlier centuries-Did the buffalo not fart? Let’s not be so hasty in believing those whose agenda is not in our best interest.

    I suggest you peruse this website (ADMIN: LINK REMOVED BECAUSE WE AREN’T GOING TO GIVE ANY AIR TO UNSCIENTIFIC NONSENSE) and see another side of the issue. They have great educational resources! (ADMIN: NO THEY DON’T)

    • Elise says

      I am afraid that I cannot support the link that you provided.

    • KH_Tas says

      Please stop with this rot – it’s the side that say it’s not happening that are the liars and the ones trying to hold onto power at everyone else’s expense, and the environmental movement is not all ‘hypocrites and liars’, but mostly good people who can’t live in greed and denial of reality. I’m not going waste typing time point by point arguing all the other stuff, but it’s all wrong, and the scientific predictions on climate from then are only too accurate. Not even going to click on that link.

      • Elise says

        You know, I was driving to work, today, and thought to myself: “Dead children are more important than someone’s feelings” I admit that I gave a rather tepid response to this original post because I was thinking about “civility”. But dead children are just more important! So thank you for jogging me out of my cloud and reminding us all that we have to fight fight fight even if it is uncomfortable and scary. Children are counting on us to save them from excruciating death. Thank you.

        And to the original writer, the one with the condescending and disingenuous language about “feeling sorry” for those who do not believe like she does: Look at the picture of dead Valeria. Look at the picture of Alan. War will come out of the climate crisis, and views like yours will cause more suffering for the world’s children.

    • I believe in believing things that are shown to be true, regardless of who says it. Truth is what matters, not judging the messenger.

      After all, if we didn’t believe the Bible and Jesus’s message because of the many, many people who claim to be Christian while daily demonstrating the most un-Christian behaviour possible, there would be no real Christians at all.

  21. Lillianne Barrett says

    If my personal experience is anything to go by the panic attacks will be easier to handle now that you have some idea about what is generating them. I live on the west coast of the United States and I spent the entire month of December 2016 on a heart monitor. Sympathetic cardiologist at the end of the month told me “… um…yes, we started seeing a lot of that following the election….”, with a sad smile. There are breathing techniques you can learn that help a lot. For me just stepping outside does wonders, but I am fortunate to live in a half acre garden.
    The other thing that helps is just what you are doing; 1) speaking the truth about the problem, i.e. this time we are the asteroid, and 2) being part of the solution, albeit knowing that the window for deflection or mitigation is getting smaller.

    Especially, do go on writing and sharing if you feel moved to do so; you have an audience, you are respected, it helps generate ideas. Believe that testimonies and stories are valuable tools, I am thinking about how influential “Silent Spring” was to my generations of North Americans, even if Rachel Carson herself was gone before the full impact was manifest.
    If it is of any comfort to you I think the tide is turning. Things feel different than they did even a year ago. Awareness is rising, not static, not falling! The thing is, as personally uncomfortable as it is, guilt and anxiety are part of what helps to move the process. It gets us “walking away from Omelas”, and that is a good thing.

  22. Steph says

    I hear you.
    What helps for me is focussing on what I can do, setting and achieving goals to be improve, and forgiving myself for what I can’t do.
    It is impossible to quickly and completely change an entire system built on profiting from current practices, and I’m not responsible for that system (and neither are you).

  23. I am only going to comment quickly because this has been a thing for me for some years now and the only way I manage to not completely spiral is to keep a light touch and not let myself/my brain and emotions dig into the panic.

    But I just wanted to say… me too. And thank you for writing this post. I am not doing all the same things that you are doing, and I feel guilty about that – there are other things I’m doing too. I feel guilty about literally every thing I do. But I try not to because honestly it makes me more likely to bury my head in the sand and think ‘well other people get to ignore it and the earth is fucked anyway so at least I can do what is easy in the meantime’ which is extremely self defeating.

    I am doing what I can, which is not enough and doesn’t always feel like everything I can do but it’s more than nothing, and I am trying to work my way up to more. I hope it can be worth something in the end.

  24. Kim says

    If it helps, your business means that you have the opportunity to reach people, and, if there is a profit, you an also use that as you wish towards planting trees or other ecological support. What’s the point? While we are still here, to do the best we can. Having more empathetic people like you makes the world a better place.

    And I tend to cherish the things I’ve made longer than things I’ve bought like my Otari hoodie. So, maybe by making patterns, you help people make things that will last.

  25. Jan says

    My parents believed in letting us children read anything we were capable of reading – and at 7 years old I read about the horrors of nuclear war and couldn’t cope. The nightmares are now less but still with me. One thing I learned is NEVER to watch horror films of any sort as that triggers more of the initial problem. And this includes watching ‘news’ telecasts which act the same way.
    It sounds simplistic, but don’t re-read (or watch) defeatist information that you already have. Go with the positives of what people are doing. And a LOT is being done, even if politicians are puppets pulled by the mega corporations and that maybe you can’t do anything about that particular issue. But maybe you can do what initially seems a little thing.
    As a sewer, I have decided I must be responsible for all I wear. For me, this means I chose cotton and wool, and eschew synthetics. I want to ensure that when I have finished with it, they can be composted, even if it takes a long time. Yes, I know cotton needs a lot of water, and that wool comes from livestock that produce methane and carbon dioxide, but as with many of these issues, it is not as simple as that, and I have made my choice on a lot of research and because I work in a related field.
    I don’t want to distract from the issue at the heart of this blog, but it might give you heart to consider that the concerted push to make us eat ‘fake meat’, ‘fake cheese’ and ‘fake other dairy products’ is not to help save the planet but it appears to be to provide a market for the mountains of GM soybean that can be grown in massive amounts but that so few people want to knowingly eat.
    Take a slow deep breath and think of walking somewhere beautiful. Best wishes.

  26. Tegan says

    This. Exactly this. My husband spent the last year mourning our species because hes an ecologist and hes seen the writing on the wall. Ive spent the same time being selfish and controlling how WE will weather what storms there are. He worries how can he write for future generations if there are none? I figure we wont have total species anhilation and some humans will survive just not at the extremes. So i teach who is here and encourage them to teach as well. We will not survive without beauty and love in our lives and creating is so important. Remember that when its bleak. We have passed no return but minus a comet or a bomb it wont be complete extinction. And the future we are creating will be read by those from the stars when they explore our planet so there will be someone to follow.

    This isnt reassuring i guess but its what helps me. Be well. I wish you strength and courage.

  27. Elaine Smith says

    Here’s the thing: you personally can give up everything you can possibly imagine, and it won’t be enough. It will take most of the world making changes before the outcome will be different. We’re already past the tipping point, such that we can’t continue much longer the way we are now. Nevertheless, I prefer not to believe it is hopeless, in spite of the resistance from much big business and my government.

    I urge you to look into Transition Towns and Transition Totnes. Organizations are springing up in lots of places. Working together with like-minded people has the best chance of success. One of the tenets is that no one person has to do it all, and that environmentally-responsible changes in your lifestyle can be enjoyable – as you point out.

    Working with others to accomplish change can refocus your attention from loss and despair to positive achievements.

  28. Nannynorfolk says

    Yes, I feel the same as do some of my friends and we are the baby boomer generation. It’s a feeling of helplessness as most governments are ignoring the fact of climate change. Today’s news is the artic has warmed by 4 deg and yet the uk government is still continuing to promote fracking and building another runway at London airport. Government is run by money and the more money people have the more profligate they are. Having lived frugally in the past we have learnt many years ago to be green but we still are trying to cut down on things. Sorry I don’t have much hope, especially for those generations younger than us. There is a phrase from a Roger Waters song which goes ‘ Give any one species enough rope and they’ll fuck it up’.
    We are the species.

  29. Lorraine Whitten says

    I’m glad you are getting some help and that it is making some difference for you. Sometimes, getting a little distance and perspective helps. Meditation, journaling, being in nature is constructive. Leaving large metropolitan areas is a definite plus. The constant stress can damage you. You continue to contribute to our collective civilizationand understanding of ourselves and our past. Beauty is the truth, and the truth is beauty. Keats was right. Also, in an infinite amount of time and an infinite amount of space, anything is possible.

  30. Lisa Adam says

    I’m so sorry to read of your grief (which is what I call it), but somewhat consoled to see that there are others who feel so personally the crisis in which we are all involved. Although, I, too, sometimes try to take the long perspective about the earth and its survival, the long view doesn’t diminish the suffering that is going to occur meanwhile, for both humans AND countless other animals, other species. What helps me cope (besides many of the eco-friendly personal choices mentioned by others): reading instead of watching the news, contributing to organizations that have more clout than me, and volunteering. I collect seeds and help grow trees for a huge revegetation project in my area. Every seed is a balm. Thank you for sharing your feelings, Leimomi–that, too, helps so much.

  31. Dear Leimomi,

    I’ve sat, phone in hand, writing and deleting, writing and deleting again. It’s all been blather, big words, pronouncements. Another go…

    Educated in history and public health, and working in the latter, I believe we’re in for a rough ride: cultural upheaval, civil unrest, environmental degradation and instability.

    Yet as humans we’re capable of pulling together, and countless people are working on altering societal production and consumption habits, and seeking and testing ways to mitigate climate change. On individual levels, humans are working with tree-planting, like Mrs. C, or wetlands creation, or hashing out what to do about food, commutes, homes, stuff, the desire to +have+.

    It’s frustratingly slow to happen, and we may not be in time, but like Lilliane Barrett, I think the tide is changing.

    What can I say to myself each night, those times when depression isn’t making me struggle to see any light at all, and God seems silent? “Today, I got a little way, I screwed up some. Let me rest now, for tomorrow I will try again?”

    Peace be with you,


    • Elise says

      Yes. I, too, have deep education in history, and sometimes I feel so sad that I have a kiddo and that she will suffer…but I try not to dwell on that, and think about what I and others CAN do!

      Your last sentiment is lovely! You give yourself grace, while still maintaining optimism and a hope for movement forward! Brava!

  32. Can I recommend the book “The New Pilgrims” by John McInnes – a fellow Wellingtonian? It’s aimed at Christians, but the practical suggestions around mobility, community, work/leisure etc are both useful and empowering. The book was published in 1980, but he was already considering the major issues which face us today. (A quote: “Is not the car a disease of endemic proportions?”)

    As a Christian, I believe that this world of ours will one day come to an end. I don’t know when. But I know that it’s not within my power to decide that. My only responsibility is to be a good steward of what God has entrusted me with – and that includes my time and abilities. And I have hope. Yes, we are majorly screwing things up. But God is still in control.

    In the words Tolkien wrote for Gandalf, “The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”

    And to borrow another quote from the same tale:
    “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
    “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

    • Elise says

      Thank you for your words. I understand that there is a break in the Christian world between those who believe that the Earth is meant to be USED (usually these are climate crisis deniers), and those who believe that the Earth was meant to be STEWARDED (those who believe as you do, and other Christians pushing for solutions).

      I feel pain for those who not only have the existential problems of Climate Crisis, but also must feel a faith problem and a split in the community. Are you affected by any of this? I am not in the community, and cannot really judge more than to express my anger at faith leaders who perpetrate the idea that Christians are supposed to use the Earth up, and believing in Climate Crisis is un-Christian. How dare they threaten heaven and hell on those who see the evidence of the climate crisis and want to help save our world.

      I got a little ranty. It’s just that two nerves are touched: the climate crisis and also spiritual abuse. I wanted to reply to you and share how comforting it is that you are tapped into a kindly, loving, positive and forthright version. Thank you for sharing this wonderful resource, too.

      • Using the earth is one thing – I use the earth every time I pick nasturtiums to pickle, or stew apples from my backyard tree. Abusing it, or using it up, is quite another!

        I think the domineering, extractive view of humans’ appropriate relationship to the earth is more prevalent in countries other than the one where I live (naming no names…), so I haven’t personally come across anyone saying that believing in climate change or caring for the environment makes you unChristian. And believe me, the debate would be on if they did.

        I wonder if those who hold that position have read the Bible carefully enough to note that God actually drove His people out of their promised land because they had failed to give the land the regular fallow years He had commanded. He told them that they would remain in exile for seventy years, while the land enjoyed the rest that they had denied it.

        Besides, the first ever human was placed by God in a garden “to cultivate it and guard it” (Genesis 2:15) – not to trash it!

        • Elise says

          Thank you for your reply and explanation. It is so wonderful to know that the particular flavor of Christianity I see often (living in the US) is rarer where you are. And since you seem like a lovely person, then I am extra delighted that you have easier access to a healthier strain.

          And thank you for so graciously responding. Climate inaction is a trigger, just like Leimomi. Religious abuse is another, So while I was genuinely curious as to your thoughts, I don’t think I wrote very well. So thanks double for answering my question.

          • You’re welcome1 I didn’t think your comment was problematic or ranty at all – at least, not more ranty than seems justified!
            I’m always happy to have a civil discussion about things that matter. As the Bible says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

  33. Reb says

    While I have little to add that hasn’t already been expressed–though I echo the sentiments already stated so kindly by others–I do want to add a transportation related anecdote: Many people who cycle regularly say it helps with anxiety and mental health. If you can find a way to make a place in your life for a bicycle, that can be helpful on several fronts. You’ll hear this from the London cycling community and often in the ultradistance cycling community, but it holds true for people who are commuters and shoppers and just out to visiting-friends. (Also, my personal cold-weather issues are lessened on a bicycle–though yours might not be.)

    • FR says

      Seconded. I have the great fortune that my bike commute is through a forest, and the combined effect of the cycling and the greenery is just *so* soothing. Would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity.

    • Elise says

      There is a lot of science of ‘bilateral movement’ (using both sides of your body) and decreasing depression and anxiety.

  34. Depression sucks. I swear my brain feels awful so goes looking for the reason. But as there’s no actual reason apart from brain chemistry, it grabs hold of the most likely suspect. And climate is a VERY suitable candidate.

    The first decade and a bit of my life were lived in a culture-wide terror of nuclear war. All the books I read growing up were of dystopian post-nuclear war futures. But then Glasnost and Perestroika happened and the Berlin wall came down. And … That sometimes overwhelming terror shared by myself and everyone around me, that defined the every moment, was just … gone. Like wha…?
    I guess I have experienced in my lifetime, the entire political structure of the planet can shift, and shift in only a few years and not necessarily with wholesale bloodshed. Our experiences are so individual, and climate crisis is going to be the same.

    But yeah… I can take a guess at what you’ve been going through. And that being totally blindsided by something you thought you were coping with. Yeah. Totally understand that too.

    I definitely have eco-anxiety though! Great term btw. Ironically, I do as much as I can but since I have a serious illness, and there’s little I can personally do.

    I’m very very glad you’ve carved out some good stuff from the mess. And don’t diminish in your mind the value of your patterns! Creating joy is … well if we’re not enjoying our life, what is the point in fighting to keep our planet as healthy as we can?
    So good on you.

  35. Kathryn A Neuman says

    Living in an oil-producing jurisdiction, I have been on this exact journey for a few years now. I cannot even begin to tell you what it’s like to watch my friends and neighbours flat-out deny this existential crisis even exists. I have a lot I’d like to say to you about coping, seeing the world around you and, of course, faith in humanity and our (truly astonishing) capabilities.

    I also have a lot I’d like to say about the role of capitalism in creating this crisis, and its absolute inability to solve it. We all have things we are going to do to address this; for me, pushing back against capitalism and pushing for a better, more humane economic system is it. We happen to live in a time of extreme crisis, but we also happen to live in a time where there are more human hands to put to work addressing it than have ever before existed.

    I could write reams. I won’t get into it all now, but if you are at all interested in talking more with someone who understands, please email me anytime. I’m happy to be there for other people struggling as hard as I do.

    And New Zealanders (and Hawaiians) (And Canadians like me) should absolutely keep working at saving their birds. It matters.

  36. Susan Robinson says

    I’m 72 and I have only a few things to say:
    1) you have wonderful friends online and I hope you do take away a sense that depression and panic can be managed at least to the point that you can live life. Goodness knows I’ve been there (the person who was terrified of nuclear was really rang a bell with me).
    2) Most books about the future are wrong. This is not to say that climate change isn’t happening and that things aren’t going to rough, but while all of us do what we can to mitigate the disaster, it will unfold in some unthought of way. Don’t read too many books. You don’t need to – you are living in climate change and can observe it.
    3) If you are considering a bike, consider an adult trike with a nice big basket behind it. You can haul stuff around with it.
    4) I’ve thought about how cold your hands get in the winter. I hate to mention leather, but
    a good pair of deer-skin gloves will help keep your hands warm as you create wind on your bike. Layer, layer, layer!
    5) Learn to sail. I haven’t been on a plane since I was in my teens but believe me, you can get around without planes.
    Good luck. We will all think positive thoughts for you. Susan

  37. Sue says

    What Deborah said. 🙂

    I too am a Christian who, while trusting fully in God, deplores what is happening to His creation. Whatever a person may think or feel on the topic of climate change, no one can deny that plastic in the oceans, poison in the waters, and pollution in the air are very bad things of which we, as humans, ought to be heartily ashamed.

    Because of a drastic life- and income-changing medical event twenty-five years ago, my husband and I have spent the time since then learning to pare down, be content with less (stuff), resist the pull of consumerism and perceived convenience, and soften the blow on the planet caused by the necessary actions of our daily life. We’ve made a lot of progress, but there is so much more to be done. Where we live, certain avenues are simply not open to us. I don’t always know which is the best path. Sometimes I despair of ever getting it right, but I will keep trying, for the sake of those around me, those who will follow, and for love of the One who made it all. May God have mercy on us, and give us the grace, wisdom, and diligence to be better stewards of this beleaguered planet.

    I am so sorry that you are experiencing this grief and anxiety, Leimomi. I hope and pray that you will be given strength to bear it, and grace to persevere.

    P.S. I’m a cyclist too, and it really does help with anxiety and depression. Layering is key for cool weather, and merino wool is your friend. You are so blessed to be near the source!

  38. Vanessa says

    I am so frustrated because I don’t see enough action. I don’t see our governments dealing with an immediate threat. It feels like they think we’ll still enjoy our way of life in 2050. I worry when I see people talking about positive change that I live in an eco chamber and there are still billions living extremely wasteful lives.

    I struggle so much with this and have made major changes in my life to be able to cope. If I do something every day, every day I at least know I am stepping in the right direction. Here are a few things that most of us can do:

    Don’t buy new, most things can be found on the local online market places or thrift if you are patient. If you absolutely have to buy new, buy as local as you can.

    Support eco systems for our smallest creatures, insects need native plants and shaded areas. Join your native plant society if you have one. If we support our insects, we support the entire food chain above them. Don’t plant non native plants if you can and absolutely not invasive plants.

    If you have a yard get rid of your lawn, native plants are the best, but there are bee friendly lawn alternatives that also need less water and less mowing. Dont use pesticides or spray for mosquitoes. I you’re overrun by mosquitoes, supporting insect life will attract animals and insects that eat said mosquitoes!

    Try to grow something you consume yourself, even if it’s just basil on your windowsill.

    Eat in season and local as much as possible, eating local grass fed meat can often be better than some imported foods. Our farmers market has a program with the food bank to give low income people vouchers to use for local meat and produce.

    Use ecoasia as a search engine, they use the ad revenue to plant trees.

    If you have income that doesn’t need to be used right now, lend money to projects that help increase sustainability for people in need on Kiva.org

    • Elise says

      These are swell ideas! Thank you so much for giving us tangible ideas that we can implement!

    • Get rid of lawn – sounds like a great idea! I will start thinking up ways to convert mine. (Can’t wait to get rid of the mowing!)
      I wish I could afford to just recarpet the whole area in tussock, but I might need to start with potatoes instead. First step: spend more time in the garden, developing the non-lawn areas with a view to increasing them.

  39. Tereza says

    theguardian.comI’ve planned to comment for some time but you already said it all. And the others above me as well. I live as ecologically as possible for someone living in a big city but everything is still getting worse. Hiking used to be my favourite activity but now I feel extreme anxiety when seeing all the dead plants and trees as we start having severe drought issues here in central Europe. But here´s what helped me most. Recently I came across a good way to channel some of my frustration in a positive direction: I joined Extinction Rebellion. I hope it´s OK if I put a link to an article which summarizes perfectly my feelings:
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/23/im-an-ordinary-person-who-joined-an-extinction-rebellion-blockade-heres-why-you-should-too Perhaps this information will be useful to you or to others who commented. Please take care of yourself.

  40. Sam B says

    Never feel hopeless…or at least don’t stay there too long. But seriously, research the term “Earthship”, a sustainable housing concept. Even if the environment does become horribly toxic, the Earthship unit is self-supporting, air-scrubbing, water-purifying, and upcycles materials saved from landfills. It’s housing that both protects the inhabitants from the environment, and protects the environment from (conventional) human pollution. More are built every year, all around the globe, including NZ, and each one takes a family off the grid. (I’m still saving up for mine.) It might be too much to hope that we build enough of them to fix all the world’s problems in a decade or two, but it’s not too much to believe that life-and humanity- will carry on for much more than just a few decades.
    The media never mentions how many people brought their reusable shopping bags last week, or switched to metal straws and bamboo toothbrushes yesterday, and the horrible predictions all leave one thing out of the calculations: the Earth heals itself far faster than we expect (remember the BP Gulf spill? or the Ozone repair after 9/11) Things are getting better, it just doesn’t make the news.

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