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5 Ways Climate Change Affects The Mental Health Of Young People

THE ORLANDO ADVOCATE — The European Parliament’s recent ban on single-use plastic products was hailed as a positive step in the world’s battle against climate change. Yet at the same time, younger generations around the world want to see more government action.

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By Frank Butler

The European Parliament’s recent ban on single-use plastic products was hailed as a positive step in the world’s battle against climate change. Yet at the same time, younger generations around the world want to see more government action.

Deeply concerned about their future as dire forecasts of a worsening environment continue, students from across the globe keep protesting. And while the threats often associated with climate change are to physical health, homes, the air, water, and economy, psychologists says the toll it takes on young people’s mental health can’t be ignored.

“The impact that all the aspects of climate change have on mental health is far-reaching,” says Leslie Landis (www.chendell.com), a family therapist and author of Chendell: A Natural Warrior, a fantasy novel with environmental themes. “It’s especially profound after natural disasters on teens, children and young adults – stress, depression, anxiety, and strains on relationships.

“On the other hand, the activism many young people are engaging in due to climate change is very mentally healthy. They’re inspiring others and trying to bring about action by getting people to take climate change seriously.”

Landis outlines some positive and negative impacts that climate change is having on the mental health of young people:

Positives

  • Activism. Young people are leading the way to fight climate change by forming mass protests around the globe. ”Climate justice is a fight for the future,” Landis says. “Despite rising sea levels, wildfires, extreme weather events and dire warnings from scientists, politicians globally haven’t responded as needed. And young people are enraged; they know that doing nothing, sitting silently, severely threatens their future.”
  • Innovation. In Congress, 29-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has put climate change solutions at the forefront with her proposed legislation, the “Green New Deal.” Young entrepreneurs are growing profitable businesses by focusing on environmentally friendly innovations. “Each project is an inspiring example of how young people are taking creative approaches to combating climate change,” Landis says. “In each there’s some solidarity, which is key to progress being made.”

Negatives

  • Anxiety, stress. “Fear of extreme weather, changing weather patterns, or worrying about what the future will look like because of climate change increases stress and anxiety,” Landis says. “That in turn can cause depression, sleep disorders and weaken the immune system.” One report says young people with depression and anxiety might be disproportionately more at risk for worsening symptoms due to climate change.
  • Trauma, shock. Natural disasters caused by climate change bring a high potential for severe psychological trauma from personal injury, the injury or death of a loved one, loss of personal property, and loss of pets. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result when feelings of helplessness and despair last for long periods.
  • Strained relationships. “Disasters can not only hit the structure of the home hard, but also the infrastructure of family relationships,” Landis says. “Relocations or just missing the usual conveniences can result in constant tension. Children may have to attend a different school, and the safe world revolving around their home doesn’t exist anymore.”

“We keep hearing the warnings about catastrophic conditions in the coming years, which add to lost hope among a lot of young people,” Landis says. “But the activism and ideas they engage in provide hope. And confronting a problem head-on is a wonderful way to achieve mental wellness.”

This article originally appeared in The Orlando Advocate

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Activism

COMMENTARY: “COVID-19 and White Supremacy, Creating Our New Normal”

We must rescue and refine the best of Black ways. Look at our historical grandeur. We once imagined the great Step Pyramid before there was a pyramid. How did we do that? Black people lived through over four hundred years of rabid, hostile, savage, dehumanization yet never became rabid, hostile, savage dehumanizing people. Our way, our worldview, our narrative, our normativity is what allowed us to do this. This is what we need to revisit.

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Dr. Wade Nobles
Dr. Wade Nobles

Black Mental Health pt. 2

By Tanya Dennis

With the global COVID-19 pandemic, we knew the world would never be the same. For some, COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to correct a society filled with bias, inequality, and meanness.

For Dr. Wade Nobles, long-time scholar/activist, and co-founder of the Association of Black Psychologists, “This is our time of reckoning. It is a time to redo what we have always done, sometimes under the radar, always in opposition to white supremacy. This is the time for Black people to interlock, reconnect and heal our community without European influence.”

Dr. Nobles, the Bay Area Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, and Oakland Frontline Healers are bringing together the best minds and calling on every sector to join them in the development of African American Wellness Hubs and an African American Healing Center in Oakland.

“Restoring wellness is to make the whole well. It is to connect everything and everyone in life affirming ways throughout the entire African world. Our way of being well and whole were well established in our past. In the past we gathered and found solutions collectively. Remember rent parties, Sunday church special offerings to send a child off to college or visiting the sick and shut in? These are our examples. In our way, personhood, familyhood, neighborhood, peoplehood, all the “hoods” are of equal importance. We can’t have a sick community and think our people will be well.”

Nobles and colleagues, after surveying and talking with Black people in Black communities across the nation, designed a detailed written plan for an African American Wellness Hub Complex. They envision a hub that is linked spiritually and psychologically, as a place where wellness and wholeness is real and ethnically authentic. Nobles said, “In many places our children are failing in school, many of our children are feeling they have no value, are being demeaned and assaulted. We need to take charge of these places. If teachers don’t love our children, they cannot ignite in them a desire to know and a passion for learning. If law enforcement doesn’t have high regard and deep respect for Black people, they will never understand that to ‘serve and protect’ means to be life affirming in what they do.”

“A big part of our new normal is to have in our thought, beliefs, and behavior the best of our wisdom, traditions and restorative practice available. This means to have in place living learning laboratories that are unapologetically devoted to our wellness, e.g., a wellness hub complex with healing centers. To have an exceptional and extraordinary place to bring people together and take them from hostile angry dis-at-ease producing places to places where we can work in harmony, create in dignity, and live to inspire life and ways of being that is affirming.”

Alameda County has stepped forward and is committed to establishing a Black Mental Health facility in partnership with the Association of Black Psychologists. The Association is grateful to Alameda County but notes four or five locations are necessary considering the amount of damage and illness that needs to be undone in the Black community.

Nobles says, “We must create a space, place and time that is guided by an African American wellness narrative that is awe-inspiring.” As an example of how important space is, he notes, “We tried to escape the blight and poverty of the inner city and move out to the suburbs, but all we did was go from inner city hostility to outer city hostility in the white enclave. At least in the inner city, our children didn’t lose their point of reference of belonging in the neighborhood or church. Healing spaces and places must be grounded in life affirming worldview and culture.”

“We must rescue and refine the best of Black ways. Look at our historical grandeur. We once imagined the great Step Pyramid before there was a pyramid. How did we do that? Black people lived through over four hundred years of rabid, hostile, savage, dehumanization yet never became rabid, hostile, savage dehumanizing people. Our way, our worldview, our narrative, our normativity is what allowed us to do this. This is what we need to revisit. We need a wellness place in our Black community where people can ‘imagine the better.’ A place where we can dismantle the ill and wrongfulness and recreate a vibrant affirming life spirit.”

Dr. Nobles says, “our new normal is the old African normal, where Black people inspired greatness just by living well and whole. Black people are a people of caring, sharing and daring. Our way was to care for our people, to share what we have, and to dare to be free. Our history records us having sacred places in nature where we would go to recreate our spirit of wellness. We need those places today and that’s why we need an African American Wellness Hub and healing centers.”

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Activism

Climate Despair and the Rise of the Doomers

On the subreddit r/preppers, there’s a weekly thread for people to share what they did “to prepare.” In the comments, people share anecdotes of buying ammo, dehydrating pineapples, and stockpiling canned goods. 

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By Sarah Clemens

It’s Earth Month, and the movement to let earth die has never been stronger.

“Doomers’’ are people who believe climate change is irreversible and society as we know it, will soon collapse. The term may be recent, but it’s flourished in online communities like the subreddits r/collapse, /doomer, r/preppers, and /bugout.

Posts on these forums are endlessly fatalistic. The top post, for example, on r/doomer begins, “[s]ometimes I wonder how we are not all walking around in a state of pure unquellable panic.”)

On r/preppers, there’s a weekly thread for people to share what they did “to prepare.” In the comments, people share anecdotes of buying ammo, dehydrating pineapples, and stockpiling canned goods.

There’s also r/bugout, a subreddit named after the term for military retreat. Here, people share pictures of their “bugout bags” and judge how prepared they are for “when s**t hits the fan.”

On the flip side, you have r/collapse users, who post memes captioned, “me listening to people talking about net zero carbon by 2050 being enough when I know we’re completely f**ked already.” They crack jokes about a bygone future, a self-imploding civilization.

While these groups may not be mainstream, they’re not small either. A 2021 Yale survey concluded that 70% of Americans experience “climate depression.”

Noah Oderburg, a scientist located in California, used the term “pre-PTSD” and said, “it’s not a trauma that’s already occurred. It’s a fear of a future trauma.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on global warming on April 4. Jim Skea, IPCC co-chair, said it was “now or never, if we want to limit global warming…without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

Three days later, four climate activists chained themselves to a JP Morgan Chase Building as an act of protest against the bank’s funding of fossil fuel projects. “The scientists of the world have been being ignored, and it’s got to stop,” said scientist Peter Kalmus in a video. He promptly breaks into tears.

The “doomer” movement is not without detractors who see it as too negative. At the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference climate advocate Greta Thunburg said, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” She spoke bleakly of reality, but also of hope for the future: “The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Hank Green, an author and science communicator with a large online following, recently posted a Tiktok about the subject. In the video, he says that while he’s “very worried” about climate change, it “pisses” him off to see people say humanity is doomed. “I’m 41 years old. I’ve been working on this since I was f**king 18. We didn’t let hopelessness eat us then, and I’m not gonna you let hopelessness eat you now.”

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Activism

We Must Solve Global Warming This Decade, Says Climate Strategist Wilford Welch

After being the diplomat to China during the Nixon Administration, Wilford Welch has been working and teaching at the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He has helped K-12 teachers teach climate change essentials to all subject areas and grades throughout the United States and wrote the book “In Our Hands” as the textbook. Welch has also been teaching Climate Potential and Climate Justice classes to students at the Bayside Martin Luther King Jr Academy in Marin City.

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“Global Warming,” Londres 2009 (street-art-avenue.com)

By Godfrey Lee

Wilford Welch, a climate change expert and author of the book “In Our Hands – A Handbook for Intergenerational Actions to Solve the Climate Crisis,” spoke at the Sausalito Council Chambers in Sausalito on Thursday, April 14.

Welch says that we must deal with global warming during this decade in order to avoid environmental and societal collapse.

Global warming is the problem, which results in climate change. We can’t do much about climate change after it happens, but we can do something about global warming before it affects us as climate change, Welch says.

After being the diplomat to China during the Nixon Administration, Welch has been working and teaching at the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He has helped K-12 teachers teach climate change essentials to all subject areas and grades throughout the United States and wrote the book “In Our Hands” as the textbook. Welch has also been teaching Climate Potential and Climate Justice classes to students at the Bayside Martin Luther King Jr Academy in Marin City.

Welch, who is a resident of Sausalito, is also an appointed member of the Sea Level Rise Task Force in Sausalito.

Welch asks us to think about what you would do if a fire was coming down the hill toward your house. That is an analogy to our response to the threat of global warming, which we may not see or feel but which is still happening. Welch says that we, in the United States, had six decades to really deal with global warming. Yet our actions had been insufficient as we were too busy with our lives and concerned with other social and political issues.

Global warming, which results in climate change, is increasingly, damaging our environment. We must therefore act quickly in this decade to change our lifestyle to minimize the environmental damage in the second half of the century, Welch says.

“We have all the technology capabilities we need to deal with the climate emergency,” Welch wrote on page xv in his book. “The only thing we lack is the individual, collective and political will to address this crisis. It is unclear whether the human race, at its current level of evolvement, has the maturity and wisdom, individually and collectively to do what is needed – or in the time it is needed. Let’s change that starting right now. The future is ‘In Our Hands’”

We can act by focusing on the global warming problem, choose how we want to deal with global warming, and act on our decisions as well as we can. We can increase our awareness about global warming. We can use 100% renewable energy, and switch to LED lights, were among the suggestions Welch made.

Everyone can take more action now to fight global warming, so that we can have a better future for tomorrow.

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