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How to progress from eco-anxiety to eco-action


We now know how the oil industry made us doubt climate change.

Some years on, it has been suggested that Big Oil [who ‘fully owned the villain role’ in 2023, the hottest year ever recorded] and its many lobbyists [notably at 55 Tufton Street] have retreated from the now untenable climate denialism to create “The New Climate Denialism

One approach is to simply insist that ‘climate solutions won’t work’  or are ‘too expensive’ [ although inaction could cost $178 trillion]

The result is that a third of UK teenagers believe climate change is exaggerated.

There are other strategies –  for example that Big Oil coined ‘carbon footprints’ to blame us for their greed. It seems, then, that worrying about your carbon footprint is exactly what Big Oil wants you to do. This is a Harvard study from three years ago now – that Big Oil is trying to make climate change your problem:

It’s not just ExxonMobil telling us that it’s consumers, not companies, who are responsible for climate change, of course. Chevron regularly highlights how it’s keeping the lights on for all of us. Shell leans on consumers to “do their part” by choosing carbon neutral energy. And BP famously invented the ultimate tool for pinning greenhouse gas emissions on individual consumers: the carbon footprint calculator

This is also not a new tactic. The gun industry has deployed it since the 1920s (yes, they’ve been on the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” thing that long), and back in the 1970s the infamous “crying Indian” ad, funded by a cohort of packaging companies, made wasteful packaging a littering problem, caused by people thoughtlessly refusing to pick up after themselves, not companies unnecessarily wrapping their products in trash. 

A further strategy is to make us so anxious that we descend into a pit of despair – and do nothing. It’s easier said than done to ignore the doom-mongers:

Doom-mongers do more harm than good, the United Nations’ new climate change chief has said. Prof Jim Skea, the newly elected head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that apocalyptic messaging merely “paralyses” the public and fails to motivate them to protect the planet…

And an excellent Drama on 4 today looked at The Great Delay – which looks back in the 1990s and “the hot-house environment of a PR company as it sought to shape the world’s response to climate change”.

The result is that today two thirds of Brits are struggling with climate anxiety.


This week is Children’s Mental Health Week.

In particular, how can we help kids cope with ‘eco-anxiety’? Because, climate change has become a mental health problem.

There are many, many ways to counter eco-anxiety – for example, with some fabulous half-term Events at the River Cottage Kitchen & Store.

Here’s a list of 5 positive actions you can take with your kids to help tackle climate change.

And there are all sorts of positive, engaging ways forward, from how community gardening could ease your climate concerns … to how despair can be turned into meaningful action … to how to talk to your children about climate change … to actually asking your doctor about: prescribing activism for eco-anxiety in adolescents

Finally, here’s an expert’s advice for helping young people deal with eco-anxiety:

On Sunday Morning psychotherapist Caroline Hickman explains how to help children and young people who feel powerless. “We wouldn’t dream of not talking to our children about a divorce or a death, something significant affecting that family [because] they’d be going to bed worrying about it on their own. So talk with them about everything that’s going on. But do it a little bit every week, rather than just saving it up and having one big conversation.”

Finding stories of activism and achievement can be introduced to inspire and override worries, Caroline says. “We need to just treat [them] with respect and listen to them and then they feel we’re working with them, rather than patronising them, or silencing them, or criminalising them for taking action and protesting on the street.”