For all the endless chatter surrounding Climate Change, not much of the global conversation has centered on the connection between Climate Change and mental health. The psychological impacts of a warming world might seem intuitive, and rightly so. But on a personal and macro level, changing habitats and unpredictable weather patterns have had a universally negative psychological impact on people of all ages, races, religions, geographic locations, and socio-economic backgrounds– and this is a new phenomenon that scientists can actually measure.
Fewer eligible people are choosing to have children, many fear extreme weather events that they feel helpless to stop, farmers around the world are having a hard time making ends meet, the global supply of fresh water and oil decreases every day, and no one– young or old– seems to know the way out.
Below, Britt Wray, a science communicator, explains how the fear, fatalism, and hopelessness surrounding Climate Change has a surprisingly perverse connection to many other problems in society, like substance abuse; increased risk of violence, war, and political instability; adverse public health outcomes; and the loss of personal identity and control. These issues form the harrowing underbelly to ecological changes that Climate Change has already set in motion. In her TED Talk, Wray advocates for policies that therefore look at Climate Change not just as a scientific problem, but as a vehicle to protect humankind’s emotional, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing.
“Climate Change is all-encompassing,” Wray explains, “And so is the way that it messes with our minds.”
Wray also discusses the unsettling rise in anxiety, grief, depression, suicidality, and “pre-traumatic stress” among Climate scientists, which have been reported on for years. “Climate Change is all-encompassing,” Wray explains, “And so is the way that it messes with our minds.” This is particularly problematic for millennials and people of childbearing age. Herewith, she makes a strong case for why mental health should be an integral part of any Climate Change survival strategy.
Watch the video, below.
An interesting aspect of Wray’s talk also involves the opportunity that Climate Change presents for intersectionality– the one (perhaps only) positive aspect of addressing this pressing global issue. Because Climate Change impacts every demographic equally (if for different reasons), the global population will benefit equally from enacting solutions.
“Climate Change is really good at intersectionality,” Wray notes during one of the talk’s more sardonic moments. By this, she means, that Climate Change does not discriminate.
Whether you’ve experienced the impacts of flooding, a drought, a hurricane, extreme heat, or a food shortage, you’ll likely become equally advantaged by aggressive climate action and progressive policies. Everyone benefits from ecosystem preservation. Therefore, unlike so many other issues of global concern, the benefits of moving forward together on Climate Change compound with time and are equally distributed. When it comes to Climate Change policy, a rising tide really does lift all boats.
“Mental Health needs to be an integral part of any Climate Change survival strategy.”