An extensive study among young people ages 16-25 has revealed that they are anxious about the future, and with good reason. The research, whose authors claim to be “the largest and most international survey of climate anxiety in young people to date … shows that the psychological (emotional, cognitive, social, and functional) burdens of climate change are profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people around the world. Furthermore, it is the first study to offer insight into how young people’s perception of governments’ responses to climate change is associated with their own emotional and psychological reactions.”
Under the section “Implications of all the available evidence,” the authors write: “Distress about climate change is associated with young people perceiving that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, that governments are failing to respond adequately, and with feelings of betrayal and abandonment by governments and adults. These are chronic stressors which will have significant, long-lasting and incremental negative implications on the mental health of children and young people. The failure of governments to adequately address climate change and the impact on younger generations potentially constitutes moral injury. Nations must respond to protect the mental health of children and young people by engaging in ethical, collective, policy-based action against climate change.”
I admire the proactive approach, but if it stays on the level of suppressing operations that are perceived as harmful to the climate, nothing will change. The climate will not improve and young people’s anxiety will find no relief. Dealing with each problem separately is like trying to stop an overflowing sewer system by sealing each manhole cover separately instead of shutting the valve that’s causing the flood. Likewise, to solve the climate crisis, we must get to its origin and fix what is broken there.
The climate is not a separate system; it is part of the global ecosystem where we live. The system is built as a pyramid of levels that function harmoniously and in an interdependent manner. If the harmony is obstructed on one level, all the levels below it will be adversely affected. At the top of the pyramid is man, of course.
Therefore, every obstruction in human society affects the entire pyramid, the entire ecosystem, or simply put: the whole world.
While the human level has never been harmonious, for the past several decades, it has been utterly dysfunctional. Worse yet, it is growing more so by the hour. It is no wonder that young people have no faith in older generations; they see the kind of world we have left for them, and they are not happy about it. If we want to help them, the least we can do is point to the real problem: human society.
All the negative phenomena, on every level, are offshoots of our dysfunctional relations in society. Storms, fires, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, rogue viruses, dying bees, and of course hunger and war, are all projections of our disharmonious relations that trickle down the pyramid and poison every level.
Therefore, if we want to change the world, we must change our society. Moreover, we must encourage the younger generation to lead the process, since in the end, they are the ones who will be here tomorrow.
If we build a society that favors unity and solidarity over individuality and competition, we will radiate that positive mindset throughout the system, just as we are currently projecting the opposite. Instead of ruining nature, we must learn from its example, see how it functions through connection and collaboration, and build our society likewise.
We needn’t fix anything other than our own broken, hate-filled relations, since nothing else is broken. When we become harmonious with one another, we will start projecting harmony down the entire system, and everything will calm.
Teens with Sunrise Movement DC march to the reflecting pool on US Capitol grounds to join in the global climate strike by Fridays for Future. Fridays for Future is a global, youth-led organization founded by Greta Thunberg and school strikers in Sweden in 2018. More than a hundred teens attended the protest in Washington. (Photo by Allison Bailey)