Climate Change Depression – Part One
To climate scientists and anyone dealing with the global warming issue on a personal level please consider this post as an advice column. I don’t have all the answers to fight the mental darkness in association with the climate crisis, and I am not a psychologist, but after years of dealing with depression and therapy, perhaps I can relay some helpful ways to emotionally cope. Some people know that I have been suicidal over other issues besides the climate crisis, but I’m still here writing and trying to enjoy life. Let’s see if I can impart some of my wisdom acquired over years of dealing with my own depression. Some may want to respond to this column telling their own stories about mentally dealing with the subject of climate change. I was inspired to write this piece after getting the news about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. The Washington Post came out with a good article on suicide today:
First we know that if not mitigated carbon pollution will threaten the very future of our civilization if not humanity itself. Knowing this is a dark thought indeed, particularly if one has children. Occasionally we encounter authors that state in long articles that “humans are doomed” or “the planet will be unlivable by 2100” leaving some doubt over more rosier forecasts. Unless you are the type of individual that shrugs off a barrage of news like this thinking, “oh well, I’ll be long gone before the year 2100, so why should I care?” you are susceptible to information that your body and mind can react to negatively.
Most climate scientists move forward mentally, though, convinced that through hard work and change a +2C average world can be avoided, thus preserving Earth’s civilization for generations to come. Some scientists and environmentalists press on with their depressing work trying not to think too much about its ramifications hoping that by concentrating on statistics and the work itself, like Spock, they won’t be mentally affected. We are not Vulcans, though.
One big reason why there is so much climate change denial among the populace is because most can’t deal with any more negativity in their own personal lives. It’s hard enough to make a living, stay physically healthy, and help solve close friend’s and relative’s problems, let alone deal with another existential threat. I’m middle aged in my fifties not expecting to live much past the year 2040 if I am lucky enough to see that date, but I’m concerned about new climate scientists and people knowing that they should live to the year 2060, 2070 and beyond. Generations coming after mine will have to shoulder a heavier personal burden.
Worry and stress play directly into depression, and concern that one will not have a good future because of potential wars over resources, such as water for example because of climate change, may be wearing on the brain. It would take tough individuals indeed to live in a “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” climate changed world, and most can’t cope with such a plausible future, to be honest.
Bad news is hard to accept and can be very depressing. When it gets too bad the mind can’t deal with it, so like a flower closing at night most of us who are chronically depressed mentally close for protection. Sometimes staying in bed trying to sleep for days on end to escape reality is the first defense mechanism of depressed people…been there done that.
Now as of 2018, particularly in Europe and in the Americas, climate change isn’t so bad of a problem that laymen are depressed about the subject. In fact many news organizations are choosing not to air climate information, so it’s out of sight out of mind. I didn’t here a peep from any big news broadcast that the lower 48 states had its warmest May on record, for example. It’s not as if most individuals and families are directly threatened yet unless you live along the coast. Just ask residents of Houston after suffering from Harvey, or those in Puerto Rico after Maria, or people in the Northeast after encountering Sandy.
Climate scientists, though, know of coming hardships for all. Most of us climate scientists and writers are not an easy going bunch to be around. One word of advice for those concerned about the future climate is to not dwell on the subject when around friends and family. Sure, converse about global warming at length if the subject comes up, but talk about sports, hobbies, or your children to at least give the appearance of a bright, sunny personality and to keep your mind away from a sizzling frying pan of negativity. This segues into my next piece of advice.
Don’t isolate. Make sure that your pressure valves are operational and not rusty. It’s always healthy to have several friends on top of loving family members. Talk through problems with confidants, not just emailing or posting thoughts on social media. We as humans are wired to communicate verbally reacting emotionally to tonal inflections. It’s hard to let off steam into a computer, or so I’ve found.
When I was in therapy I was told of the cup analogy in which people that tend to get depressed only have the capacity to hold just so much negativity leading to worry. I suppose that no matter what our mental constitution is like, all humans have their limits. Climate people obviously are human and have other concerns besides global warming. Bad news coming from new findings, or just a bad day in general, just might fill mental cups to the point of overflowing so that we become susceptible to shutting down, getting sick. Please drain some poisonous liquid from your mental cup via therapy and talking to loved ones.
I’m going to pause here to write about another type of person among us that doesn’t get depressed because of the climate issue but has a “bring it on” mentality that might backfire unless they are complete sociopaths. These would be individuals who are internally rooting for the planet to get hot enough so that they can say I told you so to the world, validating their work. To a certain degree, pardon the pun, I’m angry enough at some of my former climate change denial colleagues to want to see enough warming so they would admit they were in error. That may take quite the temperature rise, however, putting the health of the world’s population in great jeopardy.
If I had a magic button, I’d press it such that we would all be in error about the effects of carbon pollution for the sake of our fellow man. I’d love to be laughed at in an alternative universe for being wrong about the climate issue. Others may hold onto a “let’s get even, revengeful” attitude that isn’t very healthy. Oh the regret climate scientists will have in the future if all of our hard work and arguments fail to lower the planet’s temperature.
For part two of this essay I’ll tell all about some positive things that can be done to instill some peace, happiness and tranquility in one’s life so that in unison we can battle the climate crisis with healthy minds.
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The Climate Guy