Defining Our Eco-Emotions
Between Australia's wildfires, the IPCC, and Greta's speeches, these past months have left us in need of a new emotional vocabulary.
Unless you’re a champion at denial, climate change has probably become a feature in your daily conversations.
Along with news of wildfires in California and Australia, we’re growing increasingly accustomed to extreme weather warnings and reports of flooding. We also hear more stories from coastal communities dealing with rising sea levels or those up north adapting to melting permafrost. Even if you’re nestled safely somewhere in between, it’s impossible to avoid the onslaught of news headlines. On top of all that, in 2019 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change officially recognized global warming as responsible for increasing our anxiety and stress. We need to be aware of the emotional toll this crisis is having on us.
In healing from a tragedy, psychologists often talk about the usefulness of “naming” one’s grief; it’s time we familiarize ourselves with the growing nomenclature of eco-anxiety. Here are a few ways you can voice your ecoemotions during your next family dinner or small talk at the coffee machine.
Anxiety stemming from the increased frequency of extreme weather events.
Inability, due to fear or hopelessness, to respond to environmental problems.
Guilt over wanting to do something for the planet but not acting on it. Flygskam is a special form of eco-guilt: the Swedish term refers to the shame of travelling by airplane.
Distress caused by the ongoing loss and grief of a place that’s being irreversibly altered. It is the existential and lived experience of negative environmental change, such as the loss of glaciers for Inuit communities in Canada. A form of homesickness one gets when still at home.
Anger, shared by many activists, over the damage done to the planet.
Deep emotional trauma from experiencing environmental disaster.
Anticipation of an apocalyptic future.
A combination of the French word soli, for solidarity, and the ancient Greek word philía, for love. Environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht regards soliphilia as the antidote to our eco-anxieties and defines it as:
A positive emotion of love for a place, bioregion, planet, and the unity of interrelated interests within it, and a willingness to accept the political responsibility for protecting and conserving them at all scales.
It is the solidarity needed between people to actually restore and repair damaged environments. Soliphilia is very much alive in climate protests, but it can also be kindled by a simple walk in the woods with loved ones.
Source: Glenn A. Albrecht, Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World, Cornell University Press, 15 May 2019.