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    11 Ways To Help If You're Feeling Distressed About The Climate This Week

    It's possible to channel climate despair into climate action.

    The UN has released the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, outlining the threats in store for the world if immediate action is not taken to mitigate and protect ourselves from the effects of climate change.

    Hundreds of scientists contributed to the report, which warns that if we don't both dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ready the world for what's coming, we "will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all." 

    Closer to home, the catastrophic floods in Australia this week are a perfect example of how serious this really is.

    Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images

    We've followed the invasion of Ukraine – which comes with its own set of climate implications – and in between all of that, we've watched in horror as people and animals have been forced to wait for help on roofs while floodwaters rage around them in QLD and NSW. You can donate to the Red Cross Floods Appeal here.

    Amid all of this – deep breath – some of us are still processing the news that koalas are getting critically close to extinction.

    koala on a eucalyptus tree branch
    Florence Gabriel / Getty Images/EyeEm

    All of this to say: It's perfectly acceptable to have a heavy heart or to feel depressed or anxious in the face of so much distressing news. In fact, eco-anxiety is a rational response.

    A 2021 survey by the Australia Institute also revealed that 75% of Australians are worried about climate change. So, you're not alone. 

    so busy having anxiety about the russia situation that i forgot to have my regularly scheduled anxiety about covid and the climate crisis

    Twitter: @jmurffff

    While it's normal to feel helpless in the face of all of this catastrophe, taking some kind of action is a good coping strategy. So we've compiled some of the things you can do to make a difference as our planet burns, floods and falls apart around us:

    1. First, you should know about the Australian Climate Case against the federal government.

    vimeo.com

    Paul Kabai and Pabai Pabai are two Traditional Owners from remote islands in the Torres Strait and they're suing the Commonwealth, arguing that Australia should reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would protect their communities from harm. 

    If you think this sounds impossible, it's not – in 2013, hundreds of people sued the government in the Netherlands for climate inaction and they won. According to the Climate Case Chart database, there are now around 1900 active climate change litigations against governments and corporations worldwide, and this number will only grow. 

    2. Exert as much pressure on politicians as you can.

    climate activists dressed as a koala, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce at a protest
    Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images

    This can be as simple as sending an email to your local MP (check out this helpful pre-written template), or showing up to vote at elections with the climate in mind. 

    3. Hold some companies accountable.

    How you spend your money matters, whether it's divesting your superannuation or savings (you can check here if your bank has a record of funding the fossil fuel industry), or being more selective about where you shop (did you know that fast fashion is the third largest polluter and accounts for 5% of global emissions?). Our collective investment and daily spending decisions can amount to something huge.

    4. Support Australia's first Indigenous youth climate network.

    vimeo.com

    First Nations communities are the hardest hit by the effects of climate change, despite having contributed the least to its causes. Considering the profound connection to the land shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the need for climate justice for First Nations communities should be at the center of how we think about responding to the crisis. Seed is a movement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people who are working for climate justice – and they're asking us all to stand in solidarity. See how you can support here.

    5. Donate to, fundraise or volunteer for another organisation committed to the cause.

    Sending money is the easiest thing to do, but if that's not an option there are other ways to be involved as well. Check out the work of Climate For Change, the Climate Council, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Carbon Positive Australia, or the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

    6. Reconnect with the environment by supporting conservation efforts.

    aerial view of river running through rainforest
    Michael Cook - Altai World Photography / Getty Images

    The closer we feel to nature, the more invested we feel in the fight to preserve it. You can join one of the local community groups of the Australian Conversation Foundation, or look for other conservation volunteering opportunities.

    7. Calculate your personal carbon footprint.

    It's better to know than to not know, right? There are a few calculators available online, but this one from Carbon Positive Australia is specifically made with Aussies in mind.

    8. Think about other small lifestyle changes you can make.

    I'm not here to tell you to stop flying or eating meat (though personally, I would like to stop doing both of those things), but we could all surely continue to think of small steps we can take to reduce our carbon footprint, even in a marginal way.

    Although the majority of emissions come from corporations and it's convenient for them to shift the focus to individuals, our consumer habits are still often what feed demand for whatever those corporations provide. Think about electricity consumption, driving habits, water usage, and, yes, food choices. Although it's certainly better to reduce your air travel, if you do have to take a plane you can calculate the carbon cost and donate to offset your emissions.

    9. Learn something new.

    It's overwhelming how much there is to know about climate change and sometimes preferable to not know, but how can we fix it if we don't understand it? Choose something that is important to you personally and become an expert on it. For example: Learn how climate change is affecting the mango industry (!!!) or read up on the impacts of climate change on First Nations communities and how traditional custodians of the land should be at the forefront of the response. 

    10. Join a rally or a climate strike if you can.

    person holding sign at a rally that says "climate action now"
    Don Arnold / Getty Images

    It's not just about showing up to send a message to the government; large-scale protests also galvanise communities and even benefit our own psyche. A study from UNSW has shown that "mass strikes help target the psychological factors most important for acting on climate change, by emphasising social norms and reinforcing the effectiveness of collective action."

    11. Or just have a conversation with someone.

    Do you know of a friend or family member who isn't convinced of the urgency of climate action? Sit them down and gently try to find common ground, or educate them on the connection between something they find personally upsetting (a cow stuck on a roof in a flood) and the bigger picture of climate change. The Climate Council has provided a list of conversation guides you can reference to help you navigate difficult climate conversations.

    12. And finally: take a breath, meditate, read a book, exercise, drink some water.

    Climate anxiety can be debilitating, especially if you're directly impacted by the effects of climate change. Take breaks from reading the news and do whatever you need to do to care for your physical and emotional wellbeing. Try to find the stamina to continue the fight tomorrow in whatever way, big or small, that you can.

    Gripping Films / Via youtube.com

    For more on coping with climate change distress, here's a helpful information sheet from the Australian Psychological Society.


    If you're in Australia and need mental health support for yourself or a loved one, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.