‘Eco-anxiety’ over climate change causing stress, panic in millions

This article, appearing just today in https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2019/08/28/, is very appropriate to the recent GEITP emails. The article reaffirms how psychologically serious — especially to the young mind — false propaganda about global warming can be.

This article reminds me: not many months ago — in a state university (that shall remain unnamed) — a student was complaining of severe headaches and was convinced that her classroom “contained toxic levels of CO2.” An environmental crew was obliged to monitor the classroom air and found the CO2 levels to be at the prevailing values (~400 ppm).

[For a few points of reference: “400 ppm” equals 0.04% of the atmosphere. Our exhaled breath is about 100 times higher: ~3.8% (~38,000 ppm). To treat “hyperventilation syndrome,” one should breathe his own exhaled air from a paper bag (this will correct the respiratory alkalosis). Greenhouses typically maintain CO2 levels at ~2,000 ppm because plants grow better than at ~400 ppm. Inside nuclear-powered submarines, when submerged, CO2 levels are not to exceed 5,000 ppm — with no harm to the sailors. For unknown reasons, atmospheric CO2 levels were estimated to be as high as ~4,000 ppm during the Cambrian Period (541-485 million years ago), when animal and plant life left an abundant fossil record for the first time; levels reached ~5,000 ppm around 215 million years ago. These CO2 levels appeared to be harmless to animals at those times.]


AUG. 28, 2019 / 5:30 AM
‘Eco-anxiety’ over climate change causing stress, panic in millions


Josephine Chu, Medill News Service


Eco-anxiety, some experts say, is being felt by just about everyone — whether they are aware or not.

Aug. 28 (UPI) — Alysis Morrissey was sitting at her desk last October when she stumbled upon a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“It said we only have 12 years to change our course and prevent a climate catastrophe from threatening life as we know it,” she recalled. Immediately thinking of her two young children, she pondered, “What’s going to happen to them? Will they have a future?”

Morrissey’s heart rate increased, she couldn’t breathe and began hyperventilating. This quickly turned into a full-blown panic attack and she ended up in the nurse’s office at the private school in Connecticut, where she is director of communications. Experts say they’re seeing more panic episodes like this due to what’s termed “eco-anxiety,” or anxiety about impending catastrophic climate change.

Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a Washington psychiatrist, said she’s seen “an enormous uptick” in persons who identify climate change as a factor with their anxiety.

“Unless you live in a cave, you’ve been hearing about sea level rise, dreadful storms, and headlines that warn a quarter of the population will be without water by a certain year,” she said.

While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not yet include eco-anxiety, a number of experts like Van Susteren have noted an increase in the phenomenon in recent years.

Laura Schmidt and Aimee Lewis-Reau, co-founders of the Good Grief Network — a 10-step program to reduce eco-anxiety — said young people and children, the elderly and persons who have suffered some sort of trauma or grief are most vulnerable. But Van Susteren said just about everyone is experiencing such anxiety on some level — whether they know it or not.

“It is a normal human reaction to try to suppress uncomfortable data,” she explained.

Though eco-anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of ways, Van Susteren said the predominant feelings are anger, outrage at political inaction and fear. However, activism, she said, is the only way to treat it.

Phillip Jakobsberg, a Vermont engineer, said this puts him in a lousy mood and makes it difficult to sleep. Dr. Gina Angiola, a retired physician, said she’s agitated every time she receives junk mail.

“It means some tree was torn down so some company could send me mail that I do not want and did not request,” she said.

Jennifer Atkinson, an environmental studies professor at the University of Washington, Bothell, near Seattle, who teaches the course “Eco-grief and Climate Anxiety,” said several students have left the environmental studies program because it’s “too depressing.”

Anxiety over the future of the planet has also prompted people to re-evaluate whether to have children.

“If in 10 years things are much worse, I can’t imagine having kids,” said Nate Samuelson, a senior environmental studies major at UW-Bothell.

Morrissey said she won’t have another child — and Jakobsberg, a father of two, says he would’ve questioned even starting a family had he known then what he knows now.

Environmental disasters, such as wildfires, have also induced eco-anxiety. Over the last two summers, Samuelson said wildfires in Washington state have caused so much smoke that he couldn’t see buildings a few miles away. His girlfriend, who has asthma, couldn’t go outside.

When it comes to treating eco-anxiety, Morrissey suggested talking to friends, family and communities on social media, but warned “this particular brand of anxiety can feel like a very lonely battle.”

“People may scoff and say these things don’t make a difference, but they make a difference in your mental health,” she said.

“You want someone to tell you it’s going to be okay, but you also don’t want to burden other people if they’re not thinking about it.”

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