According to an article on the subject in the American Psychological Association, the definition of eco-anxiety (otherwise known as climate anxiety or environmental anxiety) is “a chronic fear of environmental catastrophe.”
Which sounds pretty scary, even to someone who doesn’t care too much about our planet’s warming.
However, people – especially young people – are increasingly anxious about the climate. In a study by the University of Bath, which surveyed 10,000 children and young people between the ages of 16 and 25 in ten countries, found that 84% of respondents were concerned about climate change – with 59% of the total being extremely worried.
These young people have also felt abandoned and betrayed by their governments, which can compound anxiety when a sense of helplessness takes over. This feeling of powerlessness can increase the pressure and make people feel disenfranchised and unable to act – it becomes a vicious cycle. This cyclical thinking can also prevent young people from problem-solving and creative thinking – the exact skills we need to cultivate in our young people if we are to tackle this crisis head-on.
Even though this is a crisis that affects people and will lead to the displacement and extinction of many species, we are making progress in addressing so many of these issues. For example, transactional carbon management specialist Cogo has teamed up with environmental arts consultant Daze Aghaji to get the Royal College of Psychology to recognize climate anxiety as a reality and a threat to young people.
Cogo has also started a climate series and in one, Daze has spoken openly about her climate justice activism and how it has helped her manage her symptoms of eco-anxiety.
There is reason to argue for a more positive vision for the future of the human race and the planet we inhabit. People and organizations are making huge positive strides, but sometimes it’s all too easy to miss them as our attention is captured by the slogans and panic-filled headlines of the protests. It’s a paradox – if we pay too much attention to it, we feel powerless to act.
And if it’s hard for us, imagine how hard it is for a young person to see his comrades brandishing slogans like “you’re going to kill us all!” and “The Earth will survive climate change, we won’t!” “. As much as I fully respect the right to protest and the steps being taken to get more young people interested and passionate about climate change – this needs to be balanced with creative, solution-focused activism – activism that shows kids that things can change. That they can make that change happen.
So where is your fintech organization at?
If young people are affected by the perceived lack of change in their governments, they need to see people and organizations making positive change – and they will be loyal to organizations that not only align with their values, but act also on these shared values. .
This is where Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting and communication comes in. It’s essential not only to work towards specific and achievable goals, but also to communicate your progress effectively – to investors, customers and employees.
Taking action, therefore, has benefits beyond the immediate – not only do you get the outcome of the specific activity, but you also have the added outcome of influencing, energizing and motivating young people to make a change. This shift can lead to other positive benefits, as the energetic, positive, and creative people impacted by your action find themselves able to create more solutions and create their own positive actions.
The first step towards this positive change snowball effect is to take action. I wrote in a previous blog about how to write your first people and planet policies, but to summarize here:
- Analyze what your company does, what practices and policies are already having a positive impact, and where changes need to happen (use your staff for this brainstorming mission!)
- Create achievable goals and targets, then put them into practice
- Talk about your progress – let your customers, staff and investors know about the changes you’re making and the reasons for those changes
- Keep your goals attainable and be honest about the positives as well as the challenges of what you do
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help creating and communicating these policies
If you put this into practice, you will inspire people around you. Your staff will feel invigorated knowing their work is having a wider impact. You will retain your customers and investors, who will know that their involvement with you has a positive impact.
And fostering that positivity will be what helps your stakeholders (and you!) maintain positive mental health in the face of these issues. It will keep the body away from a fight, flight or freeze reaction when faced with anxiety-provoking issues and allow you to work towards a more constructive and righteous future.
About the Author
Gihan Hyde is the award-winning communications specialist and founder of CommUnique, an ESG communications startup.
She has implemented ESG campaigns in eight sectors, in six countries over the past 20 years.
His campaigns have had a positive impact on over 150,000 employees and 200,000 customers and have closed over £300 million in investments. Clients she has advised include the World Health Organization (WHO), HSBC, Barclays, M&S, SUEZ, Grundfos, Philip Morris, USAID and the Saudi government.
Connect with Gihan via LinkedIn or Twitter @gehanam.