The BBC’s latest climate insanity is a four minute video in their series “Ideas” entitled “Are you suffering from climate change anxiety?” consisting of interviews with three anxious young people, and comments by a psychologist. Paul Homewood was first off the mark (he always is) with this article, but I thought it might be useful to enquire further into this grave social problem.
The anxiety sufferers interviewed by the BBC are Nik Thakkar, artist; Samuel Miller McDonald, “Oxford PhD student and writer;” and Kate Monson, “Environmental Cultures Researcher.”
This is how the filmet starts:
Kate Monson: “If I don’t think the future is worth anything, then I’m not going to have children. If I think it’s worth something, I will have children.”
Nik Thakkar: “We are already seeing coastal city flooding, we are already seeing forest fires, we are already seeing flash floods, we’re seeing tornadoes. When big ecological disasters happen around the world, I feel a sense of anxiety. I feel a sense of sadness and a sense of loss.”
Samuel Miller McDonald: “So imagine you go outside and you look up in the sky, and there’s a comet there. And you know – you’ve just been told by scientists that that comet is racing toward the earth and it’s going to kill everybody and everything in a big fiery storm. And nobody else notices the comet. And you say: “Hey look, there’s a comet and it’s going to kill all of us…” And people just don’t seem to care.”
Samuel the scientist relates a hypothetical situation familiar from a million nightmares and sci fi films; Nik the artist states a number of banal truths; and Kate prevaricates about having children, as any woman of her age and educational level might. So what? Who are these people anyway?
Nik Thakkar is a multi-platform creative and recording artist He was scouted for a Jean Paul Gaultier campaign in 2013 which was his gateway into the creative world, he has since partnered creatively with major design houses… has led design projects with Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessy, produced award winning fashion films featured on Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine…Listed as one of Time Out London’s Culture 100 top creatives, described by VICE as “one of the premier creative minds in London”… Nik is also the editor of globally recognised creative content hub (i.e. a website, with a blog http://karlismyunkle.com)
Not much sign of of climate anxiety there, though he does sometimes mention the planet in passing, for example here:
The dichotomy between sustainability and luxury has never been more polarising than today. At a point where many of us are chronically aware of the somewhat bleak nature of the future of our planet, we are asking ourselves what we can do to help on a daily basis. I love luxury… in the same sense though, I want to do what I can to protect our planet from further destruction, to reduce my carbon and plastic footprint. Working with BBC and National Geographic last year really helped me share my message, but it’s not always about alienating and deconstructing luxury, but understanding its purpose in our universe …
That said, I wanted to share a post about Kilian and their manifesto of “Luxury Should Last Forever“. This is rooted in their expansion of refillable perfumes and shower gels… As you know, I am always experimenting with different scents and sensory experiences, and currently I am addicted to Kilian’s incredible Gold Knight which contrasts the addictive dark sensuousness of patchouli with the effervescent brightness of bergamot, and warm golden shimmer of vanilla and anise. It holds a regal scent with an almost Eastern meditative element and comes in a gold armoured outer case…
By “working with the BBC” I think he means talking through his climate depression with the psychologist lady.
Last December he was worried about the future of cars:
As humanity is at the brink of making some of the most important decisions with regards to a sustainable future … I wanted to talk about cars as innovation and technology... I drive a 2004 Jeep Wrangler (just shot my NEO 10Y video for Reality Check video in it too) which is cute because it’s old, but problematic… because of its age. I’m obviously on a personal mission to reduce my carbon footprint/output as a human as much as possible (hi vegans), so the upside… is that I barely drive it… So where do you find the balance? … The end game for the planet and myself is to go electric for day to day use, be that with a Tesla ideally… Nevertheless, if you want to experience a supercar and have an insatiable craving for reaching speeds of 100mph on the roads and feeling that retro sense, I’d recommend a Ferrari 488.
The question is, do we get to keep the novelty of these vehicles as we progress in consciousness, and can you emotionally offset the impact with what you physically consume? Where does that balance lie? Remember a vegan lifestyle is the most efficient way to directly reduce your carbon footprint without affecting the awesome technology such as cars that have been created, and a way to overturn a lot of the problematic patriarchy controls. You can also calculate your personal carbon emissions here.
He’s got a lot to say about psychology in his frequent blog articles, for example, in “Understanding Your Root Chakra,” though curiously, among the many mental hangups discussed, climate anxiety doesn’t get a mention. Instead, he gives a 10-point guide (like Jordan Peterson) to “understanding and mastering your root.”
Point 2. Pull in your stomach and contract and relax the muscles around your anus, sex organs and perineum. You can do this anywhere, at any time. It helps if you are more focussed.
Point 6. Love your root. Tend not only emotionally, but physically to your sex organs, including your anus – don’t disregard it as an exit point, embrace and love it even if you aren’t having anal intercourse. Moisturise it, groom/trim the space around it, send it love and accept it as part of you.
That’s enough about Nik.
The second climate anxietee is Samuel Miller McDonald, “Oxford PhD student and writer.” He is currently undertaking graduate research on “Egalitarian Energy: Challenges to Neoliberal Discourse in Distributed Community Energy Programs” at the Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment. If you go to his website and click on “read” you can read his writings, e.g.:
“Deathly Salvation TFW nuclear war may be the only way to stop human extinction”or What Must We Do to Live? Climate collapse demands heroism from all of us, all the time. That’s good.
The third Participant is Kate Monson, Environmental Culture Researcher. Research Gate has her as a social scientist at Brighton University and a co-author of “How do young people engage with climate change? The role of knowledge, values, message framing, and trusted communicators” (lead author Adam Corner.)
The nub of the BBC’s “Ideas”video is the interview between psychologist Dr Steffi and the three climate anxiety sufferers. It goes like this:
Dr. Steffi: What is it that makes you anxious? What are the thoughts of what are the details that when you go there that’s when you touch your anxiety?
Nik: In other parts of the world, they’ll be more affected by climate change than the cities that we currently live in. That’s when I feel like we’re not doing enough.
Samuel: One of the most sort of potent anxieties, is the fear of people mistreating each other out of panic and fear and, you know, it’s more maybe how people respond to that.
Kate: I just keep thinking about a small child. Probably myself. And I just think about how innocent … my God I’m emotional already (she cries)that memory of being a child that is so valuable. And I just think about all the people that aren’t.. that don’t have that… that preciousness about the world. And I think that’s really .. that’s a privilege that is just disappearing. Yeah I get emotional when I think about the effects that climate change and its related issues will have. I get very angry about those, I feel very powerless. I feel very frustrated.
Dr Steffi: What is the part that you can play in stretching out and mending the part of the world that is within your reach?
Samuel: In the face of constant defeat, just stubbornness and tenacity.
Nik: Understand what your impact as a human being is on the planet.
Kate: I feel so helpless but.. but so empowered by that helplessness that I then want to try and do everything and so… aaaah. I don’t think it’s all.. I have to believe that it’s not all bad. Maybe things will be fixed by they time they’re an adult and it will all be good.
Samuel: I feel the most hopeful when I remind myself how bad humans have always been at predicting the future.
Psychological analysis of people you’re debating with is normally considered out of bounds, but here we are being invited to explore the psychology of willing subjects who have let their climate hangups all hang out. So let’s go.
Nik is so normal it’s boring. He’s got his Jeep Wrangler, a deal to publicise Ferrari and Kilian fragrances on his website, plus his vegan and sustainability beliefs to sustain him, plus work with Jean Paul Gautier and Vuitton. And he loves the addictive dark sensuousness of patchouli with the effervescent brightness of bergamot. How could he not be considered one of London’s 100 top creatives by Time Out? What’s he got to worry about?
Samuel is more interesting, because more tortured. He’s got a lot of articles published, which is great for an aspiring writer. Is he suffering from anxiety? It doesn’t seem so. He thinks that nuclear war might be a solution to the problem of climate collapse. Better a hundred million bodies burned to ashes than that anything nasty might happen to the environment, Gaia forbid. He’s at Oxford University, with access to all the information he needs to inform himself that his fundamental beliefs are shit. There’s really no excuse for Samuel.
And then he suddenly redeems himself with the statement: “I feel the most hopeful when I remind myself how bad humans have always been at predicting the future.” Cognitive dissonance, or what?
Kate Monson is the only one who seems to be suffering from a psychological condition – acute depression, I’d say – treatable by any competent therapist in a couple of sessions. She starts by expressing her ambiguous thoughts about having a child, then says she’s “thinking about a small child. Probably myself.” and cries on camera.
And I just think about all the people that aren’t.. that don’t have that… that preciousness about the world. And I think that’s really .. that’s a privilege that is just disappearing. Yeah I get emotional when I think about the effects that climate change and its related issues will have. I get very angry about those, I feel very powerless. I feel very frustrated.
Kate has a poem at About Place Journal – a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society:
This is what desolation looks like.
This is what flourishing looks like.
This is Canvey Wick.
93 hectares of damaged planet.
Dusty tarmac, rusty remains.
Battered and flattened.
Full of life.
Here is the counter-factual.
Here are the facts.
Destined to become an oil refinery.
Destined to become a rainforest.
Home to more than 1,400 species of invertebrate.
Home to three species thought to be extinct in Britain.
Home to more biodiversity per square foot than anywhere else in the UK.
Accidental blossoming from Occidental oblivion.
Can you see them?
Shrill carder bee.
Brown-banded carder bee.
Five-banded weevil wasp.
Scarce emerald damselfly.
Canvey Island ground beetle. (…)
I rather like that. I’m quite fond of nature myself, and have a soft spot for anyone who cares about the shrill carder bee or the Morley weevil, or about Canvey island for that matter. Kate has problems, but she cares about something other than her own success as a Ferrari driving, bergamot-smelling blog artist, or as a creative writer with a PhD capable of musing on the advantages of nuclear war (but worried that climate change might make people mistreat each other.)
I don’t care much for climate worriers, but I care more for someone who cares about about Canvey Island and the Five-banded weevil wasp than for someone who cares about grooming his anus. Assholes are not an endangered species, especially not at the BBC.