Climate anxiety is never far from the news these days. It is on its face absurd, and wicked too. Those who foster these feelings in our young folk have a lot to answer for. That includes anyone who uses the term “climate crisis” in public without irony. To such people: you are more of a problem for our young people than climate change is. Shut the front door, would you?
As pointed out by Mark in Open Mic, the university which I once attended has instated a course intended to address this “climate anxiety” in its students. [Reported in the Telegraph, and in the Eastern Evening News (both on Halloween).] This is not a useless endeavour, since “climate anxiety” is a real phenomenon, fed by those babbling fools who promote the “climate crisis.” Nevertheless, the approach they take to answering the anxiety is wrong, because it accepts that the anxiety has a real grounding.
UEA post-graduate student Azza Dirar, who helped design the mindfulness and active hope course, said: “The focus is not on the overwhelming bleak evidence of climate change and environmental degradation, but rather on how we can act with courage and wisdom during a time of looming ecological and societal collapse.”
A better approach would be to lay off the “looming collapse” sauce and actually try to put today’s environmental changes into some sort of perspective.
Ruth Taylor, social development manager at Norfolk and Waveney Mind, said: “It’s totally normal to feel worried, upset, overwhelmed, ashamed or angry about the climate emergency.”
No, it really isn’t normal. That’s because there’s no emergency. In fact, you saying it’s normal is about the most counterproductive thing you could have done. THERE IS NO EMERGENCY. STOP TELLING PEOPLE THERE IS AN EMERGENCY AND THEY WILL STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT.
Sorry for the shouty ALL CAPS there, but this dross makes me angry.
This course, however, does not have its incept date this Halloween. The BBC reported it on 28 April.
Climate change: Don’t let doom win, project tells worriers
On Thursday a new survey found that 45% of UK students worry about climate change once a week or more.
Common worries were about food security and whether or not to have children, explained Ruth Taylor from Mind. “Young people are trying to get ready for what is coming,” she suggests.
There she is again! Or before! Or something! NOTHING IS COMING. The only thing that might be coming is the destruction of civilisation by Net Zero policies, but I bet UEA aren’t offering a course addressing worries about that. Or anger, frustration, whatever else the wise mind from Mind blathered about.
“I have phases – sometimes I feel like it’s not my fault, it’s down to people-in-power. Then I read something else that says if we are not taking action, we are like climate deniers,” said one participant.
PLEASE. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Let me take a deep breath, and try to explain. (I’m going to try very hard to ignore you “othering” me.) This note is directed at you, climate-anxious student, although, it must be admitted, you will never read it. Nevertheless, it comes from the heart.
You will probably never read this, but if you do, I want you to know right up front that this is honest advice that is well meant.
deniers sceptics can be as obsessive and obnoxious as climate activists. The climate anxious appear to take things a third way. The climate sceptic sees data on climate change and rejects the notion of “climate catastrophe.” (Some, it has to be admitted, reject the notion outright without troubling to educate themselves on the matter.) The climate activist sees data on climate change, realises that it points to imminent climate catastrophe, and resolves to change the world. The climate worrier sees data on climate change, realises that it points to imminent climate catastrophe, and understands that nothing can be done to halt it.
Despair seems to be a legitimate response for the climate worrier having reached the conclusion they (you) have. Not just despair, but guilt too, for we are all part of the problem.
Let’s put the instinctive rejecters of climate catastrophe to one side and consider the three other groups: climate sceptic, climate activist, climate worrier. (There are others too. In fact from my limited survey, 95% of humanity are still in the rump of “Huh?”) On the face of it, all three groups have seen the same evidence. They have come to three different conclusions, to wit:
WE’RE DOOMED → WE MUST FIGHT TO SAVE EARTH
WE’RE NOT DOOMED → WE MUST NOT DESTROY CIVILISATION FIGHTING A PHANTOM
WE’RE DOOMED → NOTHING WE CAN DO CAN STOP IT
Three different conclusions from the same data.
Or is it the same data?
Let’s be nice for a minute and accept that no groups are engaging in motivated reasoning. Let’s also assume that nobody believes what they do because they have been infected by an idea virus, or thoughtlessly mirrored what those around them believe for so long they believe it themselves without ever having really thought about it. Let’s assume each group is formed of cool rational beings, and fed the same data, they arrive at two polarised positions about the future, and three polarised positions about what to do about it (FIGHT/DO NOTHING/GIVE UP). This seems like an odd result. And it is.
Each group is no doubt surprised to see the conclusions drawn by the others. This surprise is quick to become disbelief in some. So sceptics consider the activists to be brainwashed cultists. Activists consider the sceptics to be in the employ of big oil, or engaged in the act of hiding the cheese. (This expression relates to resistance to change in organisations.)
Let’s assume for a moment that we’re doomed, just for the sake of argument. We now have a choice of FIGHT or GIVE UP. Personally I would far rather see you fight than give up. Even if that means you glued yourself to the road in front of my car. Hope dies last. Which means, until we give up, we can win. When we give up, we cannot win. If what I say next can’t convince you that we’re not doomed, please don’t give up. Do something, if only a small something. I would prefer you to do something useful, something that will have a good effect on your local environment, rather than doing a stunt like gluing yourself to a petrol pump that will only have the effect of annoying your fellow humans. And don’t ever feel guilty about being alive. Nothing beats what you can bring to the party.
Now let’s swim back up to the next fork: WE’RE DOOMED or WE’RE NOT DOOMED. This seems to be a fairly dichotomous split – no middle way. All the data I have seen tells me we’re not doomed. The data says things are actually getting better for people. The number of people dying from weather-related causes is a tiny and declining fraction of all mortality – which in itself, regardless of whether the globe is a degree warmer than before, or the sea a foot higher than before, tells me that we’re not doomed. The data shows slow, incremental warming, slow, incremental sea level rise, slow, incremental increases in life expectancy, slow, incremental increases in crop yields, slow, incremental increases in wealth and health…
…in short, nothing bad has happened so far. It doesn’t matter which weather disaster you point to, it has happened before, and worse. Because of the increasing population of the globe, the casualty rate from these disasters should be going up, year on year, even if the weather was no worse. It isn’t. It’s going down, year on year. If that is true, where does WE’RE DOOMED come from?
Not from data. From speculative models about what the future might hold. Which typically ignore the fact that people are getting wealthier. If we are wealthy, we can cope with whatever the weather or climate throws at us. If we are poor, we are vulnerable to every whim of Nature.
My advice therefore is: look at what has happened over the last hundred years of human progress, and let that be your guide to our future. There will be wars. There will be pandemics. But the weather will not daunt us. Not unless we let it. Those stories about what will happen by 2035, 2050? They are selling you dystopia, because dystopia sells. No-one buys utopia. It’s so boring there. (Everyone wants to live there, but no-one wants to read about it.)
Why the instinct to claim a fire and brimstone apocalypse? Easily answered. Because humanity ignored all the mild warnings, they became moderate warnings. We ignored those too, so they became severe warnings. Guess what happened? Most of our species carried on as before, more worried about next month’s bills than global warming. So the severe warnings became apocalyptic warnings. Then some people glued themselves to petrol pumps, and others despaired, and tore at themselves with guilt, and swore never to have children. But the guilty are the doom-pushers, not the rest of us, not the ones who are just trying to get along, not you. And even with apocalyptic warnings ringing in our ears, most of us instinctively know that everything will be ok. And it will.
At a meeting of bankers a few months ago, a speaker told the audience that they would all be dead from climate catastrophe in a couple of decades.
No-one looked up from their phone; they believed it, but in a very superficial way, a skin-deep way you might say. Deep down, they knew it was BS. And it was.
The main reason that human life will get worse in the future is not due to a worsening climate. It is due to the punishments inflicted on people like us by governments – and demanded by the petrol pump self-gluers – in the name of protecting the climate. To me, this is exactly 180 degrees wrong: we should protect people from the climate, not climate from the people.
A long long time ago, some guy said this:
On what principle is it, that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?
Every generation thinks humanity is going to fall off a cliff. So far, it hasn’t. Apocalyptic ideas are entrancing. Reality is more prosaic. We are safe and you are safe and your children, if you decide to have some, will be safe too.
You are at the stage of your life when almost anything is possible. Please, don’t curl up into a ball and worry about climate change. Life’s a beach, as they say: surf it.
- Find a weather event that caused terrible carnage before there was such a thing as climate change.
- Find an exaggerated claim about climate change in the mainstream media.
- Go to a party. You may not want to go now, but trust me: you’ll enjoy it when you get there.