by Elliott J Bush
The Social Science Research Network has recently published a study raising deep concern about the effect the climate crisis is having on young people. “Young People’s Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon” surveyed 10,000 young people (aged 16-25 years) in ten countries. The findings were grim: “Respondents were worried about climate change (59% very or extremely worried, 84% at least moderately worried). Over 50% felt sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty. Over 45% said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning, and many reported a high number of negative thoughts about climate change. Respondents rated the governmental response to climate change negatively and reported greater feelings of betrayal than of reassurance. Correlations indicated that climate anxiety and distress were significantly related to perceived inadequate government response and associated feelings of betrayal.” Abstract of the study.
How can adults concerned about the welfare of children respond to this sense of despair?
Fortunately, the internet gives adults lots of resources for helping children and youth understand and deal with climate change. Conservation International has a page on talking to kids about climate change as well as other pages about protecting the environment. The excellent National Resources Defense Council has a great guide for talking about climate change with kids of all ages. This page has a large number of links for following up on topics such as children’s emotional health. You might also get some tips by reading the latest novel by Richard Powers, Bewilderment, the story of an astrobiologist with a son who loves the natural world.
Doing sometimes beats talking in getting kids involved with creation care. The Ohio chapter of Leave No Child Inside sponsors outdoor activities throughout the year. The National Wildlife Federation, the creators of Ranger Rick, has magazines with activities for children from four years old to Middle School. Scouts BSA has excellent outdoor programs. Packs and Troops can be found in most Columbus area neighborhoods. Girl Scouts, too, has many outdoor programs, plus membership will empower your girl to become a confident and well-informed young woman. You can also work with the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation to help your child’s school teach environmental sustainability. You can find family earth friendly activities by subscribing to the weekly Community Update blog of Columbus’ Simply Living organization. If you want to take your family out to revel in fall colors, here’s an interactive map that lets you find the best dates for full fall foliage in our area.
Teens and young adults might be able lower their anxieties by joining climate activist youth around the world in either Fridays for Future started by Greta Thunberg or Earth Guardians, “an intergenerational organization with youth at the forefront that trains diverse youth to be effective leaders in the environmental, climate and social justice movements across the globe – using art, music, storytelling, on the ground projects, civic engagement and legal action to advance solutions to the critical issues we face as a global community.” Organization’s Mission Statement
Finally, you can help your children deal with climate change anxiety by your own activism and advocacy. There are many organizations, including our church, where you can play a role in helping stop the worst effects of climate change. Here are just a few:
Creation Justice Ministries Monthly Action Center
National Resources Defense Council – Get Involved
Ohio Interfaith Power and Light – Take Action
The Sierra Club – Action Campaigns
Thanks for you commitment to care for God’s creation!