Activities Which Can Help Us Deal With Climate Anxiety


Lake Powhatan Swimming Beach, Asheville, North Carolina

Recently, it has been brought to my attention that I'm getting older. [Well, big DUH there - as if any of us is getting younger!] One of the things that growing older often brings is more wisdom. Human beings have an awesome sense of cleverness, but we frequently lack wisdom or the foresight to see what kinds of consequences might result from actions we take today. 

Most people even 50 years ago would have never thought about the consequences of thawing permafrost and melting glaciers and ice patches. There are both positive effects and negative effects. I have brought up the predicaments caused by ecological overshoot and climate change, but a new article from The New York Times points out how ancient wars and other historical secrets and long-extinct animals are emerging from these areas of permafrost and ice, adding to our knowledge and occasionally completely rearranging history as a result of these finds.

Meanwhile, the ongoing specter of the effects of ecological overshoot (and climate change in most people's minds) brings to light the lack of discussion among society today, as if most people are afraid to look at reality. Caitlin Johnstone brings to light this phenomenon, quote: 

"The way we’re just sitting around going about our lives like this isn’t happening reminds me of that experiment where participants sit in a waiting room that’s filling up with smoke without knowing that the experiment is already underway. If the participants are alone they’ll generally take action to do something about the problem, but if they’re in the waiting room with other people who are secretly in on the experiment and have been told to ignore the smoke, the participant will also ignore it. The smoke machine can be billowing into the waiting room at levels that would have killed everyone in it if it were real smoke, and they’ll still remain inactive.

We’re all kind of doing that right now with humanity’s impending doom. Nobody else seems to be worried about it, so why should we? If it were a big deal then surely the news would be talking about it, and surely our leaders would be doing more about it. It’s the bystander effect in action, on a worldwide scale.

There ARE ways to reduce ecological overshoot - however, all of them require a reduction of the human enterprise and a reduction of energetical throughputs (energy and resources). Unless and until society realizes that civilization itself is unsustainable, it will continue the same mindless consumption which brought us to this point in time. The requirement of LESS technology use is what seems to make most people think that this means we go back to the "stone age" or "live in caves" or some other extreme form of austerity when in reality this is not the case at all. Inevitably, the real trouble, like most issues, is that the devil is in the details. How to get the powerbrokers to relinquish control and manipulation AND also participate (cooperate) with the rest of society in forgoing certain modern conveniences is where the real issues appear to be. As one of my friends says, "Indigenuity is not optional." This would require society to be willing to effectively cast aside Thorndike's Law of Effect; our dopamine addiction, the psychological way we actually function. Therein lay what I think is the fault of logic and the lack of agency we have in this scenario - basically changing who we are as humans in our way of thinking. Is it possible? I do think it MAY be. Is it likely? Absolutely not; at least not until society is entirely convinced that there are no other alternatives. The current marketing, PR, and propaganda programs prevent this from happening at this point in time. So-called "solutions" and other forms of denial and/or bargaining are too easy for people to grasp onto and most do not have the knowledge to see beyond or behind the curtain to witness the Wizard moving the levers.

Ultimately, the big roadblock is that these predicaments are complicated. From a slide in a recent presentation William Rees did

As one can clearly see, this highlights the very issues I mentioned above (before I even saw this slide). There are actually many of us who are on the exact same trajectory in terms of comprehension, but our efforts are undermined by these same issues in bringing these facts into the realm of the general public. The common fallacy we usually assume is that humans are rational. In reality, the data collected demonstrates that humans do NOT act rationally in our collective best interest. 

As I explained to a person yesterday as to the root causes of our predicaments, it is our use of technology which continues increasing ecological overshoot, and this is caused by our lack of agency: 

I think those slides make it as clear as can be as to where the issues really are - it is essentially WHO and WHAT we are as a species which has predisposed us to these issues. 

So, ecological overshoot (and therefore the climate crisis) isn't going away, and until we begin dealing with ecological overshoot rather than focusing our energies on symptom predicaments, no real progress can be made. Here are some strategies for managing the stress which accompanies these realities.

As Caitlin Johnstone discussed above, people need to begin spending more time discussing these issues to promulgate action which might help, and here is another source which may help facilitate such discussion.

Britt Wray presents the Gen Dread blog which has many different ways of staying sane in these times, and I have linked it to a story about the musical group The Weather Station which features music from their new album, Ignorance.

For those who enjoy art, Jean Arnold has posted this entry (which the beginning reminds me of The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster) featuring an article accompanying the artwork going into great detail regarding the process of extraction and highlighting how this facilitates technology use which causes ecological overshoot. 

The Spirituality Resources File is another place to check out different ideas on how to deal with stress, depression, grief, and anxiety.

My hope is that this post can help others process their grief and anxiety which industrial civilization actually creates as a by-product. If nothing else, I have a story to tell, and this is one you may have seen already but will still bring a smile (and perhaps a few tears) to your face:

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked. "Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she asked. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated."

"Oh, you're such a good boy," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly. "Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued in a soft voice. "The doctor says I don't have very long."

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. 

They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" She asked, reaching into her purse. "Nothing," I said.
"You have to make a living," she answered. "There are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you." 

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will ALWAYS remember how you made them feel.

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance! Live Now!


  1. Many thanks Erik for your blog, I appreciate the effort you put into it. I haven't heard that last story above before & would like to share it, who do I attribute it to please? cheers Julie

    1. Hi Julie, when I saw this most recent post, it was on my friend David Fleming's FB page; but I've seen this story many times before now and it wasn't David's post, he was sharing it from another profile. I really have no clue who the original author is.

    2. Cheers Erik, thanks for that.

  2. Fabulous photo of a gorgeous spot Erik! ( I see where Sam Mitchell of Collapse Chronicles has recently read from an article of yours…)

    1. Thanks, Marg; yes I have been blessed with many beautiful pictures and memories from my excursions to the mountains.

  3. Erik,

    Your commitment to those of us who frequent your blog shines through!

    I would personalize the last line this way for myself: Life may not have turned out how you were trained by your society to believe it would, but there is always the option to love where you are, what moments you still have, and relish this magnificent gift that life itself is...........

    1. Excellent way to personalize it, Michael!

    2. Thanks Michael. That may be worth framing to put on the wall.

  4. That story at the end made me both smile and cry. There is a deficit of tenderness in the world, and that is sad.


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