Eco-anxiety and Environmental Wellness
By: Jasmine Lahori
I’m sure you’ve seen it. There are plenty of young people making small and big steps to acknowledge what is going on with climate. From students on Marquette’s campus and Milwaukeeans as whole, all the way to Sweden with Greta Thunberg, Helena Gualinga from the Ecuadorian Amazon and to Flint, Michigan with Mari Copeny; we, as a generation collectively care about the Earth. We want to take steps to improve it. The society we live in is ever changing and the worry about climate change is a well-founded fear. This Eco-anxiety, or overwhelming dread about things such as natural disasters, negative impacts on the ecosystem, and weather shifts are having detrimental effects on mental health. I wanted to collaborate a list of things to ease this worry, but also to take effective action.
1. It is critical to actually acknowledge climate change is happening. The first step to change is understanding something is wrong. Noticing that winters are longer and colder, and summers are more intense is a direct effect of a changing climate.
2. Understand the privilege of living in a developed country and having access to healthy food. Take advantage of the resources available to you as a student while acknowledging everyone’s different cultures, lifestyles and abilities. Utilize your student services, access to mental health services, holistic and spiritual events, and even your bus pass! Participate in your community and don’t put your expensive tuition dollars down the drain. Use your privilege to help yourself and others.
3. Respect the differences between cultures. Acknowledge global differences. This includes the food people eat. Food is central to our lives and can even sometimes be spiritual to many people. Our own perception around community, consumption and food are all different. Some people are not as well informed about the climate change, while others are following their own beliefs and cultures. Respect others and their differences first and foremost. Some of the things we might see as wasteful and lazy may be critical to someone’s food access and individual autonomy. Eating meat in some countries is a sign of wealth, while in America it is a standard commodity in our culture.
4. Take personal responsibility in the environment. Yes, the impact of corporations on the grand scheme is vastly different than individual responsibility. However, it takes two seconds to pick up trash, or making intentional choices to refuse single use plastic, to take public transit or carry your own cups and eating utensils.
5. Eat less meat. October 1st was world vegetarian day! Cutting out meat one day a week or even one meal a day can be a small impact to reduce consumption demand. Eating fresh, unprocessed, local foods is a part of this. Before making serious dietary changes or introducing new foods and supplements, be sure to talk to your primary care doctor or a medical professional to be sure you are doing what is best for your body.
6. Eat from local vendors and shop at local grocery stores. While that frozen bag of plant-based chicken nuggets seems pretty great, buying food raised by local Wisconsin farmers will contribute to reduce food waste at grocery stores. Supporting small businesses is always a great option. Find out about local co-ops, vegetarian and vegan restaurants. This could even be expanded to emailing your favorite takeout spot and urging them to switch to recyclable containers and ditch the Styrofoam to make less of a wasteful impact on the environment. Speak up about what is important to you.
7. Read up on recycling policies. Understand what can and can’t be recycled and what is appropriate for the trash bin. Reducing consumption and recycling is important, but if you don’t know what is and isn’t recyclable — this will cause an entire bin of recycling to become another pile of trash in a landfill.
8. Get involved in clubs, protest and organizations. We live in a digital age where connecting with others is easier now more than ever. There are so many people current working in your community on the very things you are passionate about. Meet people with the same concerns doing work already. Uplift others and share positive stories with your friends and family. There are plenty of urban gardens, restaurants, farmer’s markets, and local events happening in the community. Be an engaged citizen.
9. Become a well-informed individual. Read unbiased articles and find information from reputable organizations, nonprofits and activist. Social media is great for connecting, but blurring of the lines of truth, opinion and advertisement can somethings be hard to see. Be willing to learn and even be wrong about things sometimes. We can all learn something new.
10. Spend time in nature. Open windows and be mindful of your body’s natural response to day and night cycles. According to an Australian study, something as simple as spending 30 minutes in nature a day can help with symptoms of depression.
11. Write in to lawmakers. Voice your concerns. Do you know who your alderman is? Or who the mayor is? You can make an impact by voices your concerns and reaching out to local government officials and helping them be more informed to advocate for the things that effect your everyday life.
Don’t let this be the end of your research! Continue to read and discuss and share with others about what is happening in our world. We can make a change for the better. Be kind to others.
For Further Reading:
How to properly recycle in Milwaukee:
Plastic Free Challenge:
Assess Your Environmentally Friendly Practices:
Tips on Finding the Local Reviews for Veggie Food Options:
Impact of Health and Spending Time in Nature Study: