“To constantly focus on bad news alienates people. We need to ensure that we are sharing a message of hope too.” – How embracing the positive helps combat eco-anxiety

Depressed, hooded man looking downcast with mural of flexed muscles behind him on the wall
  "Image by Elias Sch" by Pixabay.

Katie Hargrave-Smith, in her final year studying for a BA in Environmental Social Sciences, writes the second in a series of blogs about how to combat ‘eco anxiety’.

“Recently, I wrote an article about eco-anxiety and about how the first step to working through it is to share your experiences. We heard from two students who interact with the climate debate frequently and what impact this is having on them in terms of eco-anxiety. Sharing your experiences and understanding that your fears are normal is important, but there are other things you need to invest your time in to truly feel better about the environmental situation.

“One of those is positive news. It is easy to constantly see dramatic headlines about how we are heading for planetary destruction and to feel fear and hopelessness due to an inability to control both your future and the future of the planet. However, there is always positive news and, if it isn’t immediately being presented to you, seek it out. Make sure that you remind yourself frequently that we are making positive steps and it is not too late. It is also important to remember that dramatic headlines sell, so make sure you are reading the scientific literature as well as the media’s take on that.

“In the theme of sharing positive news, Lecturer in Biological Anthropology, Dr Devin Finaughty, has written about an experience he had which caused him eco-anxiety, but the coming together of people feeling the same way brought about positive change:

‘My day did not start well on September 2nd, 2020. Whilst scrolling through my morning social media updates, I came across a post which made my blood run cold. Posted the day before to one of the online communities I belong to – Friends of Mana Pools, Zimbabwe – it was entitled, COAL MINING IN HWANGE. My heart sank as I read the details…

‘The gist was that Zimbabwean authorities had authorised coal prospecting by two Chinese companies inside the country’s oldest and largest national park, Hwange. I was infuriated – how could the Zimbabwean government so flagrantly disregard their own environmental laws? I was also deeply fearful for the irreplaceable loss of this precious, pristine wilderness. Thankfully, I was not alone: word – and fury – spread quickly under the banners of #HwangeNationalParkMatters and #SaveHwangeNationalPark. Within a week, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) had filed a lawsuit against the Chinese companies and public support for ZELA’s case grew rapidly as mainstream news agencies caught the story.

‘The next day, September 8th, just one week after the story first broke on social media and in the face of intense public and legal opposition, the Zimbabwean government capitulated and placed an immediate ban on all mining activities in all national parks. Our online community breathed an immense, collective sigh of relief and rejoiced together. But this victory was not just for Hwange or Zimparks – it was for all community-driven environmental protection initiatives: an unambiguous demonstration of the power people – united by a shared love and fierce protectiveness of nature – can wield. In this, I have found renewed hope and strength and hope you will too.’

“As well as making sure you are immersing yourself in positive news, do not forget that your friends might be feeling the same as you so make sure to share positive news too. As environmentalists, we often find it our duty to inform our friends of the crisis we face, but we need to remember that to constantly focus on the bad alienates people. We need to ensure that we are sharing a message of hope too. Therefore, the School of Anthropology and Conservation will be hosting a ‘good news Monday’ for the foreseeable future, and will only post positive news to our social media.

If you have any positive news you would like us to share, please email it to sacsocialmedia@kent.ac.uk

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