Sharing our Eco-Anxious Stories

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February 19th, 2020
Photo of a starry sky and tree line

Eco-Anxious Stories is a labour of love. It’s a project, it’s a website, it’s a channel, it’s a platform, and it’s a community. We’re not trying to be everything to everyone, but we are aiming to take a broad approach to a specific question:

How can we support each other to transform our eco-anxieties into meaningful action?

Through interviews, discussions, blogs, and videos, we hope to answer this question from a wide range of perspectives. Each conversation will have a few things in common:

How can we support each other to transform our eco-anxieties into meaningful action?

Here’s what we ask

With each eco-anxious storyteller we work with, we ask three core questions:

1. Where does eco-anxiety show up in your life?

The term “eco-anxiety” is an emerging concept, and it doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. We want to know if the term resonates and how it shows up in our stories, where it manifests in our bodies, and when it pops up in our everyday experiences. We ask: What does eco-anxiety feel like? What do you do when you feel this way? Where do you turn for comfort, for the strength to keep going?


2. What gives you the courage to face a challenge like the climate crisis?

Given that eco-anxiety can make us feel stuck, we want to know more about the relationship between anxiety and capacity to take meaningful action. We ask: Where do you source your motivation to share in a story about a problem that is so much bigger than yourself? How do you make sense of your personal responsibility to act?


3. What does a meaningful response to this crisis look like and feel like?

At a personal-level (for you) and a collective-level (for "us” as families, communities, teams, groups), we want to know how courage and compassion are embodied in context. We ask: As you develop a life-long relationship with your eco-anxiety, what practices do you return to regularly? What tools, supports, and resources do you need to identify a meaningful response to this crisis, to make sense of your role in this climate narrative?

Here’s why we focus on these questions

1. Because the climate crisis is a human story.

Our emotions and values are all tied up together, tangled in a messy nest of immediate and long-term desires. By starting a conversation about our anxieties, our worries, and our fears, we can focus on what matters most - our deepest values and strongest insecurities.

Anxiety really is an expression of love.

As psychologist Dan Rubin explained to me, “Anxiety really is an expression of love. You’re freaking out because of love. Love of your family, love of the future, love of yourself - that you want to survive - and you’re scared.” He says that instead of trying to run away from our eco-anxiety, we should try to expand the feeling of love from which our fears stem. In order to get to love, we need to unpack our anxieties about the climate crisis and scrape away at the layers of guilt, shame, powerlessness, and isolation that weigh upon our hearts.


2. Because love gives us the courage to connect.

The more you learn about the scale and complexity of the climate crisis, the easier it is to feel overwhelmed about it. You might even be tempted to turn away from the news altogether, or distract yourself with a more immediate problem. But eco-anxieties aren't going away anytime soon, and the root causes of the climate crisis are even harder to face head-on. In my experience, guilt is a pretty useless motivator for taking action on something as challenging to tackle as the climate crisis. Very few eco-anxious individuals are directly *to blame* for the climate crisis. But the good news is we don’t need to be motivated by guilt, because our eco-anxieties point us to a stronger force: love!

Instead of worrying about whether or not I’m to blame, I get excited about the fact that I’m at hand. I’m alive at the most critical moment of the human story, and we all have a meaningful role to play - no matter who you are. We are telling eco-anxious stories rooted in compassion because it’s our love and connection to one another - and to the lands we depend on - that give us the courage to act.


3. Because if the story isn’t meaningful, it isn't going to be mobilizing.

Dominant narratives about the climate crisis can lead to people feeling powerless to make a difference. Climate awareness and worry are on the rise across countries like Canada and the US, and it’s more important than ever that we connect the dots between our shared concerns and our unique contexts for collective action. Everyone is in a different situation, everyone has a different sphere of influence. Everyone has a different way of making their life, their choices, their story meaningful. But no matter who you are, it's time to make that story a climate story.

If we are going to invite billions of people to belong to the climate movement, we need to anchor climate narratives to what’s already meaningful, what’s already beautiful, what’s already worthwhile, what’s already mobilizing.

Instead of asking people to become someone new before they can be a character in such a story, let’s do the work of supporting others to take courageous, compassionate, meaningful action - right where they are.

This framework for exploring eco-anxious stories has helped us work through our own feelings as a team, and we can’t wait to hear from more people about how their making meaning out of their eco-anxious stories.


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  • By Rachel Malena-Chan