Resilience

The ability of a person (or community) to function in the face of adversity, to survive and, perhaps, to thrive. 

(Hobfoll, Stevens, & Zalta, 2015)

The ability of a person (or community) to function in the face of adversity, to survive and, perhaps, to thrive. 

(Hobfoll, Stevens, & Zalta, 2015)

Ecoanxiety

or the quest to align

one's life with climate action

By William Gagnon

Building engineer LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP ND, LFA, ECO Canada EPt

Environment | Society | Case file

Au printemps, alors que plusieurs organisations et communautés se préparaient à entamer la saison estivale des nettoyages de berges, une idée fort pertinente a germé. Il est merveilleux de constater qu’une multitude d’initiatives naissent, s’organisent et se mobilisent pour rendre l’environnement un peu plus propre. Mais à quoi bon travailler d’arrache-pied chacun de notre côté?

 

C’est alors qu’un collaboratif qui partage des initiatives semblables est né au printemps 2019. La période des grands nettoyages côtiers aura été la première de plusieurs à venir, parce que les organismes sans but lucratif Grand nettoyage des rivages canadiens (un partenariat entre Ocean Wise et le WWF-Canada), Mission 100 tonnes, l’Organisation Bleue (via le partenariat Corona X Parley) et Stratégie Saint-Laurent (via les comités ZIP) ont joint leurs forces et leurs moyens! 

L’union s’est traduite par l’importance d’agir et la concertation pour retirer des berges d’importantes quantités de déchets, notamment les plastiques, et ainsi réduire l’impact de ces derniers dans nos cours d’eau, nos milieux aquatiques et nos océans.

Imagine you are walking through a forest by yourself in the woods, with your earphones on, lost into some deep thoughts.  Suddenly, a bear appears a few metres ahead and it’s running towards you. Your body gears into a reaction, survival mode that we call fight or flight.   This is how various animals fled from predators, and survived.  This fight or flight mode is a constructive unpleasant emotion : it’s allowed us to evolve and survive up to this day.

 

Now you’re on the bus home reading the news.  Melting glacier. Rising sea levels. Increasing carbon dioxide levels, and politicians stalling more than ever.  You’re getting this very uncomfortable feeling. Depressed, anxious, sad, outraged : Ecoanxiety is also a Constructive Unpleasant Emotion; but you need to know what to do with it. However uncomfortable it might make us feel, however annoying it might be (we have a strong tendency to avoid thinking about it), we as a species need to figure out ways to react to it.  It might just save our existence on this planet. 

 

Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010). Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety ecoanxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).

Now humans are faced with the threat of extinction -- yet we are slow at running away from the danger.  We are bombarded with negative news on a daily basis and this is causing a lot of anxiety. We are slowly building a set of emotions that is helping us as a species survive this existential threat, and ecoanxiety is one of them: it’s a constructive unpleasant emotion, if you know how to channel it. 

 

Some of us have an easier time expressing it, like Greta Thunberg; she is very open about her Asperger’s syndrome that allows her to see only black and white. In her TED talk, she explains that it is one of the reasons why she is speaking up about climate change.

Des plages des

Îles-de-la-Madeleine

à la rivière des Outaouais à Gatineau, et sur les deux rives du Saint-Laurent.

Bilan de la collaboration 2019

  • 4 organisations

  • 273 événements

  • 8 063 bénévoles

  • 76 484 kg de déchets

Le fleuve Saint-Laurent, qui se situe en amont de l’océan Atlantique, est un écosystème marin très productif et complexe ancré au cœur de notre territoire.

Notre impact en tant que Québécois(es) est grand sur le reste du monde!

Ecoanxiety: an evolved version of the fight or flight

Ecoanxiety and ecological grief are new concepts for the conventional medical community.  There is a lack of research in this area, but this is a common sense approach. Some actors in the field are working to increase the number of research projects, such as Dr. Courtney Howard. 

 

"If you are concerned about climate change, and many people are, I don't think your doctor should give you psychotropic drugs. Instead, you should spend half an hour of your time each week doing something about it. If it is really an "EDC", an Unpleasant and Constructive Emotion, we want to listen to it and work to change the circumstances." 

 

- Dr. Greg Dubord, Ultra-brief CBT for Worries and Fears, Family Med Forum, Wed Nov 15, 2018

 

 

 

 

Physicians prescribing climate measures

 

A few months ago, I intervened in a dog fight and ended up in the emergency room, covered in blood trying to separate the two animals.  Nothing serious! Just a few chews on my hands (I later discovered that the best way to break a dog fight is to put your finger in their buttocks, but that's another story).

 

When I get to the hospital, my friend Courtney screams my name all over the department.  She is one of the most inspiring climate activists I know, and she is president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.  She also works in the ER in Yellowknife. I put her in my category of friends who are "too stimulated".

 

So I sit there, covered in blood, talking to Courtney about climate change while she takes care of my thumb. 

 

It's getting better and better: Courtney is one of the first doctors to wake up to climate change.  She is responsible for some of the work on the "Lancet Countdown", and essentially involves the medical community in climate change. Recently, Lancet Magazine, the world's leading medical journal, recognized climate change as the greatest health opportunity of the 21st century. 

 

Courtney prescribed climate measures for her patients suffering from solastalgia, the experience of a change perceived negatively in the family environment. It appears that the action reduces anxiety; the climatic action reduces ecoanxiety. Courtney's schedule is full; this says a lot about her eco-anxiety.

 

And Courtney is not alone. 

»

« Les rivières transportent
les déchets plastiques

de l'intérieur des terres jusqu'à la mer. 

- unenvironment.org

Not alone 

In a meeting in Toronto with Innovation Norway, Alana Prashad shares with me her experience of dealing with two chronic immune diseases.   Her body gets triggered when she is exposed to high levels of stress — climate change news, populist politics, and other bad news. 

 

Our conversation drifted away from green, clean business in the Norwegian trade context to a discussion about ecoanxiety, and turning it into something meaningful: 

 

Alana tells me that she had to find ways to uses her anxiety about the state of the planet, and turn it into something good; she tells me that she tries and sees beauty in desolated landscapes: plastic floating in oceans, rising sea levels; she finds in these bleak images the elements that are worth fighting for — the beauty, the little bits of light in the darkness, the “okay, what do we have”.  

 

Again — action alleviates anxiety.

 

In Alana’s case, she had to quickly get adapted because she was becoming very ill.  

 

Now Alana is aligning her work on fighting climate change through Innovation Norway’s business development agenda.  I thought this was very inspiring — turning ecoanxiety into climate action. I was stunned. I left our meeting empowered, and convinced that we’d change the world together, somehow. 

Seulement 9%

du plastique est recyclé

au Canada, au Québec et

sur toute la planète.

Where to start

 

In the last few months, I felt that a lot of my experiences were pointing out the link between ecoanxiety and climate action. I started being very intrigued by this ecoanxiety business — what if it was the starting point for our climate crisis.  

 

So I started digging more :

 

(okay, lies, I was watching TED talks on the couch).

Per Espen Stoknes is a Norwegian economist and psychologist.  His book What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming depicts the 5 psychological barriers to climate action, and relevant tools to break them. The five barriers are distance, doom, dissonance, denial and identity. 


In my work in recent months I have been trying to reframe the conversation around these 5 barriers, and I feel that there has been a shift in how people respond to my interventions. Living in the Canadian Arctic has certainly opened my eyes to global warming like never before, because we can see it everyday.  It is also reflect in the recent climate change report in Canada: the North warms up much more quickly.

CLIMATE ACTION ALLEVIATES

ECOANXIETY 

Participer à un nettoyage est pour beaucoup de gens l’élément déclencheur, la tant attendue prise de conscience.

CLIMATE ACTION ALLEVIATES

ECOANXIETY 

Aligning career and climate action into one

 

If you don't believe you can bring change to an organization or project, chances are you won't. But if you share your concerns with the team with confidence and clarity, they will be well received - in most cases, in my experience, these concerns are shared by others. However, it takes a lot of courage to share them. 

 

I believe we need to de-stigmatize mental health before we can deal with climate change. I believe that this is why we should consider climate change as a multifaceted issue, and be careful to consider only one measure (greenhouse gas emissions, for example). 

 

Regardless of the area in which you spend most of your time, there is a way to find an alignment between work, play and climate action. I hope these resources will give you some inspiration.

Create your New Story — and don’t let anyone crush it

In a job interview for a private engineering firm, I ask what kind of projects I would spend my time on. Big firm, big bucks: my salary was going to double. The office associate tells me that they have “lots of projects” in the oil and gas sector, but that they were also “trying” to promote renewable energy. 

 

Uneasy, uncomfortable, I reiterate that I am not interested in work with anything that is even just remotely connected to the oil and gas sector.  

The HR manager then jumps in and she asked if I had ever worked on something that did not perfectly matched my values. 

 

“Yes.”, I replied.  

 

“So what did you do?”.  

 

“I quit!”

 

It’s important to create a new story for ourselves, and not live in the past.  The Great Transition is now. The Green New Deal is now. Renewable energy is now. Reversing climate change is now.  Don’t waste your time and career on something that is not worth it. What kind of future do you want? Write it down, and enact it. 

 

I turned down the job offer (and left before the end of the interview) with a strong sense of empowerment.  My mind was set on not letting myself be tempted by the financial gain, and I was really proud to leave this place feeling 100% aligned on my values.


 

Create your New Story, and don’t let anyone crush it.

#StLaurentSansPlastique

CLIMATE ACTION ALLEVIATES

ECOANXIETY 

Change a little, little by little, climb the ladder and that's it!

 

 

People can feel empowered when they take positive steps to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and know that they are making a difference while accepting that the future is largely beyond their control.

Joyeux temps des fêtes à toutes et à tous!

Entrevue radio du bilan

5. The identity

 

The final obstacle is identity - how to reconcile life, work, family and leisure with climate action.  I think that this certainly requires a lot of thought, and I hope that with this text we can share some starting points. 

I think it all starts with being the best of ourselves.  With small changes, by adapting and above all by taking action!

La Mission 100 Tonnes a pour objectif d’organiser le retrait de 100 tonnes de déchets des cours d’eau de la planète, en commençant par le fleuve Saint-Laurent et ses affluents. Chaque déchet retiré représente un danger de moins pour l’écosystème dans lequel il a été laissé. Cette initiative vise également à mobiliser et sensibiliser les citoyens, mais également les entreprises et les politiciens à l’échelle de toute la planète d’agir concrètement pour la sauvegarde des océans. À travers cette mission nous désirons mettre en valeur et faire connaître différents produits et habitudes afin d’offrir des alternatives à l’utilisation du plastique, particulièrement les produits à usage unique. mission100tonnes.com

5. The identity

 

The final obstacle is identity - how to reconcile life, work, family and leisure with climate action.  I think that this certainly requires a lot of thought, and I hope that with this text we can share some starting points. 

I think it all starts with being the best of ourselves.  With small changes, by adapting and above all by taking action!

Présenté par Les Compagnies Loblaw Limitée et par Coca-Cola Lté, le Grand nettoyage des rivages canadiens est l’un des plus importants programmes de conservation par l’action directe au Canada. Fruit d’un partenariat entre Ocean Wise et le WWF-Canada, il a pour but de faciliter la compréhension des enjeux liés aux déchets qui polluent nos rives, en incitant les Canadien.ne.s à réhabiliter les rivages lors de séances de nettoyage. nettoyagerivages.ca

5. The identity

 

The final obstacle is identity - how to reconcile life, work, family and leisure with climate action.  I think that this certainly requires a lot of thought, and I hope that with this text we can share some starting points. 

I think it all starts with being the best of ourselves.  With small changes, by adapting and above all by taking action!

Stratégies Saint-Laurent est un organisme à but non lucratif qui regroupe les 12 comités de zones d'intervention prioritaire (comités ZIP) du Québec, situés le long du Saint-Laurent et de l'estuaire et Golfe du Saint-Laurent. Ces comités ZIP organisent des nettoyages de berges du Saint-Laurent dans le cadre du Défi Saint-Laurent. strategiessl.qc.ca/defi-saint-laurent

5. The identity

 

The final obstacle is identity - how to reconcile life, work, family and leisure with climate action.  I think that this certainly requires a lot of thought, and I hope that with this text we can share some starting points. 

I think it all starts with being the best of ourselves.  With small changes, by adapting and above all by taking action!

Fondée en 2018, l’Organisation Bleue, média interactif et numérique, est une nouvelle organisation de sensibilisation pour l’environnement, par le biais de la vulgarisation scientifique et de la créativité, afin d’outiller le public face à la planète en changement. Lancée par une génération étourdie par l’alarmisme environnemental des grands médias et l’inertie des gouvernements face aux changements climatiques, nous souhaitons éduquer et inspirer positivement ceux qui sont aux premières loges de la planète en changements, ouvrir les yeux à ceux qui n’auront plus le choix de changer leurs coutumes pour préserver le futur. organisationbleue.org

Grâce à la collaboration créative de Parley et de Corona, des ambassadeurs représentent ce partenariat dans l'est Canadien, soit de Terre-Neuve jusqu'à Toronto. Les ambassadeurs étaient au Québec tout le mois de juillet. parley.tv

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