She's Helping People Process Anxiety About Climate Change
For many of us, climate change is scary. The toll it takes on our mental health often isn’t talked about enough, though. Words like ecoanxiety and solastalgia have recently been used to describe these feelings, but there are emerging resources to help mitigate these anxieties.
Calculating your current carbon footprint can help put your own habits and lifestyle into perspective. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created a useful tool with helpful tips to remedy some of your personal impact. Healthline.com also suggests acknowledging your fears and anxieties, avoiding climate change denial, and building compassion.
Climate Awakening is another resource that helps people connect with professionals to process their feelings about climate change by joining a climate emotions conversation. It was developed by Margaret Klein Salamon, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist-turned-climate-activist and the executive director of the Climate Emergency Fund.
CircleAround connected with Dr. Salamon to learn more about her work and how she helps people process fear about climate change.
CA: What are some exciting moments in your career?
MS: It has been tremendously rewarding to help fundamentally change the climate movement’s paradigm, making it much much, much more urgent. The Climate Mobilization developed the Climate Emergency/ Climate Mobilization paradigm for years, and we spread it as far and wide as we could. So seeing that paradigm that The Climate Mobilization developed and championed for years, has been amazing.
More than 1800 governments worldwide have passed climate emergency declarations — a campaign that we pioneered. Climate Emergency was Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2019, because media uses had gone up 10,000 percent.
CA: What projects are you currently working on?
MS: Right now, I am in the very early stages of being the executive director of the Climate Emergency Fund. Since the Climate Emotions Conversations have proven so effective and helpful for people, I am focused on sharing them with the climate movement, and the public. Anyone can sign up for a climate emotions sharing and listening session.
CA: When it comes to your work, what are the biggest challenges and the biggest rewards?
MS: The biggest reward is seeing transformational change — whether it occurs in an individual, a government, and in society as a whole.
As a psychologist, I am always gratified when people feel emotionally freer in response to reading my book or participating in a Climate Emotions Conversation. We have people crying on these calls, saying they just feel so relieved to talk to people who “get it.” We had one woman who said she’s worked in the climate sector for 12 years, but has never once talked about how the climate emergency makes her feel! So it was pretty cool to see that kind of an impact.
As an activist, I love to see the policy impact that the Climate Emergency Declarations are having. Cities are banning gas hookups in new construction, making their decarbonization timelines much faster, and making big investments in reaching zero emissions.
CA: What are three ways everyone can manage their anxieties about climate change?
MS: Instead of burying or ignoring the painful feelings that come up when you think about the climate emergency, welcome and process them. It will make you feel better, I promise!
Talk about the climate emergency with your friends, family, and everyone you meet!
Don’t beat yourself up over your own environmental “sins,” such as using plastics or not having solar panels. Use that energy to join a group advocating for a ban on single-use plastics, or for your city to declare a climate emergency. We are much stronger and accomplish much more when we work together!