Anxious about the climate crisis? The cure for it is action
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the climate emergency - but there are ways to turn our ecoanxiety into a force for good.
A decade ago, my anxiety about the future of the world’s oceans led me to take on an enormous personal challenge. I volunteered as a ship’s engineer for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, on a ship blocking whale hunting in Antarctica.
For the record, I hate conflict and I was frightened. I was well aware that my life could be in danger from possible collisions amid high seas, gale-force winds and icebergs. But as a direct result of our action the whaling fleet quit midway through the season for the first time ever, catching only a fraction of the whales it had aimed to. It was an incredible relief to have helped hundreds of whales, including endangered humpbacks, to survive.
Afterwards I returned to my life, but not as the same person. The things I’d learned and the experience of working for a cause I believed in ultimately led me to join Patagonia, an activist company in business to save our home planet. More recently, I helped put forward proposals for the National Nature Service – an initiative to provide jobs in nature to help solve both the employment crisis and the climate emergency.
I’m sharing this because I know many of us are feeling paralysed by the scale of climate and ecological emergency. We’ve witnessed deadly floods, fires and record-breaking temperatures this year. So, when the problem is this big, where do we start?
Action. As Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard says, “the cure for depression is action” – and if you know where to look, you will find some incredible grassroots groups taking smart and effective action. Now by no means does this have to be quite as extreme as taking a sabbatical to save the whales, but you can sign and share petitions, donate some money if you can, or volunteer the skills unique to you to help them be even more effective in their work.
As Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard says, “the cure for depression is action”
Patagonia Action Works is our online platform that connects people with environmental organisations all over the world. It lets you browse volunteering opportunities with grassroots environmental groups working on everything from the climate crisis to protecting land, water and wildlife. See the different skills needed and find volunteering opportunities that match your field of expertise – whether you’ve got an hour to spare or are able to take on a project. In the UK alone there are groups needing everything from creative, digital and strategic support to translation skills but you could find yourself virtually working abroad as the platform has gone global.
“The big realisation for me was not that climate change might happen but that it’s already happening right here, right now”, says Leo Kleine, an architect based in Zurich. “So beside my day job I volunteer for Protect Our Winters Switzerland.”
Protect Our Winters is a climate action group that’s turning outdoor enthusiasts into climate advocates. They needed Leo’s organisational and graphic design skills, and Leo feels the experience has worked both ways: “The organisation benefits from your work but you also benefit from the feedback you get and having space to experiment and develop your own professional skills.”
For the climate crisis time is of the essence, but it’s your time spent volunteering that could make all the difference.