A little while back, I was asked to put together some resources for an eco-anxiety reading group. I thought I’d share the reading list with you in case you’d like to work through the material on your own or with a friend. Whether you’re new to thinking about eco-anxiety or quite familiar with the feeling, it can help to apply a bit of structure to our thinking. Our favorite type of structure here at Eco-Anxious Stories is (you guessed it) “narrative structure””. That means there is a beginning, a middle, and an end – and you will likely feel different emotions at different stages of the journey. Tell us how it felt to reflect on the readings below, or share your eco-anxiety reading list with us! – Rachel
What frameworks are useful for making sense of eco-anxiety? Stories are all about grounding information in context. We experience eco-anxiety individually and collectively, but everyone comes from a different context. Learning more about the broader context – the bigger story – can help you identify other characters in the story who may be experiencing these feelings in a different way. We may be used to starting the story with “Who am I in this story?” but it’s more important to ask “When am I in this story?”
For more on “when” you are:
“Nothing scares me more than climate change, but I made up my mind to face it head-on because of my debt to future generations and to previous generations. So much of this story is mine, but this history belongs to all of us. And I want you to know it, too. You can’t afford not to.”
Follow up with this story on our site from Sharmarke Dubow:
“There have been generations of organizing and people feeling this pain so maybe the climate crisis just got attention right now, but certainly in the Global South, they’ve been feeling this for years and years.”
If you’re eco-anxious, it might mean you’re in love with the world. It might mean you have deep ties to people, places, and practices that make your life worth living. That’s a good thing! But what do you do when that big heart you have for the world feels like it’s broken? It’s important to grieve, to hold space for quiet, to find solace in others. The good news is, that love you feel is an incredible source of strength and power. It can motivate amazing things, and it’s worth celebrating.
Check out this story on our site from Halena Seiferling, about tapping into beauty and movement as a way to process overwhelming feelings:
“As the pandemic overturned my life, when I was struggling to get out of bed, and when the news felt numbing and unreal, it wasn’t that expertise that helped me. Logic and facts were of no use. It was art that saved me.”
Read more about art, storytelling, culture, from Christi Belcourt, Michif (Métis) visual artist. Her work is amazing (please take a look at her paintings!), and through our project, we are try to reflect her perspective on our interdependent world:
“My heart overflows with love for the beauty of this world. The mystery of this planet and this universe is too vast and too powerful to even begin to understand. All I know is that all life, even the rocks, need to be treated with respect.
The sacred laws of this world are of respect and reciprocity. When we stop following them, we as a species are out of balance with the rest of the world.
This wondrous planet, so full of mystery, is a paradise. All I want to do is give everything I have, my energy, my love, my labour – all of it in gratitude for what we are given. I’ll never be able to give back enough. My love for this world overwhelms me. My love for this world, and my love for everyone and everything is what drives me.”
So what do we do with all the worries in our minds and all the love in our hearts? We activate our hands and feet and respond meaningfully. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in a sea of calls to action, but remember, you are part of a bigger ecosystem and you have a small but powerful role to play. Ask yourself what activates you, ask yourself where your influence has already taken root in the lives of those around you.
Listen to this story from Beth Sawin, a systems-thinker and climate organizer who reminds us that eco-anxious stories don’t follow a hero’s journey. It’s about each of us contributing to a bigger whole.
“None of us [will be] the individual hero that solves climate change. It’s got a part for everybody and the way those parts fit together is through the interactions of complex systems.”
Finally, check out this story from Laalitha Surapaneni. She talks about channeling her anxiety into action by supporting communities on the frontline of climate impacts. She found her start by talking to other medical professionals and using her voice to change policy.
“What I’ve learned along the way though is that climate change impacts everything. We know this. So that means we need people with all types of expertise involved in this struggle to create solutions. It’s not just health professionals, it’s not just policy-makers. No matter what expertise you have, it will be useful, and it can help us create solutions that work for all. You don’t need to get a new degree, you just need to ask “What is my expertise? Where do I fit in?”
A note from Rachel
Do you have a favorite piece of writing or art that you look to in times of grief or worry about the climate crisis? We’re all about sharing experiences and tips for coping with these big feelings. Tell us how you connect the dots between what you know, what you value, and what you’re doing about it.