“Americans are noticing changes all around them. Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods.”1 — U.S. Global Change Research Program
Sure, it’s old news that the climate on our planet has cycled through significant hot and cold phases with at least five major ice ages over the last 2 billion years.2 For humans living in the here and now, it has been well documented that the Earth’s average temperature has increased by 1.8°F (1°C) since 1900 with most of the increase happening since the mid-1970s.3
Whether or not you believe that human activities are largely responsible for these changes, it’s hard to ignore that many of us are feeling the effects firsthand. Even if you are not a victim of the seemingly endless tragedies brought about by wildfires and flooding, you may know farmers losing their crops to drought, find yourself spending more time indoors by the A/C than you ever did in the past, or find yourself rethinking a dream of retiring in Florida.
If nothing happens to change course, global surface temperatures are projected to rise an additional 4.7 to 8.6°F (2.6 to 4.8°C) by 2100.3
More and more, I find myself awake at night wondering what kind of future the children in my life will face? Will unborn grandchildren ever know the delight of that first evening in late summer when a cool breeze tells them fall is on the way? Will today’s teenagers be foreced to migrate north as adults to have a livable climate? Will the rivers of my childhood even be there for the next generation?
While governments, industries, and nongovernmental organizations around the world grapple with how to coordinate effective ways to meaningfully mitigate climate change and adapt to its consequences, how can we as individuals deal with the anxiety that keeps us awake at night?
Molly Peterson wrote a great article for the New York Times entitled, “How to Calm Your Climate Anxiety”4 that you can read here. She points out that “action is the antidote to anxiety,” and offers some great examples for ways to get started from people and groups working at the individual level.4
For example, the Good Grief Network offers a 10-step program that “helps individuals and communities build resilience by creating spaces where people can lean into their painful feelings about the state of the world and reorient their lives toward meaningful action.”5
ISeeChange enables individuals to share their “experiences and collect data to investigate our environment and help communities change.” You can create an account at their sight to share your own sightings of change “in your backyard, neighborhood, and city” and connect with other community members experiencing the same issues.6
I am a big fan of citizen science projects that let you dig as an amateur to help gather data for the real scientists. If you are unfamiliar with what a citizen scientist is, you can read my article about it here.7 The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) website has a great list of citizen science projects8 that help track our changing climate through programs like NestWatch “a nationwide bird monitoring program that tracks reproductive related data such as when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive.” 9
Another terrific citizen science project NEEF features is the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Project Budburst that “engages citizens in tracking the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting phases of plants throughout the year for native species.”10
So, if worries over climate change have you staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, check out some of the organizations and articles shared here. You might be inspired to get involved in something that turns out to be the antidote to your own anxiety.
1Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds., 2014: Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, 841 pp. doi:10.7930/J0Z31WJ2.
2Eldredge, Sandy and Biek, Bob. Glad You Asked; Ice Ages – What Are They And What Causes Them? Utah Geological Survey. 2018.
3National Academy of Sciences. How Is Earth’s Climate Changing? The Science Behind Climate Change.
4Peterson, Molly. How to Calm Your Climate Anxiety. New York Times. 23 July 2021.
5Good Grief Network. 10-Steps to Personal Resilience & Empowerment in a Chaotic Climate.
6ISeeChange. Become an ISeeChange Community Member.
7Kroft, R.A. What’s a Citizen Scientist and How to Become One? The Conscious Earth. 22 May 2020.
8Bradford, Nick. Citizens Observing a Changing Climate. National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).
9NestWatch. What Is NestWatch?
10Budburst. Help us understand how plants are responding to this year’s seasons and longer-term changes in climate. Chicago Botanic Garden.
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