What is it? Environment

Explained: What is eco-anxiety?

World in troubles or distressed with tears or drops of sweat

World in troubles or distressed with tears or drops of sweat  

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The feeling of being overwhelmed by the challenges of climate change and the fear about the state of the environment. It is the helplessness that makes us see ourselves as just one insignificant entity on the planet, unable to reverse the crisis. It is also the sense that no matter how hard we work, nothing will ever be enough. You know the deteriorating climate is affecting your health or your child’s but you do not know how you can stop it. To feel powerless against a supposedly impending doom shoots up stress levels and causes anxiety, say medicos. In 2017, the American Psychological Association referred to the condition as eco-anxiety.

Nobody understood it better than Supreet Lodh, working with an American corporation in Delhi, when he saw his 12-year-old son, struggling to breathe this past week. Supreet has been living in the capital since 2008 and found the pollution levels post-Diwali always going into hazardous territory. Over the last three years, he has taken early precautions with air-purifiers and masks and has tried to keep his son, prone to chest infections, indoors. But this year, the situation turned alarming for him. “My son was choking, his cough was dry, he could not spit out phlegm, his eyes burned and face turned red. We had to rush him to the doctor who prescribed a nebuliser,” says Supreet. His son is petrified and wants to return to Kolkata, where they had just been on a holiday. His wife Kanika looks outside their seventh floor apartment, and realises how grim the situation is.

It is not just Delhi, every city wears the tragic veil of pollution and climate change. What the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said — that she did not want the adults to be hopeful but panic — finds resonance with what experts say. Adults are indeed panicking because they are unable to now comprehend the right measure of response to the scale of the challenge.

“People are getting affected by the feeling of frustration and loss and are immensely worried about their children and future generations,” says Dr A Sugaparaneetharan, Madurai-based psychiatrist. “From an evolutionary perspective, all living things want to give a healthy and protective environment to the next generation. But since we have failed to do it, we are now filled with guilt and anxiety,” he says. “Eco-anxiety is not an illness but an actual fear response to a threat,” he adds. Dr C Ramasubramanian, founder of MS Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation in Madurai, explains when there is such an onset of fear, people complain of depression, restlessness, palpitation and insomnia. He thinks eco-anxiety to some extent is beneficial because people may finally shake out of their passivity and help make a change. But he also warns that one needs to watch out against persisting distress as it could take the dimension of a disease.

Relaxation exercises through yoga and meditation are the best sustainable options for a life with low stress, besides making climate change an integral and crucial factor in our lifestyle habits and consumption patterns.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 1:44:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/learning-about-eco-anxiety/article29942900.ece

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