Eco-anxiety and climate grief are growing phenomena, especially among young people.
Recently, a friend told me about how their daughter had come to them in floods of tears, saying she had decided not to have children because she couldn’t bear to bring a new life into a world in such environmental crisis and with such an uncertain future. My own child is less forthcoming, but has likewise spoken of the despair they feel because of the state of peril the earth is in. I’m pretty sure that anguish is a factor in their depression and withdrawal from the world. These two young people are not alone. Eco-anxiety is a growing phenomenon – so much so that Green Christians in the UK are setting up a climate grief project called Borrowed Time. Indeed, Greta Thunberg’s father has spoken of Greta’s depression before embarking on her school strikes.
As a parent, it is heart breaking to see your child in early adulthood trying to cope with the existential threat of climate change. Rather than journeying along their lives with excitement at future possibilities, they are experiencing dread and a profound sense of grief. And betrayal. It is no wonder that young people the world over are taking part in the Fridays for Future school strikes and finding a home in Extinction Rebellion.
The Church should be engaged in combatting climate change simply because this is God’s world and the right thing to do: the Anglican Fifth Mark of Mission calls us to safeguard creation and restore the life of the earth. But we also absolutely have to make creation care a core part of our faith and witness if we want to have any credibility with young people. Such engagement, speaking and acting for climate justice, is also a pathway through grief to hope – for our young people and for us all.
Contributor from the UK. Name withheld to protect the anonymity of the young people mentioned.