An Environmental Psychiatrist Explains Climate Anxiety As We Celebrate Earth Day

MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2024

As we mark Earth Day, we have just experienced the hottest March on record. But climate change’s impact isn’t stopping with the weather; it’s also affecting our mental health, says Dr. Gary Belkin, director of the Billion Minds Project at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Climate anxiety, which refers to having distressing feelings related to climate change impacts, is increasingly prevalent in communities where the impact is the most severe.

And the problem is only getting worse.

Dr. Belkin says it is important to ask, “What happens when there is mass hopelessness?” From individuals to politicians to society as a whole, feelings of hopelessness can hamper people’s ability to problem solve and result in people giving up and retreating from the issue.

A solution? Start small in communities, Dr. Belkin says.

He’s putting this idea into practice through his work as chair of COP², an organization that curates coalitions of experts, advocates, care providers, decision-makers and funders to support projects that are co-created with local communities living on the front lines of the climate crisis.

“What I think is really exciting,” he tells hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter, “is that the climate pressures have generated some powerful forms of local organizing and intersecting actions.”

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