Image: Heidi Holma

Ecological grief


A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been published,” appears on my phone screen. My mood darkens, and I take a long breath before I click it open. The report warns that the time window for slowing down the climate crisis is closing. I don’t want to – I mean, I can’t – eat meat anymore. Thinking about my latest flight makes me feel guilty and red in the face. Members of all professions can aim to mitigate climate change, they say. How can I lead a sustainable life and at the same time achieve the life goals society says I should aspire to? Everyday climate actions feel so small and inadequate. Europe is drying up and the forest fires are wreaking havoc, regardless of me. The dried-up rivers bring tears to my eyes. And the people who are suffering the most. My throat feels tight and bottomless grief overwhelms my mind. We have to be better.

Alli Pylkkö, Environmental Youth Delegate

“Thinking about my latest flight makes me feel uncomfortably guilty and red in the face…”

Ecological grief is one form of climate anxiety

Climate anxiety is a state in which a person feels threatened by things related to climate change. A large part of ecological anxiety relates to climate change. For many people, climate change is a primary threat to their future, so a key characteristic of climate anxiety is fear and concern about the future. Climate anxiety and fear of the future are often interlinked.

As many as a quarter of Finns have at some point felt anxious about climate change (Sitra report, 2019). The most common feelings experienced were interest (58%), frustration and inadequacy (44%), powerlessness (39%) and hope (36%), and the least common was paralysis (12%). Among Finns aged over 15, 27% felt that the word “anxiety” was a good description of their feelings about climate change. Nevertheless, most Finns of upper secondary school age remain optimistic about their own future.

Environmental Youth Delegate Alli Pylkkö and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Theology at the University of Helsinki Panu Pihkala discuss emotions related to climate change.

How did you feel?

The alternatives concern the fundamental feelings related to this phenomenon and page. We call them secondary feelings. It may, however, be that you did not feel this way. Perhaps you felt something completely different? In that case, select “some other feeling” and, if you so wish, write about your feelings in a letter.

Climate change makes me feel…

Järjestelmässä tapahtui virhe. Yritä hetken kuluttua uudestaan.

Thank you.

You were not alone with your feelings.

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