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From Worrier to Warrior: Dr. Heather Baitz on climate anxiety

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

This month, Dr. Heather Baitz, clinical psychologist and BC Climate Alliance member, was featured on the EcoThink Podcast, speaking about climate anxiety and activism.

Though she had always considered herself somewhat of an environmentalist, Heather said she only became aware of the true severity of the climate crisis in 2018, when she read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 report. The report, which laid out the extent of warming that had already occurred and what the consequences would be if the world did not take immediate action, was alarming.

“It really sunk in” she said, “and that’s where my climate anxiety journey really began. For me it was lying awake at night, unable to sleep because it was just so terrifying to think about the future we were barreling towards if we kept doing things the way we were. I felt like [worrying about climate change] was really taking over and it was hard for me to focus on other things.”

In fact, though ‘climate anxiety’ is a commonly used term, Heather points out that people have many complex emotions when they realize the extent of the climate crisis, including anger, despair, and grief, and that the term climate anxiety might not be appropriate.

“When we say anxiety there is a feeling that this is pathological, that it is unreasonable - but in fact when we look at what the circumstances really are, it is entirely reasonable for someone to have an intense distress reaction when they learn about the scale of the problem”, she said.

She also explains that remaining in the state of distress or anxiety is not useful; a shift needs to happen whereby a person can accept and absorb the reality without being paralyzed by it.

“My number one piece of advice is to find people who are working on this problem and work with them. Having a sense of community where you don’t feel alone is huge. It's important to have a network of people that see this reality for what it is, and are doing what they can about it.”

For Heather that meant a Google search to find what climate groups were active in her area, and joining one that felt like a good fit. But her journey didn’t stop there. Heather is now involved in a number of groups that work on climate action on federal, provincial and local levels, and has also started up new networks that broaden opportunities for everyone to get involved.

Getting involved is key to empowerment, and turning from a climate worrier into a climate warrior. The BC Climate Alliance always welcomes new members and offers regular lobby training sessions. Get involved!

You can listen to the Ecothink podcast's interview with Dr. Heather Baitz here:

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