Fear paralyses, hope enables

October 1, 2019

Last week it was eco-anxiety, this week it’s climate dread:

. . .One of the Auckland strike’s organisers, Marcail Parkinson, 17, said at the event on Friday that “climate dread is one of the biggest mental issues affecting youth”.

“When Greta [Thunberg] did her last UN speech, I had to take the day off school, because I was just so upset that I was finding it hard to eat, I didn’t want to move. I was so stressed out about that,” she said. . . 

Another teen at the strike, Phoenix Glover, said climate change was affecting students’ decisions when it came time to plan their future careers.

“If our climate starts falling apart, and we have the mass extinction that we’re on the verge of, then there’s no point in having a Bachelor’s or Master’s or PhD.” . . 

These two aren’t alone in feeling this way and the growing sense of doom has prompted National’s Agriculture spokesman Todd Muller to write:

Some thoughts on Friday’s School Strike for Climate.

I admire the passion of the students who marched.
I agree with their demands that those in political and economic influence around the world must initiate faster global action on climate change.
I accept that civil demonstrations can mould the political and business will for investment in technologies that will support transition to a low emission future.

But when I see messages, repeated on signs held by our vulnerable, determined, anxious, youth saying “You’ll die of old age, I’ll die of climate change!”, I feel deeply uneasy.

I do not agree that our young New Zealanders lives are at risk if global efforts to reduce emissions don’t happen at the pace that keeps global warming below 1.5 to 2 degrees.

Our young New Zealanders are right to be concerned about climate change. However, I do not believe their futures are hopeless, and we should not be allowing this message to take hold.

Doomsday predictions framed to challenge the perceived inherent inertia of the status quo, to make a political point, are reckless. For our young people, already feeling a sense of anxiety and lack of certainty around their futures, it can add to their sense of hopelessness.

I appreciate that calling out such alarmist and catastrophising language will see many on the extremes of this debate pile in and say ‘hey, there’s the Nats Ag guy acting as a denier again’.

I am not. I am, however someone who believes perspective is important in this debate, especially in how we articulate the opportunities, challenges and impacts of climate change to our youth and children.

Climate change is the most complex issue facing our planet.

If we are to address climate change, it requires global adversaries, such as the United States, China and Russia, to cooperate together to transform their economies. Even if we work at breakneck pace, we still expect the world to warm 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius. With this will come changes to agriculture, oceans and cities around the world, and we need to focus on how we adapt to these changes.

But it is misplaced to state our society will collapse under these changes.

We need our young people to view climate change as a challenge they have a positive role in solving. Today’s youth will be the innovators of the next decade. There are opportunities to develop solutions to the challenges climate change presents to us, particularly in agriculture if given time to be invented.

A balanced sense of both challenge and opportunity must be outlined to our youth precisely because of their talent, curiosity and determination.

Let’s not dampen that collective capacity by scaring their self-belief with talk of extinction lingering just around the corner.

Fear paralyses, Hope enables. Let’s demonstrate that.

The radical green political agenda emphasises the challenges and the opportunities are given little if any coverage.

But the news isn’t all bad and Andrew Bolt offers some cool facts on warming to calm the sobbing children:

I promised you a list — easy to print out — of scientific facts that should stop children from being terrified that global warming will kill them. It’s time to fight this hysteria, especially after Greta Thunberg’s breakdown at the United Nations. Here’s the list. Distribute widely.

NO, GLOBAL WARMING WON’T KILL YOU

Are you terrified by claims that global warming is an “existential threat”? That there will be a “great winnowing” and “mass deaths”? That we face “the collapse of our civilisations”?

Don’t believe those scares.

You are told to believe “the science”. Well, here is some science you should believe – solid scientific facts that tell you that global warming is not as scary as you’ve been told.

Be calm. You are not in danger.

· You have never been less likely to die of a climate-related disaster. Your risk of being killed has fallen 99 per cent in the past century. Source: International Disaster Database.

· You have never been more likely to live longer. Life expectancy around the world has risen by 5.5 years so far this century. Source: World Health Organisation.

· We are getting fewer cyclones, not more. Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeBureau of Meteorology.

· There is more food than ever. Grain crops have set new records. Source: Food and Agricultural Organisation.

· The world is getting greener. Leaf cover is growing 3 per cent per decade. Source: NASA.

· Low-lying Pacific islands are not drowning. In fact, 43 per cent – including Tuvalu – are growing, and another 43 per cent are stable. Source: Professor Paul Kench, University of Auckland.

· Cold weather is 20 times more likely to kill you than hot weather. Source: Lancet, 20/5/2015

· Global warming does not cause drought. Source: Prof. Andy Pitman, ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes.

· Australia’s rainfall over the past century has actually increased. Source: Bureau of Meteorology.

· There are fewer wildfires. Around the world, the area burned by fire is down 24 per cent over 18 years. Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center et al.

Polar bear numbers are increasing, not decreasing. Source: Dr Susan Crockford.

It’s such a pity that facts usually come a distance second to emotion but that’s what’s needed to counter the eco-anxiety and climate dread that stops young people from looking beyond the fear and finding the hope.


Eco-anxiety exacerbated by emotion not facts

September 25, 2019

Parents are being told not to terrify children over climate change:

Rising numbers of children are being treated for “eco-anxiety”, experts have said, as they warn parents against “terrifying” their youngsters with talk of climate catastrophe.

Protests by groups such as Extinction Rebellion, the recent fires in the Amazon and apocalyptic warnings by the teenage activist Greta Thunberg have prompted a “tsunami” of young people seeking help. . .

The Cold War and spectre of nuclear obliteration hung over my generation but I don’t recall being terrified by apocalyptic reporting like that which we’re getting on climate change.

A group of psychologists working with the University of Bath says it is receiving a growing volume of enquiries from teachers, doctors and therapists unable to cope.

The Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA) told The Daily Telegraph some children complaining of eco-anxiety have even been given psychiatric drugs.

The body is campaigning for anxiety specifically caused by fear for the future of the planet to be recognised as a psychological phenomenon.

However, they do not want it classed as a mental illness because, unlike standard anxiety, the cause of the worry is “rational”. . .

Is it rational or is the problem that a lot of the reporting in mainstream media and more so what’s spread by social media is more emotion than science?

Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg rose to global fame this year as she supported the protests by Extinction Rebellion, which brought parts of central London to a standstill.

Thurnberg argues that the EU must cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2030 to avoid an existential crisis – double the target set by the Paris Accord – while Extinction Rebellion demands the UK achieve net-zero emissions by 2025. . .

What’s the science behind those claims and more importantly where’s the science in response?

The CPA recommends a four-stage approach to explaining responsibly climate change to children without scaring them.

Parents should first gradually introduce them to the known facts, then ask them how they feel, before acknowledging that the ultimate outcome is uncertain.

Finally, parents should agree practical steps to make a difference, such as by cutting down on non-recyclable waste and choosing food with a better climate footprint. . .

Where’s the science that proves recyclable is any better than non-recyclable?

Where’s the promotion of nutrient density in the carbon footprint equation for food that, for example, proves real milk is far better than the highly processed pretenders and that New Zealand Milk is best of all?

Where’s the promotion of practices that would make a real difference?

But how can we blame psychologists for spouting solutions based on emotion not science when our own Prime Minister is making promises contradicted by her government’s policies?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit that New Zealand is “determined” to be the most sustainable food producer in the world. . .

“We are determined that New Zealand can and will play our part in the global effort,” Ms Ardern said. . .

New Zealand farming is already the most sustainable in the world.

When the Prime Minister told the United Nations (UN) she was determined for New Zealand to be the most sustainable food producer in the world, she should have realised that we already are, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“The Prime Minister told the UN Climate Summit that ‘We are determined to show that New Zealand can and will be the most sustainable food producer in the world.’ When really she should have been promoting the fact that our primary sector is already the most sustainable food producer by some margin.

“New Zealand farmers have made massive gains over recent decades and continue to stay ahead of the pack in terms of efficiency and sustainability. In the last 30 years we’ve managed to produce more sheep meat from 32 per cent fewer sheep due to improvements with enhanced breeding mixes and enhanced lambing percentages.

“Our dairy products are so much more sustainable that a litre of New Zealand milk shipped to Ireland, the next most efficient producer, would still have a lower emissions profile than Irish milk produced locally.

“If the Prime Minister supported lowering emissions she would be promoting our primary sector on the world stage, and encouraging people to eat New Zealand produced food.” . . .

Playing our part in the global effort would be encouraging more food production here, not decreasing it by encouraging forestry on land best suited to pasture and other policies which would decimate farming at a high environmental, economic and social cost.

Playing our part would be following the Paris Accord’s stipulation that climate change mitigation would not come at the expense of food production.

Playing our part would be backing science not exacerbating ‘eco-anxiety’ with words and policies based on emotion not facts.


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