A new report published by the National Wildlife Federation, The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States, challenges conceptions of the extent of climate change. Climate change will not only wreak havoc on our coasts, forests, and ice, it will wreak havoc on our psyches. This report argues that activists, climate scientists, and concerned citizens are already experiencing “pre-traumatic stress disorder,” a term coined by Lise Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist and co-author of the National Wildlife Federation report.
Climate depression is very real. I have witnessed it in myself, in my activist friends, in family members, and in people I do not even know. As urgent as the physical, scientific reality of climate change is, and as urgent as it is to transition to a zero-carbon economy, it is also imperative to acknowledge and honestly address the reality of climate depression. Without an honest conversation about the serious mental consequences of knowledge about climate science and engagement in climate activism, these scientists, activists, and citizens will never be able to practically work to address the challenges we face in a warming world.