Tag Archives: eco anxiety

Introducing … three new EPWG members

Back in September, we introduced members of the CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group. Three new members share their motivations for joining the group, and their thoughts on eco-anxiety.

Caroline Petherick

Until the Second World War, most people were aware that most resources were limited, and the mindset endured into the early 1960s. But then into the Western world came the brave new world of disposability – mostly oil-based products and fuels – with marketeers cheerfully generating in an ingenuous public a wonderful feeling of affluence in our ability to draw on, and pay for, unlimited resources. A growing number of families now had a car. Battery farms made chicken an everyday food instead of a Sunday Special. Freddie Laker invented the package holiday practically single-handed, and English people flew to the Med for their holidays. Those who holidayed in England were seen as deprived. Those who ate at Cranks (a pioneering vegetarian restaurant) were obviously feeble. Those who kept items to repair and reuse were clearly stingy.

Then in December 1968, six months before the moon landing, came ‘Earthrise’, which perhaps more than any other single thing – even Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book about the changes in the environment – raised awareness, clearly showing that our planet is a closed system with finite resources. After all, Earthrise was a photograph, easily understood by people worldwide.

I was born shortly after the war so I’ve lived through those events, and my brief summary of them reflects my own experience. What I find so unsettling now is how very effectively the powerful people who perceive that their interests are not served by the triple bottom line* have for the last half-century kept that early-1960s mindset alive – even at COP26, which ‘recommended’ voluntary action and self-policing, rather than making any attempt to regulate. This, despite the fact that we’ve seen how ineffective voluntary action and self-policing are.

The key to changing that mindset for the better is, I feel, going to be communication between those who are, and who will be, negatively affected by the short-termism that pervades our society, and that’s why I’m delighted to become part of the CIEP EPWG, spreading helpful information around the membership.

* Profit, people and the planet: a measure of not just a business’s financial performance but also its social and environmental impacts.

Frances Cooper

I’m not quite sure when I first became aware of the damage we have done, and continue to do, to our planet. In some ways it feels as though I’ve always known. I’d like to say that it was Rachel Carson who opened my eyes, but I think it was Dr. Seuss and his story of The Lorax. I think in terms of ‘thneeds’ every day.

My contribution to the planet has mostly been through my work in nature conservation, beginning with Scottish Wildlife Trust in the early 1990s. I volunteered alongside paid work. I joined Friends of the Earth and spent weekends encouraging B&Q customers to choose peat-free compost (many did!), but I never really became involved in activism (as I think of it, anyway). I am finally gradually starting to do so.

My final seven years of working directly for nature were spent developing and piloting blanket bog restoration on Dartmoor. I’m very proud of the work I did there. And the amazing capacity of peat to sequester carbon meant that my work was more specifically aligned with climate-change mitigation then than at any other time. The climate crisis is getting more of the headlines currently, but the ecological crisis is every bit as catastrophic. They are really two aspects of the same thing.

As an editor, I am still working for the natural world and the planet. I cheered when Robin Black asked his question about climate change at the CIEP AGM in 2019, and was ashamed I hadn’t done so myself. I’m a recent recruit to the CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group. I joined the group to help share ideas and understanding about changes editors can make professionally and personally that will makes a difference to our impact on the planet. Although editors possibly don’t have the highest carbon footprint among professions, that footprint is probably higher than any of us realise. Let’s try to make as many positive changes as we can.

Air pollution from a factory

Anne Turner

I’ve always had a deep respect for nature and – as a child of the 1990s and the era of the ‘hole in the ozone layer’ – an understanding that our actions have a real and direct impact on the environment.

My own growing eco-anxiety has taken me on a trail of discovery that has shocked and dismayed me. It’s opened my eyes to the savage exploitation of resources that goes into so much of what we consume.

I’d unwittingly sold myself into the ‘must have new’ consumerist society and brought far more things into my home than would be necessary for a lifetime. I’ve discarded things well before their time. I’ve left lights on, taps running, windows open. I have done many of the things all of us do – blindly – every single day, each of which leave a footprint on the Earth that we can’t take back.

It’s easy to think that, because we recycle, take our old (or not so old) clothes to the charity shop, and clutch our reusable coffee cups and no-longer-plastic straws, we are doing our part. We watch David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg and nod sagely. We are shaken by news of devastating floods moving ever closer, or forest fires consuming towns and villages in their path. But we carry on regardless. We have an inordinate ability to distance our thoughts and behaviours from the reality of the evidence in front of us, especially when it comes to climate change.

Over the past few years, I’ve embarked on my own journey towards more sustainable living, and it’s been overwhelming and revelatory in equal measure. Individual action is something we all need to take, but we also need communities working together to drive the systemic changes necessary to save our planet. That’s why I applied to join the working group: to contribute beyond the level of individual action and to be part of something more meaningful.

Lean more about the Environmental Policy Working Group and the CIEP’s environmental values here.

June 2023: The EPWG has now paused its work until mid-2024. If you’d like to be involved in the group when it reconvenes, please contact Abi Saffrey, information director: .

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:


Photo credits: icebergs by Annie Spratt, pollution by Chris LeBoutillier, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

What does eco-anxiety mean to you?

Alongside the launch of the CIEP’s A-to-Z guide of environmental terms, some of the Environmental Policy Working Group members share their reactions to the term ‘eco-anxiety’ and how they feel about the climate crisis.

Eco-anxiety: ‘a chronic fear of environmental doom’ as described by the American Psychiatric Association in 2017. Medical and psychiatric experts have started to gather research that suggests there is an increasing public anxiety around the climate emergency and that people are feeling overwhelmed by the existential threat posed by the crisis.

Ecogrief: the psychological response and pain people feel at the scale and speed of the loss of biodiversity that arises due to chronic environmental change. ‘Thanatologist [a person who studies death and dying] Kriss Kevorkian defines environmental grief as, “the grief reaction stemming from the environmental loss of ecosystems by natural and man-made events”.’ (Source: Wikipedia.)

A sense of helplessness, sweeping grief, a knot in your stomach when you think of the future – what does eco-anxiety mean to you?

Robin Black

The billionaires are planning their island retreats – with actual plans for food and medicine and security – and that should tell you something.

When my anxiety spikes, the broken record of my internal dialogue goes like this: 1) ‘Wait, is this real?’, 2) I realise that, yes, things are as bad as I feared, and 3) I resolve to take an immediate step to combat the crisis, however small, and resist the overwhelming character of my worry.

Jo Johnston

As a young adult, I often joked with friends that I’m having an existential crisis – today the climate crisis gives me a good reason. Now there’s a term for this emotional discomfort – could it be eco-anxiety that I’ve been feeling all along?

The sense that all’s not right with the world is probably quite normal.

Globally, no one can escape the impact of the climate crisis and it’s overwhelming to contemplate. On a local scale, I can’t ignore the litter and plastics crisis we’re also drowning in – rubbish breeding daily despite efforts to clear it up.

Ironically, we’re encouraged to turn to nature to help boost low spirits, but now it’s time to give back. I don’t have many answers for how to cope with these burdens for the planet, other than to connect with others who feel the same and continue to fight the good fight.

Melanie Thompson

Eco-anxiety has been defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), but it’s not yet listed in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). That means it’s not recognised as a subset of the illness, generalised anxiety disorder – a condition that impacts the lives of far too many people around the world. So, until it enters the DSM or other diagnostic tools I would reserve the term for people who are at the greatest risk of imminent climate disaster – caused by flooding, wildfire, pollution, drought or extremes of temperature – and, crucially, loss of livelihoods and potentially loss of life.

That doesn’t mean people aren’t genuinely anxious about the climate crisis. Personally, I have ‘eco-anger’ triggered by far too many governments (UK and elsewhere) failing to take proper action despite having well-documented information about the risks for 25 years or more.

Christina Petrides

I never knew what the term for it was, but I have been experiencing that feeling of despair, incredulity even, that things are unravelling fast and that we’re not moving quickly enough to counteract the damage.

I’ve not known how to describe it, but now realise it’s called eco-anxiety. That stab in the gut when I see forest fires raging and knowing the air that we all breathe will be that little bit worse tomorrow, and the day after that. The knowledge that this summer was hotter than the last, and the fear that next year’s will be even worse. Or that the floods and storms may not have got me this time, but there’s always next time.

So far I’ve coped with it by doing my small bit to reduce the damage I do, but I’m not sure it’s enough any more …

Sally Moss

It took me a while to write my ‘bit’ for this, because I’m about to relocate. I said to the other EPWG members, ‘Right now, my eco-anxiety is eclipsed by my housing anxiety!’

It’s so often the way. Amid more immediate but less total concerns, my worry and grief about the planetary future slip in and out of focus.

But they’re always there. As I search for a new home, I’m constantly assessing risks and resources – sea level rise, higher inland temperatures, options for solar and wind, space to grow food, strength of community (because we’re going to need each other) …

A galactic estate agent would once have described our planet as the most desirable residence around. Now, to put it mildly, it ‘needs some TLC’. To put it less mildly, it’s on fire.

More of us admit this now, so it feels less like I’m going mad. Now to see what we’re willing to do about it. Eyes open, fingers crossed.

Martin Walker

In the novel Life, the Universe and Everything, Douglas Adams introduces the idea of an ‘SEP field’ as a kind of cloaking device. The character Ford Prefect says, ‘An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem.’

That is my real anxiety about the climate crisis, that the world’s population will see it as Somebody Else’s Problem. Too many people see the effects of the climate crisis that are already happening – forest fires, rising sea levels, rising temperatures – and think that it doesn’t affect them. There is so often a hopelessness that anything they individually do to reduce their environmental impact won’t make any difference.

That’s why it’s so important that governments take effective, quick action to ensure that people realise that the climate crisis is Everybody’s Problem and everybody needs to act now.

Support and further reading

‘Eco-Anxiety’: climatepsychologyalliance.org/handbook/451-eco-anxiety

‘Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, implications, and guidance’: apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/03/mental-health-climate.pdf

‘Young People and Eco-Anxiety’: ecoanxiety.com

‘From Anger to Action: Differential impacts of eco-anxiety, eco-depression, and eco-anger on climate action and wellbeing’: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2667278221000018

June 2023: The EPWG has now paused its work until mid-2024. If you’d like to be involved in the group when it reconvenes, please contact Abi Saffrey, information director: .

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:


Photo credits: deforestation by Picography; contemplative person in nature by silviarita, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.