Tag Archives: Environmental Policy Working Group

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


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.

The CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group

It’s the Great Big Green Week, so it seems like the perfect time for Robin Black to introduce us to the members of the CIEP’s Environmental Policy Working Group (EPWG).

It’s a funny thing being part of our Institute’s working groups. Editors, subduing their own opinions frequently in service to the client, are either by nature or by practice disinclined to be seen telling people what to do. We may work out our persnicketiness in the limited realms of spelling, punctuation or syntax, where ‘It depends’ is superseded by ‘You don’t want to look silly’.

In the virtual professional space of the Environmental Policy Working Group, attended by a handful of circumspect editors, we are prone to figuring out the brief and then rising to the occasion; making individual contributions in small doses; listening; anticipating objections; and bringing to the table healthy amounts of self-doubt.

But is that enough? Given the scale of the climate crisis and how late we all are in addressing it, the challenge can’t be left to the experts and crusaders. It certainly can’t be left to the governments. John Robinson, one of many lead authors on the most recent IPCC report, says that the notion of sustainability jobs doesn’t hold up; rather, there will be no careers left without sustainability dimensions.

And so our humble working group has developed an environmental policy for the CIEP. Will it work, whatever that means?

Oh, boy. That’s a doozy. Some of you have been out on the streets to demand change; some of you have honed important lines of communication to get the message out; some of you feel that everything will be fine. We like the idea of reaching the membership, wherever you’re sitting, with these questions. We are just CIEP members ourselves, after all.

How did we, the members of the EPWG, get here?

Martin Walker, outgoing CIEP organisational director, incoming EPWG chair

When I was in the sixth form at school, I asked a friend what career he had in mind. He wanted to be an ‘ecologist’. That was a completely new word to me, so he told me about books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and about emerging environmental movements like Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club.

That conversation 50 years ago sparked a lifelong interest in environmental matters. The publication a year or so later of EF Schumacher’s influential Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered was another big step in my environmental education. That interest has led me to take some practical steps over the years to reduce what we now call my environmental footprint, including cultivating organic gardens and an allotment for over 40 years.

We can all do better, of course, and the CIEP can play its part by reducing the organisation’s environmental impact. It can also play an important role by offering practical advice to its members on how to run their own businesses in as environmentally friendly a way as possible. Members of a community of over 3,000 people will also have many ideas and practical suggestions to share that other members can adopt and benefit from.

Not enough has been done to change over the last 50 years or so of environmental awareness, so the world is now facing its greatest crisis because of global warming and the over-exploitation of the earth’s resources. The adoption of the CIEP Environment and Energy Policy is a small but important first step for the organisation and its members.

Sally Moss, EPWG chair Mar–Sep 2021

In my application to join the EPWG, I said I was keen ‘to help the CIEP formulate an environmental policy that is both ambitious and workable, and to support members to embrace and advocate for regenerative practices in their working lives and beyond’.

I also outlined my three decades of environmental activism, from badgering people in the streets of Liverpool with an eco-survey in my mid-teens (I wonder if any of my victims recall that early climate alarm call?), through arts-based initiatives such as an experimental Permaculture Surgery, to more recent efforts to incorporate my passion for savvy ecological practice into my editorial work.

We are without doubt in a critical era for humankind, and a liveable future depends on our collective actions now. We need nothing less than system change. So many of the stats are bleak, but what keeps me going is the knowledge that nature is powerful: every positive contribution will harness a profound regenerative force. So let’s see what we can do!

Jo Johnston

I was a young child when my awakening to environmental justice happened as I cried at images of the Ethiopian famines during the Live Aid concerts.

Fast forward to 2000 and one of my first jobs for an NGO was to write a guide to climate ‘change’ (before that term was replaced by ’crisis’) which pulled data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Approval of this complex project was given by the atmospheric physicist the late Sir John Houghton. Among the hardest projects I’ve ever worked on, it is one I am proud of – but also haunted by: we’re still talking about the same issues.

‘There’s no planet B.’ This rallying cry sums up why I jumped at the chance to be part of the EPWG.

It’s one small way to channel eco-anxiety, but I also hope that the EPWG can inspire our members, other freelancers and businesses. It’s governments and corporate change that will make the biggest difference to the environmental crisis through policy change, but it’s our voices, actions and words that keep up the pressure.

Christina Petrides

I first became aware of the problems we face while in secondary school, back in the early nineties. The voices of environmental activists were beginning to multiply as the world grappled with new science and the occasional cataclysm. It was hard not to notice.

After studying environmental science at university and working in the sector for nearly 20 years, I switched to freelance editing and writing.

I’ve never been an activist myself. While louder voices are essential for raising awareness, change should also be brought about through practice. Working with businesses to implement change is, in my view, one of the best ways. Many organisations want to be seen to be doing the right thing and to differentiate themselves from the competition. Those of us on the inside have continued to encourage, cajole and push them to lead the way. It is now no longer a differentiator but a requirement.

Occasional cataclysms have become regular occurrences, and we are dealing with a brave new world. The CIEP called on volunteers to develop an ambitious environmental policy and to support its members in the same. The opportunity was right up my street, and I got my application in straightaway!

Robin Black

In the pages of Dark Mountain, the writer with druidic tendencies John Michael Greer tapped on the fragile glass of my assumptions with ‘the recognition that the universe is indifferent to human beings, not sympathetic, not hostile, not anything, and that it’s really rather silly of us, all things considered, to expect it to conform to our wishes …’. In other words, no truism is in place to stop life on Earth from getting really, really bad. The melted ice of the climate crisis poured through my now-broken glass; it hurt, and I was scared.

Armed with an editor’s overdeveloped sense of responsibility at seven years old, I’d been recycling and turning off lights since then, just as they taught us when the school board sent speakers to our classrooms with age-appropriate information about the environment, street drugs and rabies(!). But personal responsibility was never going to get us out of this mess, and governments still aren’t behaving like it’s an emergency, which it is. Given the mismatch between the urgency and government action after all these decades, I am not an optimist about our chances.

Melanie Thompson

Energy and buildings are in my blood. Growing up in Sheffield, a focal point of the Industrial Revolution, we learned at infant school of the city’s long history of metalworking and how important the local wood and coal supply was to the revolution. Amid the power cuts, industrial strikes and oil crises of the early 1970s, we knew well of the smog and pollution of industry; while the strangeness of the shifting seasons and the occasional dramatic flood fed our Yorkshire folklore.

I almost gave up undergraduate physics, but modules in quantum mechanics and chaos theory rekindled my interest, and after graduation I set off on my goal to help scientists communicate their research. The ‘hole in the ozone layer’ was in the headlines, and collective international action stepped in to tackle it. As part of a youth delegation to NATO, I heard scientists warn of mass migration as one of the many consequences of ‘global warming’.

I ultimately found my favourite editorial home in what was then the UK government’s Energy Efficiency Best Practice unit, working on documents about saving energy in buildings, as well as energy and environmental policy. I’ve worked in the ’green’ sector ever since, for several high-profile national and international bodies, focusing more in recent years on international action on climate change.

I was very keen to join the CIEP’s working group and do my bit to help others do theirs. It’s even slightly easing my frustration that it’s taken so long to get this crisis up the global agenda, despite decades of scientists (and their editors) banging on about it.


Have you made changes to reduce your impact on the environment? Would you like to know more about what changes you could make? Let us know in the comments.

If you are a CIEP member and would like to join the EPWG, contact Abi Saffrey.

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: ice by Derek Oyen; it’s not easy being green by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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