How do you cope with climate anxiety?

In the few weeks I was away in Sri Lanka, we saw 6 inches of hail covering Mexico City in the summer, a mid-30s heat wave in northern Europe, floods displacing over a million people in Bangladesh and Assam, 30% reduction in milk production in India due to excessive heat, days over 52℃ in Iran, and a food crisis in East Africa due to drought that was described by UN as “the worst crisis we have ever seen”. Then I returned to Sydney where we are flooding, again.

How do we cope?

For me:

  • meditations connected with the earth, such as breath, metta, 4 elements.
  • reading a few well-informed articles each week: not too much or too little.
  • talking about it; even if all we can do is share bad news, at least it’s shared.
  • a sense of meaning and purpose in my work; no matter what happens, I know what I do has value.
  • writing fiction where my characters say what I can’t.

What doesn’t help is people telling me not to worry because xyz good thing is happening. In one group we had, someone told us not to be so negative, saying, “we had a meeting with engineers who were asking what they could do.” All that did was make me wonder, “so, what exactly have these engineers been doing for the last 30 years?” I know there are good things happening. People have been telling me about it for literally my entire life. I have read the stories and followed the arguments. It’s not enough.

Anyone who thinks there is no climate crisis or that it really isn’t very bad, please go somewhere else.

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Thank you for sharing, Bhante.

In a world delirious with fake news, distractions, and with, as Roshi Aitken wrote, many people spending their lives “chasing after bright lights and confetti,” learning what we can about the crisis, doing what we can given the circumstances of our lives, and sincerely engaging with Dhamma practice with whatever kindness, compassion, and wisdom we can offer may be the best most of us can do.

And maybe that’s no small thing.

:pray: :pray: :pray:

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I do what I can do and then keep it off my mind for my mental health.

These are the things I do:

  1. I don’t have children. I diplomatically suggest to people on the Internet not to have more than 2 kids.
  2. I don’t eat meat
  3. I drive a reasonably sized vehicle
  4. When possible, I keep my appliances updated to be the most energy efficient possible.
  5. I vote for politicians who have the greatest concern for the environment
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Interesting addiction for most people, including for the green warriors I personally know who are not humble enough to use the wonderful and underutilized public transport in my area. Just saying. :zipper_mouth_face: :mask: Personally, I committed myself 30 years ago to never own a motor car again unless absolutely necessary. Walking is fun. Public transport is cool. Bicycles are healthy. :slight_smile: The new Green Slogan should be: “The Buddha walked”. :dizzy: :walking_man:t2: :walking_man:t2: :walking_woman:t2: :walking_man:t2: :man_walking:t2: :mountain_biking_man:t2: :mountain_biking_man:t2: :bus: :train:

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1- By paying more attention to how climate change affects my country rather than seeing it as a global phenomena.
2- By being aware of how universals can be often misused. This is key to a pragmatic mindset that seeks solutions. Climate change or not, my country still needs more water due to many factors. From that perspective, climate change global action can be a multiplier of opportunities due to the availability of funds and to how it affected political will.
3- Understanding the complexity of the decision making process, which often involves competing demands. This is essential for assisting the decision makers where i live to take advantage of international trends by adapting it to the local/national context.
4- Appearances can be deceptive. Those who defend the idea with zeal are often the biggest polluters.

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Thank you. For me, I doubt the above makes much difference. I am friends with quite prominent people in the Green Movement. I have not noticed any of them attempt to change their lifestyles. In fact, their materialism is often mind-boggling. They seem to be primarily demanding the government create new types of energy so they can maintain their materialist lifestyles. To judge them does not bother me at all because I personally have lived the sacrifice required. While the Buddha’s Noble Path was never intended to address any climate emergency, the “intent of renunciation (nekkhammasaṅkappo)” is a constituent of the Buddha’s Path. :dizzy:

In my experience, I agree with the Buddha in AN 11.2, for example, that right moral conduct reduces remorse/anxiety. If we ourselves live in a more frugal and sustainable manner, we can develop the happiness of knowing we are living in the right way. The Dhamma tells us our own knowledge of our own ethical conduct brings us happiness.

Particularly, if we believe in rebirth, we can have the confidence & happiness of knowing our knowledge of our right conduct & our metta (loving-kindness) towards the natural environment leads to rebirth in a Brahma world (AN 11.16).

Personally, I think the current Green Bureaucrats are quite dangerous, in that they appear to be positioning themselves to take advantage of a more austere future for many. Personally, I struggle to trust “Green Billionaires” who claim to care about the world and the environment. :dizzy:

I agree. As an example, in Australia, there are lots of surfers (surfboard riders :surfing_man:t2:) who claim to be zealous environmentalists because they use the ocean. But surfing is probably one of the post polluting lifestyles imaginable. Fragile surfboards are made from the most toxic materials, wetsuits are made mostly from oil, surfers drive & fly airplanes constantly searching for the best surf. :dizzy:

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I agree.

Although I do a similar thing than Bhante Sujato, although focused in what I believe is the real threat over this world, named “Destruction of Nature”, and then sending metta to the living beings of air, earth and seas.

I believe this real threat is what can short the available future in an exponential time.

However, no special changes in daily activities because I live in a city. Recently I was forced to ecologize my vehicle, despite only one Luxury cruise giant emits 10 times more air pollution than all of Europe’s cars, according the European Federation for Transport and Environment:

in these situations with theft of money, I remember this world is ruled by greed and lies, and this thought can pacify my mind because that’s not in my reach. Then I can go to the Council Hall to pay the bill, with a brotherhood feeling that both, the official and myself, we are living in a prison under the control of some mafia. They always appreciate my sympathy with them. In their job this is not very common.

Then I share the concern about the Earth although no the object of the concern, despite there are climate changes.

Wow. Also, the war machine (defense forces) I once read is a massive polluter. I think this particularly for Buddhists is like removing two birds with one cage. Anti-war or anti-militarization focus supports climate focus. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I thought this podcast episode captured it well and I really recommend it: the need to “let it all in”. To process it and have it become a part of you. The scope is mind-boggling, and yet somehow the heart is even larger, given time and space enough. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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It seems that this is a big issue for so many people at the moment. I believe that depending on where individuals are at, everyone will have to find a strategy that works best for them, I don’t think there is a single approach.

What has worked for me is to assume/accept the worst - we will all die (this is normal), all life on the planet will die (this too is normal), the planet itself will be destroyed (even this is normal) :slight_smile: This is a fact, we all know this is what will happen, it is just a question of exactly when. Every person knows that there is birth and death. Ultimately the when and how is not that important.

Simultaneously, I use the constant awareness of impermanence and the ending of things to supercharge my own efforts to be as kind and as skillful as possible. I know I can’t control what others do, or what other groups, governments or countries do, let alone what the natural world does, but I can make personal choices. So I make personal choices of minimising harm in all ways, including living as lightly as possible, and in a climate friendly way :slight_smile: This way I have absolutely no remorse about conduct, nor guilt about not doing what I can. What others do is outside of my control, and to take on responsibility for their actions or to feel that I have failed in trying to convince them to behave in other ways is guaranteed to result in suffering.

Ajahn Brahm gives a definition of suffering in the following terms - Expecting from Life what it cannot give is suffering. Relinquishing this, as well as the desire that humans will be other than what they are (deluded and defiled and unwise to differing degrees and in many ways) leads to acceptance and ease. Life is not perfect- life is suffering, this is the First Noble Truth. Wanting the First Noble Truth to be incorrect = suffering…

This doesn’t mean that one can’t differentiate Wisdom from foolishness, but rather that one doesn’t crave or expect that Wise choices will always be made in the world. One doesn’t despair when foolish and harmful choices are made. It isn’t good and it isn’t bad - it is just the way that it is. Even remembering ‘Good, bad, who knows’ is worthwhile. There have been many times when I myself have witnessed something that I thought would be detrimental, turn out to be ‘good’. This is the case even with extinctions… Ultimately it isn’t really about good or bad - but simply ‘different’. There is the arising of new in the place of the old. Dinosaurs > Mammals… Who knows what the future holds, it is unimaginable :slight_smile:

The constant thing though is that we can be wise and kind in our own lives, ensure we are as harmless as possible and to demonstrate and encourage this. That is all one can do. It is only when we are expecting and craving everyone to agree and behave in specific ways that we get into trouble.

It’s ok - everything is going to die anyway. We have all died so many times before :slight_smile: So the focus is on as much kindness as possible, to reduce suffering when and where possible, and to live in a way that generates no regrets or remorse for ones own conduct by body, speech or mind, all the time knowing that death is imminent. It helps to focus on what is really important. Living in this way - in the very shadow of death - life can be absolutely joyful and full of contentment :slight_smile:

This helps me keep climate anxiety at bay.

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yes, same here. Keeping a simple way of life is wise for many reason starting for peace of mind. Perceptions of the world are always subjective according information and circumstances, although the result must be always aligned with wholesome actions, despite can be focused in different things.

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By doing something about it!

  1. Downsizing! ( or didnt up-size in the first place when I could :relaxed:) -Family, housing, possessions, vehicles( all if applicable- sometimes I need to get new clothes for the rapidly growing kids who can’t wear hacked hand me downs anymore :joy:)…

  2. Stretch the use of electronics as much as corporations allow me to :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

90% plant based diet, eating less since we really don’t need that N. American style diet, reduce animal products, plastic use etc.

  1. In addition to voting for environmentally conscientious politicians/ parties, voting for those emphasizing women’s health and reproductive rights and gender rights in general.

Because…

And try to build my understanding that this is all subject to change,….

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Yes, I got of rid of my vehicle many years ago, but that decision was facilitated by choosing to live in a town, close to public transport links.
Compromises are involved.

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Yes, voting for climate change deniers doesn’t seem like a wise choice.

By paying more attention to how my body is made up of parts and subject to disease, death, and decay. Our planet is no different.

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I’ve personally found the writings of Timothy Morton and in particular his book “Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence,” to be enormously helpful for understanding how climate change works and the deeper social forces driving it (well beyond just eg modern capitalism). While his writing is not explicitly expressed as Buddhist thought, Prof. Morton is a Buddhist and it’s very clear it’s had a strong influence on his more general thought. A good place to start would be this series he did with the BBC called “The end of the world has already happened” BBC Radio 4 - The End of the World Has Already Happened, 1: We're doomed!

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As always Bhante, appreciate you, and so many other great people on this forum discussing issues of utmost importance.

As someone involved on a daily basis with the natural world, I do my best to bridge the human/Nature divide, and show all whom I work with, educate, and discourse with, that we are not apart from Nature, rather a part of it. The more people who wake up to the the falsity of the duality that we are separate from the natural world, and engage more with Nature, will hopefully create more environmentally conscious individuals who understand the interconnected nature of our biological existence in this world. I primarily work with kids by engaging them in projects related to ecological literacy. Their parents may be lost to neoliberal capitalism, but there is hope (at least I hope) for the younger generations to establish within themselves a truly romantic relationship with the natural world, and become the savior stewards of the future. This may be a bit poetic, but one can dream, am I right?

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Thank you for this question - I think it is important to acknowledge and discuss what we are doing to our world. And I deeply appreciate reading what you do.

For me:

  1. Metta meditation for animals and the natural world, Metta meditation for the humans suffering from climate change - both it’s physical effects and it’s psychological ones
  2. Daily reflection on the loka dhamma. Anything I have gained could be lost - our house, our savings, our livelihoods, our lifestyle: I might end my life living in a climate refugee camp. I find going through the elements of the loka dhamma one by one and reflecting on how deeply insecure and changing all the things of my life and this world are helps me stay grounded and resilient in the face of what comes.
  3. Not talking to climate change deniers - at this point the evidence is so overwhelming a denier is either lying or willfully ignorant, so there is no value to those conversations.
  4. Spending time with family, friends, and loved ones (2- and 4-legged).
  5. Doing meaningful work (I am blessed to be able to devote my energies to a small non-profit that provides free mental health services).
  6. Volunteering caring for animals.
  7. Living as simple a life as possible (while understanding I have the privilege to simplify - not everyone has the resources to make that choice).
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Thanks. For me too, learning is helpful. Knowing is better than not knowing.

IMHO that’s the number 1 actually effective thing we can do.

Right! So weird, people don’t want to let me walk or catch a train. They insist on driving even when it’s totally unnecessary.

Really interesting thoughts, thank you.

There was a survey in German a few years ago which showed that Greens had a higher carbon output than conservatives. Basically the number one factor in your carbon emissions is your wealth, and Greens tend to be more highly educated and hence more wealthy.

Yes, definitely

Nice! “Make your heart bigger than the wide earth …”

It can only go up from there!

This is a great point. If we do good things solely because they are effective, we’re likely to be disappointed. But we do them because they are the right thing to do, because the outcome is bigger than us.

Even more essential now.

Ahh yes, smallness is such a big thing.

Great, yes.

My goodness, so important, thank you!

Right, different choices suit different circumstances. We shouldn’t feel bad because we don’t do everything right now. We can just try to do better.

Indeed it is.

Thanks, I’ll check it out.

Awesome, can you tell us more? I’m sure lots of people here would be interested.

One can at that.

:heart_eyes:

Right, this is an uncertainty vaccine.

Sadly, yes.

Giving rather than expecting, nice.


Thanks everyone!

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I live in a town on the east coast of England, which has been flooded by surge tides in the past. They are currently building flood defences around the harbour area, basically sheet-piling with a 1. 5 metre high wall. It should be adequate until the end of the century… Hopefully! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
An interesting thing I learned is that surge tides are partly due to low atmospheric pressure, the surface of the sea bulges up in these locations.

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