Climate anxiety. Apocalypse fatigue. Climate depression. Eco Anxiety. Whatever you call it, overwhelm at the state of our planet has never been higher.
It’s got plenty of names, but what actually is climate anxiety? The American Psychological Society describes it as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. Ooft, heavy, right?
Every day we’re bombarded with images from the climate crisis – from floods, fires and drought to rising mercury, it’s no wonder we’re anxious about impending doom. If it’s not in the news, on the TV or being pinged to our phones, we’re being flight shamed in the office or judged by the water fountain.
It’s fair to say, we’re giving ourselves a tough old time when it comes to the climate crisis, with many people feeling overwhelmed with the effects and struggling with the solutions. This is leading to people all over the world becoming desensitised to the problem and demoralised with how they can help.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again (until we’re blue in the face) – eco shaming doesn’t help anyone. Its important people do as much as they can to tackle their own impact on the planet – but if you come up against someone suffering overwhelm or apathy – education, conversation and positivity is key.
So, what’s the problem?
The threat of climate change is so big it’s hard for us to visualise. For many of us, looking out of our windows, we’re not seeing the immediate effects of greenhouse gases. We’re not seeing fires or floods, or scorching temperatures, we can’t see the daily degradation of our oceans or the rapid loss of species. For many of us, life goes on.
The problem seems SO big that it is hard to see how our small actions can make a real tangible impact. And hey, we feel ya. This is a daily conversation at Enviral HQ – how can we really make an impact.
Although scientists are working tirelessly to enhance our knowledge of climate science, we still don’t have an accurate timeline of how the planet will change post-2-degree temperature rise. There still seems to be a distance between the audience and the problem, so how do we reduce this gap?
A state of inertia and stagnancy is dangerous – the last thing we want is to lose the public momentum and give up the fight.
So how to beat the overwhelm
Know you’re not alone
We’re all in this together friends. This is hard to tackle on our own, but we certainly can together. Millions of people took to the street in 2019 to strike for our climate – so we’re all right beside you.
Even the smallest actions can help
The smallest of actions can help spark positive behaviour change, inspire others around you and empower people to act. From reducing your meat and plastic to using reusable cups, everything you do can help make a difference.
Remember all the amazing positive steps we’ve witnessed over the last few years – we’ve seen Greta, Davey A on the Pyramid Stage, school strikes, climate emergency declarations and important steps towards change. It’s important not to forget the good!
When it comes to speaking about the climate crisis – as creatives in this space we’re in the middle of the problem. How do we communicate this issue without contributing to this anxiety? How do we tackle this issue and frame the conversation in a different way?
It’s time for us creatives to get creative. Let’s shake up the dialogue to position the climate crisis in a way which people can’t help but act. After all, it was marketeers who helped to get us into this problem – so it’s our responsibility to help us get out.
Instead of buy more, buy now, buy new – we need to focus on buy less, buy better, buy smarter.
5 tips on effectively communicating without causing climate fatigue
We all like a laugh, right? Humour acts as a brilliant release from stressful situations. Use creativity to illustrate concepts and complicated issues; images and video stick in your mind more than a graph or an essay (for most people) – and they help people form opinions. Humour is also your friend, it’s been proven that using humour can be a great way of engaging people: getting someone to laugh is half the work of getting them to understand.
Image Credit: The New York Times
Let’s work together! We don’t need to put others down in order to raise ourselves up. Shout about epic changemaker brands and their stories, give kudos to other agencies and marketing teams creating amazing work and let’s come together to inspire change.
Tell the positive stories alongside the negative ones and give people actionable solutions. Be realistic about the issues and straight-up about the facts. Tell stories of a cleaner, greener world and how we can get there. Besides, negative messaging is pretty boring, it causes people to switch off and doesn’t inspire people to act. Make sure you balance the rough with the smooth when it comes to the climate crisis, ensure you’re helping to frame a positive future whilst remaining honest.
Storytelling is key to fighting climate fatigue. Make sure your wording is honest, modest, and real. Avoid pointless jargon and use language which is bespoke to each audience you’re trying to communicate with. We need to think carefully about which terms associated with sustainability and the climate crisis invoke the most reaction and encourage positive action. Sequestration, carbon negative, greenwash, offset, overshoot – these are all words which get thrown around – but do people know what these actually mean?
Let’s be honest – this can be pretty alienating. Academics brought the climate crisis to our attention, but it’s our role to communicate this in a way which everyone can understand.
5. Give people a reason
Give people a reason to take sustainability seriously and show how it can integrate into everyday lives. I mean we all want to live in a cleaner, greener world, right?
Being sustainable is often seen as a ‘sacrifice’ to other ways of living rather than something awesome and creative. We need to shift that narrative to make sustainability desirable, to sell it, so much so that it becomes normal and integrated into our everyday lives.
So that’s, a wrap (beeswax, of course)
Climate change is the biggest threat to our species, but as creatives, we have the amazing opportunity to help solve it through impactful communications which inspire mass change. We’ll leave you with something useful from someone very intelligent…
And remember: Impossible only means we haven’t found the solution yet.