Think the climate crisis is only affecting the environment? Unfortunately, it affects a lot more than meets the eye. Climate change impacts mental health, physical health, our governmental and business policies, the way we live, and so much more. This Earth Day, we reflect on the phenomenon of eco-anxiety among Generation Z, and how we move forward from here.
Gen Z & Climate Anxiety
A survey in early March by Blue Shield of California Next Gen found that across the political spectrum and varying from different places (rural, cities, suburbs), 83% of Gen Zers are concerned about the planet’s health.
These fears induced by environmental events led to the development of eco-anxiety. The American Psychological Association (APA) officially defined eco-anxiety as the “chronic fear of environmental doom.” Researchers state it has very similar symptoms as general anxiety. This includes, but is not limited to, heart palpitations, a constant sense of dread, and not being able to concentrate. Around 25% to 33% of respondents said the climate crisis impacted them on this deeper, personal level.
“I have definitely experienced climate anxiety and know that others have as well,” said Devishi Jha, co-founder of youth climate organization Voyagers.
“I fear for my future and the generations after me. It’s scary to not know if there will be enough resources to support them. Addressing the issue is one huge step to reduce climate anxiety, as well as creating more spaces and conversations to voice our thoughts.”
Driving Policy Change
Grassroots organizations have already been working for years now on creating mass movements. Leaders founded these movements to drive more governmental and business policy change. However, this new data about climate anxiety and the impact of this crisis on mental health is a new motivator. They hopefully will convince governments and businesses to create real and fast environmental policies.
71% of respondents from the Next Gen survey said they want governments to do more to defend people from the detrimental impacts of the climate crisis. Climate justice is one of the top issues that Gen Z cares about. They’re determined to make sure it stays as the top concern that the government not just cares about, but also takes action upon.
“I believe policy change is one of many steps needed to avert the climate crisis. We need to see action on micro and macro levels. From holding corporations accountable for greenwashing, to reducing individual waste consumption, to raising awareness about climate issues, there are so many pathways for change,” Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Advocate and Entrepreneur Naomi Porter said.
“I believe with increased awareness and a sense of urgency conveyed by citizens there is a cry for environmental activism and change in policy that will hopefully make an impact.”
What To Do Next
Consumers can make individual contributions towards reducing climate change, like using reusable produce bags instead of plastic.
However, the changes that will revolutionize climate justice have to come from large-scale corporations. Climate anxiety affects Gen Zers so much because even when we try to live more sustainably, we feel stuck as our impact is disproportionately engulfed by unsustainable business practices.
For example, some ethical clothing brands fall victim to harmful supply chains and distribution methods. Ethical can sometimes be used loosely — ethically sourced material? Ethically paid labor? The vague language allows for a lot of unsavory business practices to fall through the cracks, leaving the average shopper to feel powerless.
There’s also the fact that pricing for sustainable products is much higher in general. This generally makes the ideal sustainable lifestyle unachievable and inaccessible for most people.
Yes, we should be making those small lifestyle changes. However, the larger impact will come from businesses transforming their internal workings to become more sustainable.
The Bottom Line
It’s apparent that our generation cares so much about this issue that it even impacts our mental and physical health. We won’t stop until this crisis is averted, and businesses shouldn’t either. It’s time to change business policies to avoid greenwashing completely, and actually improve sustainability standards.
We don’t have any more time left. We need change, and that includes from companies.
“The climate crisis is constantly on my mind. I can’t look at nature and not worry immediately about our system corrupting and destroying it,” Youth Activist Theresa Rose Sebastian said. “But I know that the work I’m doing, alongside the millions in the climate movement is fighting back against the system. Gen Z has risen up and fought back, we have taken matters into our hands, because clearly waiting around for those in power to take action wasn’t fast enough. My fear is not a great as my deep love and passion for the world I’m living in and the people around me. It keeps me going.“
JUV Consulting is a Gen Z collective that works with companies to create purpose-driven and authentic marketing campaigns that engage young audiences. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn how to reach Gen Z, or sign up for our weekly newsletter, The Screenshot, to get Gen Z insights straight to your inbox.