The primary impact of climate change on humans is, far and way, on our mental health. There are two primary drivers of that. Generally, societies are waking up to the fact that the environment is changing radically, and so more and more people are walking around carrying “climate anxiety.” The second dimension is that more individuals are being directly impacted by heat, wildfire smoke, flooding or drought, powerful storms, and all the other problems scientists have been pointing at in earnest since the late 1980’s.
One of the questions we are often asked is “What can I do to deal with my own feelings about the climate crisis?” or “How can I help others?” For starters, check out this recent interview we did: “Sitting With Climate Anxiety.”
In 2017, SolaVida led a project supported by the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire looking at the impacts of climate change on mental health. At the time, we found it to be a largely unexamined topic in the medical and public health literature – and today remains an emerging area of study. Yet, impacts on mental health are arguably the dominant effects of climate change being experienced across the planet today.
Our goal was to consolidate the information we could find, and suggest a framework for describing the problem. You can find the report titled “The Impacts of Climate Change on Mental Health” here.
The Peace of Wild Things (Wendell Berry)
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.