Sunday, March 6, 2016

Looking In The Mirror

A recent Toronto Star piece about climate change chose to explore, not the well-known physical peril it poses, but rather the mental one. Citing a 2012 report from the U.S. National Wildlife Federation, it offered the following grim predictions:
... cases of mental and social disorders will rise steeply as the signs of climate change become clearer and more frequent, and as more people are directly affected by heat waves, drought and other extreme events that put pressure on clean water resources, food prices and public infrastructure.

“These will include depressive and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, substance abuse, suicides and widespread outbreaks of violence,” predicted the report. It singled out children, the poor, the elderly and those with existing mental health problems as those likely to be hardest hit.
It is an article well-worth reading in its entirety.

In today's Star, readers respond to it with their usual perspicacity. While I reproduce only a few below, all are worth reading:
Thanks to David Ouchterlony for expressing what many of us must feel about the lack of concern over climate change. I find my sense of hopelessness and despair is directly related to my increase in knowledge of our situation.

I refuse, however, to buffer my mental well being by “disengaging” my concern over the future of our planet. I do not know what type of a catastrophe it will take to bring climate “delayers” and “deniers” into acceptance of the dire situation all living creatures now face, but I know I must continue to try. For me, inaction will only increase my anxiety.

We must all confront this issue now before it is too late, and perhaps in numbers we can create the political will to mitigate this disaster.

Sue Braiden, Erin

I am sure I am not alone in having suffered from environmental anxiety since I was a teenager in the 1960s, when the Cuyahoga River caught fire, among other unbelievable events. In my 50 years of adulthood I have watched humans double and triple our world population, dump toxins and plastics into the air and water, pave everything around major cities, deplete animals and plants, and generally behave badly as citizens of the world.

We don’t seem to be able to stop ruining everything, despite both evidence and predictions. We seem to think Mars is the more beautiful planet, which Earth should emulate.

Martha Gould, North Bay

Climate change is destroying our coastal cities, causing unprecedented chaotic floods and now we are learning how this is wreaking havoc on our mental health. This mounting evidence should be a wake-up call.

However, the wealth of evidence that environmental change is caused by global “greed versus need” does not seem to have resulted in drastic changes that each of us are called upon to make – urgently.

Are we pushing our governments, and especially ourselves, to take tough measures to counter climate change and save planet Earth?

Rudy Fernandes, Mississauga
No government can fix global warming and stay popular, but we Canadians can reduce our CO2 emissions by burning less gas, eating less meat, and turning off the heat and lights when we’re out. If we each do our part, there’s no need for despair. Everything will cost a bit more, but not as much as doing nothing.

Canada should lead, not wait for Americans to change their thinking.

Simon Leigh, Toronto
As the letter-writers make abundantly clear, we all have a responsibility here, both in the creation of the catastrophe, and in the measures that must be taken to mitigate it. The ball is indeed in our collective court.


  1. From what I've read, Lorne, nowhere is the emotional distress worse than among climate scientists. I've met a couple of them who, in public, put on a 'we can still do this' face but, over a couple of beers, morph into 'we're so screwed' mode. They don't get to look the other way. They see the mountain of research pouring in and they have the knowledge and expertise to know what it means.

    1. I suspect those scientists know all too well the story of Cassandra, Mound.