Embracing Sustainable Development Goals to Address Climate Anxiety
Climate anxiety. That panic you may be feeling could be climate anxiety. This is emotional distress, fear, and feelings of helplessness experienced by individuals in response to climate change. With extreme weather and biodiversity loss becoming more frequent, the impact of climate anxiety on mental health has become a global challenge (Clayton et al., 2017).
Additionally, climate anxiety is a valid mental health issue affecting people of all ages. The constant influx of distressing news related to climate change leads to feelings of despair, eco-grief, and a sense of powerlessness. Uncertainty about the future, coupled with a perceived lack of control in mitigating the impending crisis, exacerbates stress levels, resulting in anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health challenges (Berry et al., 2018).
The Significance of Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015, offer a roadmap to address pressing global challenges, including climate change. Comprising 17 interconnected goals, these encompass various aspects of sustainable development, from eradicating poverty and hunger to promoting clean energy and biodiversity conservation. Leveraging the potential of these goals can contribute to tackling climate anxiety and its adverse effects on mental health.
Goal 13: Climate Action
Climate action lies at the core of the SDGs and provides hope and empowerment for individuals concerned about our future. By implementing climate adaptation and mitigation strategies, supporting renewable energy initiatives, and fostering sustainable consumption and production, we can cut climate change's impacts, ease anxiety, and restore faith in our ability to confront the crisis (IPCC, 2018).
Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
Climate change's impacts on mental health call for improved healthcare systems and access to mental health support. Enhancing mental health services and integrating climate anxiety into the discourse ensures that those grappling with eco-anxiety receive the necessary help, safeguarding their well-being amid environmental challenges (Horton et al., 2016).
Goal 4: Quality Education
Education plays an important role in raising awareness about climate change and its repercussions. By incorporating climate change education into curricula and nurturing environmental literacy, the younger generation becomes climate-conscious citizens empowered to make sustainable choices and take part in climate action (Stevenson et al., 2019).
Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals
By fostering partnerships and engaging stakeholders at all levels, we create a collective force for climate action, alleviating climate anxiety by making individuals feel part of a broader effort toward a sustainable future (UN, 2015).
Climate anxiety is a genuine and escalating concern impacting mental health worldwide. To address this issue, we must embrace Sustainable Development Goals as a guiding framework for global action. We can empower individuals to combat climate anxiety by contributing to climate action, nurturing mental well-being, and fostering collaborative efforts for a more sustainable and resilient planet. By doing so, we pave the way for a brighter future where climate anxiety is being replaced with hope, determination, and a renewed commitment to creating a better world for generations to come.
Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Krygsman, K., & Speiser, M. (2017). Mental health and our changing climate: Impacts, implications, and guidance. American Psychologist, 72(4), 311-326.
Berry, H. L., Waite, T. D., Dear, K. B. G., Capon, A. G., & Murray, V. (2018). The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 282-290.
IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). (2018). Global warming of 1.5°C. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
Horton, D. E., Johnson, N. C., Singh, D., Swain, D. L., Rajaratnam, B., & Diffenbaugh, N. S. (2016). Contribution of changes in atmospheric circulation patterns to extreme temperature trends. Nature, 522(7557), 465-469.
Stevenson, K. T., Peterson, M. N., Bondell, H. D., & Moore, S. E. (2019). Environmental education as a strategy to promote positive youth development and subjective well-being. Applied Developmental Science, 23(4), 361-378.
United Nations. (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda
Meet the Writer
Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne co-founded Growin’ Money at 13, planting 60,000 mangroves and educating 20,000 people to conserve Sri Lanka's coastal ecosystems. A catalyst for change, she also spearheaded the nation's most supported petition, advocating the Animal Welfare Bill. She is also a co-moderator for eePRO Group E-STEM Education. Anoka's resilience and compassion drive her to create a sustainable, compassionate world.