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Eco-anxiety is real

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Climate change and eco-consciousness have been universal topics for many years and with increasing natural disasters hitting closer to home than ever, there is no excuse for ignorance anymore.

The International Psychoanalytical Association has recognized climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. The ocean crisis, global warming predictions and the high rate of species extinctions all have an influence on the health of the human race – both physically and mentally.

The term, eco-anxiety, is a fairly new term to many. defines it as being associated with the fear of harming the environment and while South Africa has a couple of initiatives and practices in place to protect the environment, it is not nearly enough. Eco-anxiety can also refer to the fear of doom due to climate change or the fear of the impact that climate change might have on our lives or our loved ones.


In the book, Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos, Joseph Dodds quotes Marshall 2005: “The unique quality of climate change…is that it combines every single quality that we find it hardest to engage with…[like] deadly diseases…perfectly formed to bypass our immune system, climate change is perfectly formed to confound our problem-solving skills.”

Dr. Panu Pihkala from the University of Helsinki says that even though climate change could cause direct psychological and existential impacts, many people experience indirect impacts such as depression, socio-ethical paralysis and loss of well-being because of it. Listening to and watching negative news about the environment undoubtedly affects the health of the human psyche and many people are worried about the future of our planet.

While anxiety is unpleasant, it could also be an effective motivator. Large companies have the means, the power and the opportunity to decrease their employees’ ecological footprint, evidently also limiting eco-anxiety among staff. It is possible to calculate your company’s eco-footprint with’s footprint calculator, which poses a good start. From recycling systems and water saving processes to paperless environments – there are endless ways in which companies can motivate employees to collaborate in creating awareness about climate change and preserving the environment. Small changes can make a big difference.


Written by Renate Engelbrecht
Images: Shutterstock

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