Eco-Activism or Eco-Anxiety? You Choose

Blog Post by Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News.

Christine of Daily Creatives and Grant of Happy Eco News. Enjoying a winter beach walk near Qualicum, BC. Image Grant Brown.

Eco-activist. The name itself seems to conjure up images of protest – of people chaining themselves to trees, protesting pipelines, putting their physical bodies on the line to prevent a company or project from destroying a wild area that is dear to them. Certainly not a middle-aged, middle-class, suburb dweller.

There are many who are far more deserving of a title like that. People who are truly willing to risk the ultimate price to do what they believe is right. In 2019, more than 200 environmental activists were killed by their governments or trained paramilitary private security companies. Unlike soldiers fighting a war, these people are simply trying to protect their lands from being destroyed and their water from being polluted. Often they are working against companies with corporate offices in cities and countries far away. Sometimes they are even financed by major banks or pension funds. To the people who profit from these companies, a few activists are simply collateral damage in the never-ending push to acquire more wealth.

But eco-activist is how I was recently introduced by a person who has truly dedicated her life to environmental and social activism. A few short years ago, I would never have considered myself an activist. An environmentalist sure, but activist? These days though, I suppose it’s not wrong to a certain degree. However, I immediately wonder if calling someone like me that, dilutes the strength of the name in some way. Does it reduce the efforts of those who have given up everything to protect what they love? Those who have been incarcerated or murdered?

The faces of eco-activists Maria and Zé Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva. The couple was murdered by unknown assailants in the eastern Amazon Basin of Brazil. Image Filipe Milanez, Reuters.

I wasn’t always an activist. I’m a dad, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend. I’m just a regular person who is trying to help in whatever way I can. But somehow, in some way, activism found me, and it feels right. I no longer wake up with a sense of dread about the world each morning; I now see positive change occurring everywhere around me when I look for it. I now feel like there is hope, not just for me, but for my children and their future children.

Eco-activist? If so, I’m in good company. I’ll take it.

Like many of you, I support various environmental causes by making small donations each month. I currently support the Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, Earthjustice, the Dogwood Initiative, and Watershed Watch to name a few (there are others on a less frequent basis). I’m not trying to brag or gain some sort of eco-street cred in any way, but I do think that people should know that they can help. Even if they can’t start a news blog, or take action beyond their own homes, there are always ways to make an impact. You can donate to a good cause, vote with the environment in mind, or support companies that are better for the environment. It is armchair activism, but it makes a difference.

Get off your chair and do something. Rain or shine, you can meet new friends and take eco-action. Image courtesy Grant Brown.

I am often contacted by readers of the Happy Eco News with questions about stories, or comments about the site (I read and reply to them all so please keep them coming). However, there is another type of email I get fairly frequently. It is from people who suffer from eco-anxiety. These people are truly suffering on a scope I can barely imagine. In some cases, they can’t even see the beauty of nature anymore; seeing a forest will trigger panic within them. They want to know what they can do to overcome these feelings or just lessen the effects a little. I’m no psychologist but I do know what helped me when I was freaking out about the environment. I didn’t start to feel better until I took action. It may sound oversimplified, trite even, but if you want to overcome eco-anxiety, just do something to make the world better. It works.

Here’s an easy one; maybe you can donate money or time to local conservation or environmental groups that resonate with you. Or you could join one of these groups and help them with their projects (and in the process meet other people who also care). How about you join a climate strike, either online or in real life? Write letters and emails to your elected representatives. Write letters and emails to companies that can do better, and send the same ones to the stores that sell their products. Participate in a beach cleanup. It is possible to take action and connect with others, even during this pandemic.

If everyone who felt any form of eco-anxiety took some small action today, and then again tomorrow, and then the day after that things will get better. If these people thought about the sum total of their actions every day, we will win. I say win because in some ways maybe it is a war. We owe it to the true eco-activists that are fighting every day, risking everything in the process.

Take positive action and build upon it. Force companies and public representatives to be accountable to more than just shareholders. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be an eco-activist. If I can do it, you can too.

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