Facing our demons

Facing up to the climate challenge can improve our state of mind — and our health. [15 January 2008 | Peter Boyer]

Sick of hearing about climate change? To put it another way, is all the talk about our changing climate making you feel sick?

If it’s any consolation, humans have always been anxious about their future. But the climate threat is especially frustrating because it’s intangible: we can’t confront it like an enemy at the gates. Over time, bad climate news can make us worried, scared or depressed.

We can respond by denying there’s a problem, or by “tuning out” and saying we don’t care, or by leaving the solution to others. Or we can take refuge in cynicism – “people will destroy the planet and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

These are natural reactions, but none will make us feel better – or save the world.  The demons have the upper hand. Which is why Australia’s peak psychology organisation, the Australian Psychological Society, has thought about how we might counter-attack.

For a start, we should take heart from the wealth of information and technology that can help us to sort things out and get on with life.

Then there’s personal action, an excellent medicine. Making small emission-reducing changes in our lives will not only help us feel better but also, with millions doing likewise, can significantly reduce greenhouse pollution.

Becoming informed about climate change can empower us, but it’s not a bad idea to take an occasional break from news – especially radio or television news – to recharge batteries before getting back into the fray.

Unity is strength, so strengthen the spirit by keeping in touch with other people –families and loved ones, neighbours, workplace colleagues. And with the wider world. If possible, put time aside for a regular walk in a natural place.

We look after our environment because we know life is worth living. That’s what it’s all about.

You can learn more about coping with climate change at <http://www.psychology.org.au>. For practical advice on things you can do, contact Sustainable Living Tasmania: 6234 5566 or <info@sustainablelivingtasmania.org.au>.

• The response from Christopher Brown, head of the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia (Letters, January 11) to my comments on Tasmanian tourism is a sure sign something’s getting through. But it’s worrying that he so misread what I said, which was that future technology and offset schemes are no substitute for reducing emissions at the actual, current source. He says solutions must come from big business, but in tourism, as in all walks of life, climate change demands effort from everyone, top to bottom, now.

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