A brewing storm

In a world where deadly heat waves, floods and dust storms are becoming increasingly worrisome, many in B’luru are experiencing ‘climate anxiety’, a form of collective worry involving existential fears about survival
A brewing storm
Illustration | Mandar Pardikar

BENGALURU: In the summer that went by, the city of Bengaluru was trending on social media; this time not for its famed cool clime but for the deadly heat wave as temperatures touched 39°C, a number unheard of in namma ooru.

“I was a bundle of nerves with the situation being so unprecedented. I have never experienced such heat before,” shares Sargam Parashar (20), who found it extremely hard to concentrate on anything, much less her exams in the rising heat and subsequent severe water shortage. “There was a sense of helplessness. This was directly affecting our lives, and it was beyond our control,” she says.

Parashar, like many others, is struggling with an up-and-coming alarming concept called climate or eco-anxiety. If you were a ’90s kid, odds are you had the luxury of watching climate disasters on the big screen and imagining it as a far-away possibility. But what was once fiction has turned into reality for an entire generation growing up amidst disasters.

Pallavi Phatak, who leads the climate and education programme at Asar Social Impact Advisors points out that their research reveals high levels of anxiety among young people regarding climate change. “We surveyed first-time voters aged between 18 and 22 about their perceptions of climate awareness and literacy.

Many expressed high anxiety, fear, and feeling powerless,” says Phatak, adding that more focus should be given to addressing systemic issues rather than focusing solely on individual actions like switching off lights.

Ricky Kej,
three-time
Grammy award
winne
Ricky Kej, three-time Grammy award winne

Changing Narratives

Ricky Kej, the three-time Grammy winner, whose music reflects his concerns of the environment, offers a unique perspective on the communication of climate change. He criticises the fear-based approach often used by activists suggesting it can exacerbate climate anxiety, especially among children.

“Constantly telling children their future is in jeopardy can be harmful, even if the message is accurate,” he says, advocating for a more positive approach, akin to biologist Sir David Attenborough’s style. “We should showcase the beauty of the world, hoping people will find the motivation to protect, conserve, and sustain it,” he suggests.

Agrees Suhirtha Muhil, who works on creating climate tools for children. “When people don’t understand what’s happening around them and are only exposed to dire information about climate change, it can seem more doom-laden and increase stress for children,” she says, adding, “Observing and understanding these changes first-hand helps alleviate some of that anxiety.”

Ajay Raghavan, co-founder of Bangalore Creative Circus, turned to art to deal with his climate anxiety. “I was living in a bubble until I saw Before The Floods around 2016 when I truly grasped the severity of climate change. The film shook me, especially considering my daughter’s future.

My own journey was more about anxiety than anything else,” shares Raghavan, leading him to explore creative solutions to climate change, blending art, science, and sustainability. “Art provides a unique way to engage people, foster optimism, deal with anxiety, and give an alternative to the mainstream conversation which is often very dark.”

Actor Samyukta Hornad, who also works on spreading climate awareness highlights that climate change disrupts entire ecosystems. “We have to be patient and do our small part to see the impact later,” she says.

Overcome climate anxiety

  1. Look for people in your locality who are doing work related to climate change and support them in whatever way possible

  2. Stay optimistic and reframe what climate action means. Understand that just because you couldn’t halt glacial melting, doesn’t mean small community-level actions are not impactful

  3. Engage in community action and mobilisation which contributes to

    narrative building, and increases awareness around climate change.

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