Before wildfires wreaked havoc on California this year, there was an eerie calm. The power company, in an effort to deter wildfires sparked by power lines, had just shut down electricity in millions of homes. Overnight, huge swaths of the state went dark. Before the lights went out in my family’s home, I stood outside, sniffing the smoky air with trepidation, listening to tree branches snap in the wind and eyeing the hazy orange glow above the horizon. Despite previous excitement about a workshop in Oregon I’d planned to attend, I warily lowered myself into the driver’s seat. It was difficult to leave my family behind with so many unknowns.
In the mental health field (of which I’m a part), some clinicians might say I was experiencing “eco-anxiety,” and perhaps it’s true. Across the globe, worry related to a changing and uncertain natural environment is clogging up our minds, bodies and news feeds. To be sure, there is real cause to worry. If we do not act quickly to combat climate change, our future looks exceedingly grim: climate-related deaths, mass migrations, environmental devastation, extinction of species. But, other than managing this anxiety to whatever extent possible, are there really any better options?