sarah jacket ray During her career, she has carved out an academic niche at the intersection of environmental issues and social justice. In the late 2010s, as concerns about the climate crisis finally began to build toward today’s climax, Ray, a professor of environmental studies at Cal Poly, Humboldt, turned her attention to a relatively new phenomenon that has entered the discussion: Climate Anxiety – “The Persistent Fear of Environmental Doom”. When Ray started writing and talking about climate anxiety, she quickly noticed a change in the people who were interested in her work. “What happened? It got whiter,” she said.
Growing discomfort prompted her to write an opinion piece scientific american In March 2021, she expressed concern about what she called the “unbearable whiteness” in the climate anxiety conversation. In her words, she “sounds the alarm” that if marginalized people continue to be excluded from discussions, climate anxiety could manifest as fear or anger towards marginalized communities, and society will forgo what it needs to act on the climate crisis. cross method.
She wanted to capture the way “white emotions can absorb all the oxygen in the room.” The term climate anxiety itself seems to mean more to white and wealthy people experiencing existential threats for the first time.Climate justice author Mary Annaïse Heglar calls this “existential exceptionalism” — the privileged class that sees climate change as a human first Existential Crisis, effectively removing centuries of oppression that has been very targeting the existence of people of color and other marginalized people.
Britt Wray, a human and planetary health researcher at Stanford University and author of the new study, said Wray’s work is “important and illuminating for raising the critical and much-needed question of who to highlight in a conversation about climate anxiety. emphasized”.Book Generation Fear: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate CrisisRay’s own recent research suggests that while white people may make up the bulk of the voices in the conversation, climate anxiety is a phenomenon that is not discriminated against by race, class or geography.
In 2021, Wray and her colleagues published a study that surveyed 10,000 young people (ages 16 to 25) around the world, from Nigeria to India, the United Kingdom and Brazil. They found that more than 45 percent of the participants said their feelings about the climate crisis had negatively impacted their ability to perform daily activities—eating, going to work, sleeping, studying. When the researchers looked at countries where climate disasters had become more severe, such as Nigeria, the Philippines and India, the proportion of reported distress was much higher — hovering around 75 percent in some of these places. “It does point to inequities and injustices in climate anxiety because we understand how it manifests in people’s lives,” Wray said.
Part of the reason certain groups dominate conversations can simply come down to language. The reality is that the term “climate anxiety” may mean quite different things to the white middle class in Europe than it means to poor farmers in Lagos. Why someone might say they are experiencing anxiety stems from a jumble of pre-formed concepts about what anxiety is, their context, and what words they can use. “Climate anxiety as a term is very privileged,” Ray said. “Not to mention all the emotions we don’t even have words to express, right?”