Exciting things have been happening at the Resilience Project. We recently hosted a first - a Global Convening of Youth on Eco-Anxiety in partnership with our international Board of Youth and Sustyvibes.
With 150+ sign-ups from 37 countries, we were once again reminded of how necessary and rare these spaces are.
The event was powerfully facilitated by Jennifer Uchendu, the founder of Sustyvibes, a youth-led community of changemakers working passionately to make sustainability relatable and actionable for young people in Africa. Together, we developed a deeper understanding of what climate emotions are and how they show up in young people from different cultures and geographical backgrounds. We had time to meet like-minded young people from all over the world and talk about our own climate emotions. We also contributed to co-designing a resilience toolkit to capture all the community-generated knowledge from this unique space.
Eco-gaslighting emerged as the most prevalently felt climate emotion within the group, closely followed by feelings including anger, hopelessness, overwhelm, worry, fear, numbness, guilt, powerlessness, isolation, and a sense of urgency as if time is running out. One of the young people who attended was Jennifer Newall, who was recently interviewed for a BBC article on climate anxiety alongside The Resilience Project Alumni Kyle Downie. Jennifer astutely pointed out that ‘fear has been described as false eventualities appearing real. However the fact that we are feeling it in our everyday experiences just to survive means that it is real and therefore completely valid.’
The workshop was packed full of so many juicy learnings that it would be impossible to name them all now, but here are a few things that stuck out for us.
Eco-anxiety is a multitude of emotions, not just anxiety and it shows up in different ways for different people. Climate emotions are felt by people all over the world and young people are particularly susceptible to them. However, the experience of climate anxiety is more commonly felt in the Global South, where people are already living with the worst impacts of the climate crisis. For example, we learned that the Philippines and India display the highest levels of eco-anxiety among young people.
Compassion is a powerful tool in driving change. While the topic of climate emotions can be heavy, the atmosphere was positive. Jennifer shared a quote by Caroline Hickman, a renowned expert in the field and advisor to The Resilience Project: "Out of trauma, there's this transformational possibility, where you live your life more fully and you don't passively accept the situation." But whilst Caroline is the expert, she was not the only one with valuable insights to share. Attendee, and Resilience Project Board of Youth member Steve Misati said “Stepping out of eco-anxiety into action takes more than just hope, it’s about courage. Acknowledging the feelings of stress and despair, leaning into compassion and committing to actions every day. Standing up for the next generation and our shared future.”
Resilience strategies are not one size fits all and there are lots to try. Some of the tools to help cope with climate emotions that Jennifer discussed included, the importance of validating our own emotions and those of others; seeking solace in activities such as meditation and journaling; building like-minded communities of care; tapping into inter-generational wisdom, and listening to and learning from the knowledge and practices of indigenous communities.
The Global Convening of Youth on Eco-Anxiety reminded us of the beautiful power of community. All too often the climate crisis is sold as an individual issue and climate emotions are scapegoated as a problem with the individual. But climate anxiety is not a mental health problem, it is a natural and healthy response to an emergency. The climate crisis is a collective struggle which must be tackled with collective action, which is why we believe that the way to treat climate emotions is in the community.
Every aspect of this project was built around the community:
Our incredible international Board of Youth rallied together to co-design this session, deliver an outstanding outreach campaign and help facilitate the breakout rooms.
Jennifer and the Sustyvibes team have broadened and deepened our international community, bringing knowledge, experience and energy that has enriched our community enormously.
The convening itself, brought together young people from all corners of the globe who started the afternoon as complete strangers and came together to care for each other. It’s hard to believe an hour and a half on zoom could be so transformational but the young people left the session feeling ‘amazing’ and ‘inspired’. Aicha said she ‘definitely will feel more hope after this session’ and Ella beautifully ended the session by sharing that ‘so many people feel the same as me! and also that I should cherish my proximity to nature and action opportunities and get involved :)’.
Following the Global Convening of Youth, five members of our board of youth have been empowered to create content and co-design events to share their learnings and reflections on the workshop. Keep an eye out on our social media platforms and here on the news and updates page to see their creations!We’re very grateful to Jennifer and the Sustyvibes team, to our Board of Youth and to all the young people who came along to make the Global Convening of Youth on Eco-Anxiety such a huge success. We are proud to be a part of this journey and are excited for what is to come next!