Joining with others who share our outrage and convictions can be an antidote to despair, reminding us we’re part of a caring community that craves change.
Instead of searching for shaky hope from the quiet of our screens, we can give up on hopes and instead look for concrete, ambitious action.
Taking collective action in our own cities and communities advances the environmental future we want to see. Local actions — like voting in the many fast-approaching municipal elections happening this month — are imperative and invigorating, especially when they take place within a community-wide effort. Political participation creates solidarity, deepens community and builds resilience. Investing our time in meaningful local action helps restore our collective power.
Faced with dismal environmental news, it is natural to search for hope — and subsequently fall into despair when bad news gets worse. We shut down with fear doomscrolling about flooding and suffering in Pakistan, homes being swept to sea in Atlantic Canada, wildfires and unsafe air quality in British Columbia, or flooding and power outages in Puerto Rico. It is arguably healthy to experience anxiety and grief when faced with the loss of ecosystems and species, not to mention the impacts on human beings.
The trouble is if we remain stuck in a dark place of doom, we slip into numbness and inaction. Caring so deeply can hinder our ability to take care of everything we hold dear. It weakens our will to do what we need to do: take courageous collective action to protect and restore our home.
This month, there is one critical way we can meaningfully channel environmental anxiety into action: vote in municipal elections. Citizens can read up on their local mayoral and city council candidates, and become informed on the climate action they plan to take. Often (but certainly not always), those candidates who are bold on climate action are also promising to take ambitious action on housing and justice as well as a host of interconnected issues, as they are focused on improving life for their constituents. Once the new municipal leaders are elected, we can continue to speak up and push for them to follow through on promises. We can demand they increase ambition to transform society as swiftly as is required to avoid the worst damages and suffering of climate change.
Citizens can also channel their climate anxiety into meaningful action, from immediate personal choices to the quieter, deeper work of rethinking our relationship with nature and examining our place in the extractive society in which we live. We can reimagine our cities and engage in rigorous public debate about the future we intend to create: abundant green space that is accessible to all; better public and active transportation; effective reduction and management of waste; rich biodiversity; and thriving, walkable neighbourhoods in urban, suburban and rural parts of a municipality.
We can engage in authentic conversations with people who have traditionally been excluded from the mainstream environmental movement or who hold different political views, building trust and working together to advance common goals. Joining together with others who share our outrage and convictions can be an antidote to despair, reminding us that we are part of a community that cares and craves change.