Coping with climate change anxiety

Boy in the country

Boy in the country

I didn't use to worry about the impact of climate change. In my 20's and early 30's the future was an abstract concept. Tomorrow barely existed let alone the idea of next week or, god forbid, next year. There was only the here and now and a vague sense that everything would work itself out.

Fast forward a few years and I'm the father of two little children who are the most important things in my life. All I want for them is to be happy and healthy. The idea of my children inheriting a world ravaged by climate change fills me with dread.

And anger.

I watch politicians bat the issue around like there's actually something to debate. Like the weight of scientific factual data is open to interpretation. I listen to right-wing pundits scoffing at greenies and leftie snowflakes and ask myself Are they really this stupid? Can't they read? The numbers are there in black and white. Don't they care about their children?

The answer is yes of course they do. Maybe they're just scared. Climate change is pretty terrifying and it would be great if we could pretend it was a conspiracy cooked up by the clean energy providers and hippies. That's a comforting thought. I don't blame anyone taking refuge in it. Unfortunately, my powers of denial are not so finely honed.

More likely those who fight against climate change policies have a different agenda. Money. Never underestimate the ability of a wealthy person to compartmentalise or ignore an inconvenient truth if it hurts their bank balance. If we as species do not survive to see the next century it won't be because of a nuclear holocaust or a superbug. It will be because of simple human greed.

And so I worry. And I worry some more. And I recycle where I can, and I try and vote for the political party that has pro-environmental policies but it all feels so damn ineffectual. I feel ineffectual.

Or I did.

There is a film critic I follow named Devin Faraci. I've been reading his stuff for a while as our cinematic tastes tend to line up and I enjoy his voice. A few weeks ago he posted something that wasn't movie-related – a short piece entitled Climate change is over if you want it.

It's an interesting read that takes its cue from Jon Lennon and Yoko Ono's beautifully idealistic anti-war protest in the '70s and posits a similarly beautifully idealistic solution to our current climate change crisis. If you want to take decisive physical action against climate change there's one specific thing you can do.

Limit your meat intake.

While we typically decry the coal and oil industries, it's actually the meat and dairy producers which are more responsible for our current climate change woes than the carbon emissions of all the world's planes, trains an automobiles combined. Don't believe me? Check it out.

I'm not a vegetarian and feel no great affinity for the animals I consume but it's hard to argue with the data. Eating beef is not only bad for cows but bad for me and the planet. By significantly reducing the amount of meat I buy – specifically beef and pork – I'm taking a far more productive step towards combating climate change than any amount of recycling or voting green would ever do.

It comes down to basic economics - supply and demand. We stop eating meat, meat stops getting produced, and our future as a species gets significantly brighter. Sounds too simple but often the solutions to our problems are.

And so I've made my choice. Cutting out beef, lamb and pork altogether and easing off chicken. I'm not a dick about it. If I go to a friend's house and they serve meat I'll happily eat it (and probably love it) but I refuse to contribute financially to any corporation that is actively working to make the world uninhabitable. You want to affect change, the best way to do it isn't through marches or (yes, I'm aware of the irony) social media posts but through economics. It's the only language the gatekeepers of our future speak.

If everyone in the world today simply stopped eating beef the harmful effects of climate change would be significantly reduced. Maybe negated altogether.

Idealism? Absolutely, but I'm a writer and believe that dreams and idealism are far more powerful than those who lack them could ever conceive. Everything starts with a dream. A dream of equality, a dream of peace, a dream of a world where we live in harmony with nature instead of in opposition.

Choosing not to buy meat helps with my climate change anxiety. Maybe it will help you too? If nothing else the poor cows will thank you.


Michael Hearle