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It’s not just the tangible future that climate change affects; it’s also the imagined, which has the longest and darkest horizon in the minds of young people who can’t help but fear how they’ll eat, drink, breathe and live on a planet that’s headed in the direction it is now.
Yes: children and youth worldwide are living in an age of ‘eco-anxiety’ – a term Oxford Dictionaries shortlisted as 2019’s Word of the Year (losing out to ‘climate emergency’ instead) – and it’s affecting their mental health to a point that could soon well verge on a violation of human rights. According to a recent study, nearly 60 percent of young people from 10 countries felt either “very worried” or “extremely worried” about the climate crisis, incurring feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety and anger.
This sobering GLF Live featured Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology and author of the aforementioned study as well as a lead author for the IPCC’s forthcoming Sixth Assessment Report, to discuss how climate change is affecting the minds of young people and why this increases the obligation of governments to act.
Susan Clayton, Ph.D., is the Whitmore-Williams Professor of Psychology at the College of Wooster in Ohio. Dr. Clayton’s research examines people’s relationship with the natural environment; she has written about the effects of climate change on mental health, and about climate anxiety in particular. Clayton is the editor of the Cambridge Elements series in Applied Social Psychology and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. She is a lead author on the forthcoming Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.