The discussion about climate anxiety has a whiteness problem | MarketingwithAnoy

Sarah Jaquette Ray has spent his career unleashing an academic niche at the intersection of environmental issues and social justice. In the late 2010s, when concerns about the climate crisis finally began to swell toward today’s crescendo, Ray, a professor of environmental studies at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, turned his focus to a relatively new phenomenon that had entered the discourse. : climate anxiety-the “chronic fear of environmental destruction.” When Ray started writing and talking about climate anxiety, she very quickly noticed that the people who were interested in her work were changing. “What happened? It got a lot whiter,” she says.

A growing discomfort made her write an opinion piece to Scientific American in March 2021, in which she expressed concern over what she called the “unbearable whiteness” of the climate anxiety conversation. In her words, she “sounded the alarm” that if marginalized people continued to be left out of the discussion, climate anxiety could manifest itself as fear or anger towards marginalized societies, and society would renounce the intersectional approach needed to seize facing the climate crisis.

She wanted to capture the ways in which “white emotions can absorb all the oxygen in space.” The very concept of climate anxiety seemed to mean much more to the whites and the wealthy, who for the very first time are experiencing an existential threat. Climate justice author Mary Annaïse Heglar has christened this “existential exceptionalism”When the privileged represent climate change as that of humanity first existential crisis that effectively scrubbed away centuries of oppression that were largely directed at the existence of colored and other marginalized populations.

Ray’s work has been “really important and provocative to open up the much-needed critical questions about who is emphasized in the climate anxiety conversation,” said Britt Wray, a human and planetary health fellow at Stanford University and author of the new . Order Generation Dread: Finding purpose in an age of climate crisis. Wray’s own recent research shows that while white people can make up the majority of the voices in the conversation, climate anxiety is a phenomenon that does not discriminate on the basis of race, class, or geography.

In 2021, Wray and her colleagues published a study which surveyed 10,000 young people (between 16 and 25 years old) in various environments around the world, from Nigeria to India, the UK and Brazil. They found that more than 45 percent of participants said that their feelings about the climate crisis had a negative impact on their ability to function on a daily basis – eating, going to work, sleeping, studying. And when researchers looked at countries where climate disasters have already become more intense, such as Nigeria, the Philippines and India, the proportion who reported distress was much higher – it hovered around 75 percent of those surveyed in some of these places. “It really points out the inequalities and injustices that are wrapped up in climate anxiety when we understand how it is expressed in people’s lives,” Wray says.

Part of the reason certain groups have dominated the conversation could simply come down to the language. The reality is that what the term ‘climate anxiety’ means to a white middle-class European may be completely different from what it means to a poor farmer in Lagos. Why someone might say they experience anxiety is derived from a mixture of preconceived notions of what anxiety is, their background, and what words are available to them. “Climate anxiety, as an expression, is very privileged,” Ray says. “Not to mention all the emotions we do not even have language for, right?”

Leave a comment