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I get depressed about what we’re doing to our planet: advice

Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you. Here, she tackles the problem of eco anxiety and worry about the planet

by Psychologies

Our planet

2 minute read

Q. I’m very sensitive, especially when it comes to anything to do with animals. The knowledge of what we are doing to the environment and other species overwhelms me with sadness and, sometimes, I find myself miserable for days thinking about it. I’m a mother, and I know I need to be more resilient to set an example for my kids. What can I do? Name supplied

A. No one answers this more pithily than Joan Baez: ‘Action is the antidote to despair.’ Here’s a story: My youngest went to Borneo on a school trip. As they drove from the airport, the guide explained, ‘The jungle used to start here…’ Three hours later, they arrived where the rainforest begins now. Since then, my daughter made her life palm oil-free, with help from app Buycott, which uses information from products’ barcodes to inform consumer choices.

Another key is social support – where you find people in your local area who feel the same as you, but are one step closer to doing something about it. I’d start deliberately small, where you can definitely see an impact. For example, the Bee Friendly Trust in the UK asks you to nominate a railway station platform that could have a bee-friendly planter. Could you set up an ecology club at school, or join a litter pick-up drive on a local beach or waterway?

There is a Japanese school of therapy, based on Buddhism, which says that it’s not useful to get to the bottom of our feelings before we act. We acknowledge them and then we act – and the feelings fade naturally with time when our attention is engaged by activity. I’ll give you the link to read more about Morita therapy, but don’t let that get in the way of doing something, however small, right now. 

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

Image: Getty