When the alarm bell of climate anxiety is ringing

I wrote this post back in July in the midst of a serious bout of climate anxiety – something that happens to most people who have woken up to the extent of the ecological crisis.

Living with this terrifying truth is hard. Especially when hearing about the record-breaking melting of the Greenland ice sheet (11 billion tonnes of ice in one day alone in early August), or the accelerating deforestation of the Amazon rainforests, currently devastated by out-of-control fires.

Climate anxiety

21st July, 2019

Today climate anxiety hit me hard. 

Because I read before bed a harrowing book about climate breakdown, I had a restless night. I woke up tired and an emotional mess. Fighting back tears when Pebbles walked in, his gorgeous innocent smile the best “good morning” I could ever wish for. Hugging him tight, squeezing him hard, with this gut-wrenching need to protect him and his siblings. Overwhelmed. Helpless. Terrified.

To accept the climate emergency is to admit that we have all failed, in a major way. And this is not an easy thing to do.

Greta Thunberg

Climate anxiety has been with me since the beginning of the summer. Always lurking at the back of my mind. Catching me out in the midst of innocuous conversations. Rearing its panic-inducing head with every alarming headline I catch on social media. I don’t click on those articles. I can’t. Self-preservation.

Yet looking away is not an option.

So I read.

Time to rebel : read this and act now

I read books like Climate Generation, by Lorna Gold. This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein. Or Active Hope, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. This Is Not A Drill, a collection of articles published by the movement Extinction Rebellion, still awaits on my bedside locker.

Read and try to understand the problem. It is very depressing but absolutely necessary.

Greta Thunberg

Last night it was a short book by French astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau – Le plus grand défi de l’humanité (“Humanity’s Greatest Challenge”). A starkly honest read about the unravelling of life on Earth, by one of the most vocal intellectuals on global warming in France. 

Like all books about climate chaos, it spells out in no uncertain terms the extent of the damage already done and the accelerating destruction currently underway. 

And like all books about climate chaos, it points at solutions, calls for immediate and extensive action, and hints at the need for a (r)evolution.

What if?

What if the climate crisis was humanity’s greatest opportunity to change the world for the better? To create a new civilisation based on cooperation and social justice, instead of competition and exploitation? 

Why the next 12 years could be the making of us, by Rob Hopkins

This shift in perspective, from doom-and-gloom to changing the story, usually helps me out of this dark place. Not this time. Climate anxiety had turned into full-blown panic.

I needed to go swimming. 

With another heatwave about to hit France, the temperature was already climbing past 30C. The acorns and I, along with their cousins and my sister Laure, headed off to “la plage” in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, Haute-Loire, a riverside grass beach which was created, coincidentally, when annual paid leave for all workers was first introduced in France in the 1930s.


Walking barefoot on the dry grass and on the river pebbles, swimming nice and slow in the exquisitely cool water, floating on my back under the overcast sky – this (not so) wild swim felt like hitting the reset button. 

The cool embrace of the water on my skin turned off the alarm in my brain. I was back in the here and now, at one again with this beautiful living world. Thankful.

I came out refreshed and revived. Grounded. There is no place like Earth.

From climate anxiety to calm and clarity

That wild swim made my day. The fear is still there, but I can now face it from a place of calm and clarity.

The fear is still there, but there is also joy and gratitude for the unspeakable beauty of the Earth.

lavender-flowers-bee-pollinator butterfly-yellow-flower-papillon-fleur-jaune campanules-campanula-alpestris red-houseleek-flowers-joubarbe-des-alpes-sempervivum wild-blueberries-myrtilles-sauvages bee-pollinator-abeille-red-black-flower fireweed-flowers-epilobes-epilobium-angustifoliumlibellule-bleue-sur-main

Wild Swimming Is The Anxiety Antidote I Never Knew I Needed – right on cue, I read tonight an article about the positive effect of wild swimming on anxiety and mental health.

In the water you are so in the moment that you can’t focus on anything else, just being there, being hyper aware of everything around you, how your body is feeling, and it calms my mind enormously. – Anna Deacon, wild swimming photographer


A few minutes later, I came across a Q&A with Greta Thunberg in The Observer

I needed to read that. 

Greta is the epitome of calm and clarity in the face of the climate emergency. It may seem strange that I take so much solace and inspiration from a 16-year-old. But her powerful words always hit the spot. Awareness is growing by the day. Sea levels are rising, and so are we.

Two days later, she addressed the Assemblée Nationale (France’s parliament) in another punchy and inspiring speech. She speaks truth to power. She tells it like it is.

Just listen. Listen and take action.

Together we can do this.



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2 Responses to “When the alarm bell of climate anxiety is ringing

  • Powerful post and great images, Annette. It is important not to panic or become overwhelmed which may lead to sticking the head into the sand. Although we need to be aware and keep the overall picture in our head, it is the small steps we can all make that will help to overcome any anxiety. And our influence/ pressure on policymakers to address overall issues #goinggreen

  • I fully relate to this post and suffer the same thing at times. Then I remind myself that the movement to do something about Climate Change is growing day by day and I am hopeful humanity will not destroy itself (because come what may, the planet will survive even if we don’t). Like you, I have children and I do worry for their future but I know they (and many others of their generation) are better equipped with knowledgeable than we were at their age. With this raised awareness, on good days, I have confidence in our future. Thank you for linking up with #GoingGreen – off to share it now on social media.

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