Climate Anxiety: An Open Letter to tell you it’s real 

An Open Letter to tell you it’s real on reflection of Mental Health Awareness Day.

Was anyone else a sneaky child? I grew up in a two bedroom house, our rooms were upstairs, and I would share mine with my sister. Every now and then I would resist bedtime by tiptoeing down half a flight of stairs and carefully place myself on the staircase, my tiny head poking through the rails where I had a perfect view of the TV. 

Sometimes I would be allowed to watch TV until late,  if it wasn’t a school night. Normally the news would play 24/7, I grew up with the war in Iraq dominating the headlines, sometimes I would switch and watch cartoons instead. On a particular night the news reported that London was going to be underwater by 2030 due to global warming, and there was nothing that the Thames barrier could do to save us. I remember the visual on-screen so clearly, a map of London, the Thames meandering through the centre, the screen zoomed in to a digital rendering of the water rising, the Thames overflowing, the barriers breaking, before zooming out and showing London fully submerged underwater. I was about 10 years old and still in Primary school. This experience led to realisation of fear and dread,  that the world was ending and there was nothing I could do about it. Even the blue of my bedroom walls reminding me of the ocean, freaked me out. That night the worry disrupted my sleep.  As I grew older, one of my goals was to own a boat for emergency reasons; and living so close to the Thames made me envious of friends that lived on London hills further South, far away from the water. Little did I know that this was the beginning of climate anxiety. 

The term ‘eco-anxiety’ (aka climate anxiety) was coined by philosopher Glenn Albrecht in 2005, which was probably three years after the news informed me that my city would drown in my lifetime. The term ‘climate anxiety’ has become part of our vocabulary only in the past three to five years, particularly amongst young children and teens. A global study led by academics from the University of Bath and the Stanford Centre for Innovation in Global Health, highlighted the true impact and validated its effects on the younger generation, by asking 10,000 young people in 10 countries how they felt and responses about climate change and government. Nearly 60% saying they felt ‘very worried’ or ‘extremely worried’ and 45% of participants said their feelings about climate change impacted their daily lives. The feelings I felt at the age of 10 were overwhelming and scary, the same feelings would resurface as the years bring more awareness. It is no coincidence that the climate change movement is pioneered by younger people, as their coming of age years are reminding them that there is no future. During the peak of my unbeknown climate anxiety, I remember truly believing that I wouldn’t see adulthood and feeling extreme worry whenever we had more rainfall than usual. When in such a state, you either feel extremely hopeless and freeze or use the hopelessness to strive and work towards a solution.

‘Climate Change and Life of a Royal Bengal Tiger,’ a painting by Mustofa, age 11

I want to dispel the myth that climate anxiety is a Western issue, whilst the global sustainability movement appears to be primarily white and middle class, and often suggests actions to “buy” your way into saving the planet,  and dining at fine vegan restaurants – many of the solutions are coming from cultures that are completely stripped back and educated about their local infrastructure and community. For instance Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. However the voices of these communities are packaged as new innovations and resold to a western audience eager to prove that they are making a difference. Excluding voices from the global south isn’t new, an outrage was sparked in 2020 when Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate was removed from a photo which showed Greta Thurnburg along with other young white activists. Mexican activist Xiye Bastida, who has worked alongside Greta asks that we acknowledge the diverse voices across the climate change movement, saying “Greta is an amazing, pure-hearted individual…just because we have the same mission, it doesn’t mean that we have the same struggles, inspirations, criticisms or stories”. Climate change is a global problem, and whilst Greta Thurnburg has become a pioneering spokesperson for young climate activists, we can also learn from the likes of Ayakha Melithafa, Ridhima Pandey and Kalauki Paul Mutuku, child activists choosing to change policy and spotlighting the climate emergency. The study also highlights that climate anxiety was significantly higher among children and young people in the Philippines, India and Brazil, as they notice a vast increase in the effects of the environment. 

I’ve written this open letter to tell anyone that is feeling climate change-induced anxiety, your fears are valid and justified. I also encourage those that aren’t too familiar with it, to understand that it is real and scary, but it’s never too late to make a difference. 

As an adult I am more rational, being part of Colèchi means I am exposed to the horrific truths of the fashion industry on a regular basis, however simultaneously working with and witnessing people that are driving positive action and even changing policy right as we speak. 

I’ve listed 6 ways to manage climate anxiety. 

It is OK to feel. You are human. 

Remind yourself that what you are feeling is normal, and allow yourself to feel these feelings. You may want to meditate, journal or express them in your own way. 

Tell somebody about it

Start with someone that you trust. A parent, a sibling or a friend that will just listen. They may not understand, but a problem shared and acknowledged can alleviate heavy emotions.

Be a good follower

I once attended a talk whereby a person in the audience helplessly asked “What can we do to change the world”. The panel included Aja Barber and Sophie Slater from Birdsong and the response struck me, “start by following people that inspire you”. Although social media has been the root to many of our problems, our interconnectivity has increased and we can use it as a tool to build community. Be selective with who and what you follow, attend talks and seminars led by those that are pushing change. Put energy into searching for solutions. 

Find your eco-tribe

Climate change is an ‘IRL’ problem, it’s important to find a group of people that have the same thoughts, hopes and fears about the climate that you can also connect with in real life. If you are at work, do they have a sustainability committee or a team that engages staff members in “good stuff”. Check your organization’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and how you can get involved. This could include volunteer days, committees or avenues to have your voice heard such as voting systems and scholarships. If you are at University, is there a student union group that you can join? Secondary schools and colleges are expanding extracurricular activities. 

What is happening in your neighbourhood? 

Find out what is happening on your doorstep. Take a walk and make a mental note of spaces that you see – finding out what is happening in your local community garden, market or shopping centre. If you do not have time to volunteer or take part – just being aware that there are good initiatives happening is a start. 

Write letters and support campaigns 

Local councillors and MPs are a letter away, so are elected mayors who all have a duty of care and environmental and social goals that they must reach. Building a conversation with your local MPs and sending letters asking for action is a small way to drive change that can potentially impact others. A few young people that have made a difference by writing letters include Licypriya Kangujam writing to her president to make climate change a compulsory subject and a tool that even 11 year old Megan Markle used to say her piece about sexism. Open letters via school and university magazines are also a great way to share your thoughts such as 1Granary’s open letter for fashion against war. There are amazing resources that give you a headstart including Fashion Revolution’s guide for citizens, including writing a postcard to policymakers and gal-dem’s “how to” guides which share small ways to engage in your community.



Co-founder at Colèchi. An advocate for transparency between the fashion and textile industry as the co-founder of Last Yarn. Whilst activating local spaces to build communities through sewing and craft.

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