News reports regularly remind us that the environment is under threat from a raft of climate change effects including loss of biodiversity, melting ice sheets and devastating ‘climate fires’.

Professor Niki Harre

If it sometimes feels too much or is genuinely getting you down, then you could be suffering from ‘eco-anxiety’.

Defined by the American Psychological Association as “the chronic fear of environmental doom”, eco-anxiety is the subject of a seminar to be held at the University of Auckland which aims to help people understand their emotional response to consistently bad environmental news.

Eco-anxiety has also been called a pre-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by what Professor Niki Harre from the School of Psychology calls the apocalyptic double play of media that insists that our planet is headed for catastrophe and that politicians are doing nothing about it.

The seminar is hosted by the Faculty of Science Sustainability Network and will be held on Wednesday 30 September from 5pm to 6pm. The event is being held on Zoom and you can register to receive the Zoom link and more details of each talk.

Speakers include Jackie Feather, a psychotherapist who will talk about her experience working with clients who are experiencing distress related to environmental threats. She will suggest ways to manage that distress and help others.

Speaker Sally Birdsall, a senior lecturer in Curriculum and Pedagogy in the Faculty of Education and Social Work, will discuss how, by taking action for climate change, young people can move from worrying about the environment to helping progress solutions.

They will be joined by two students from De La Salle College, Nikhil Gosai and Jarren Iuvale, who are participating in Auckland Council’s Young Leaders programme and will present their personal perspectives.

“Eco-anxiety is a very reasonable response to the issues we face,” Professor Harre says.

“But it is also the cause of considerable distress. We are exploring ways to turn anxiety into collective action, which is both good for the individual and provides hope we will be able to create a better world for us all.”

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