Psychotherapist Explains How Climate Crisis Is Affecting Children

As climate change continues to threaten our world and the future of humanity, not very many adults are thinking about how their inaction is affecting children. One psychotherapist decided to find out, and the results are heartbreaking.

After all, it’s the children who are ultimately going to inherit the world that past generations are responsible for destroying with unending deforestation, mining, oil and gas drilling, food waste, plastics production, and development, putting millions of plant and animal species at risk of extinction along the way.

They are begging adults to do something to save their future, but their voices are being largely ignored as the march toward the brink continues.

University of Bath psychotherapist Caroline Hickman, however, did not want to ignore the children. She wanted to listen to them and hear how they feel about climate change and what adults are or are not doing about it.

“Talking with children gives a fresh perspective on the absurdity of doing so little about climate change, but it also exposes a troubling disconnect between what we say and what we do,” Hickman wrote after noting contradictory actions governments have taken in recent years such as Australia’s government declaring the Great Barrier Reef in poor condition yet allowing a coal mine to be opened near it.

“Perhaps young people are simply less cynical and more capable of seeing clearly how irrational these decisions are,” she wrote. “When I interviewed teenagers in the Maldives, one said:

We saw online that people in Iceland held a funeral for a glacier today, but who is going to do that for us? Don’t they see that we will be underwater soon and our country will be gone? No one cares. How can you grieve for ice and ignore us?

“Because of sea-level rise, people in the low-lying Maldives have more to fear from climate change than most,” Hickman noted. “The sense of injustice that young people felt here was palpable.”

One child compared climate change to the Marvel villain Thanos, who wiped out half of humanity with a snap of his fingers, basically sacrificing half the population to prevent a planetary resource shortage that would have caused more suffering.

“Climate change is like Thanos, wiping out half the world so the rest can survive … we are being sacrificed,” the child said.

And the world is facing future food and water shortages as global temperatures rise and cause more droughts and bee death threatens to leave a large percentage of the food supply unpollinated.

Sadly, some children are beginning to give up hope that adults will do the right thing for them.

“There’s moral clarity in the things young people say about climate change, but even at their age, there’s a weariness,” Hickman continued. “After all, young people use social media and are bombarded with bad environmental news as much as adults. Some may begin to normalize the mass extinctions they read about.”

For instance, Hickman spoke to a 10-year-old in the United Kingdom:

“It’s normal for us now to grow up in a world where there will be no polar bears, that’s just how it is for us now, it’s different than it was for you,” the child told her.

She then asked children to give voice to climate change. What would it say to humans if climate change could speak?

“You created me, and now you must face the consequences,” one child said. “You spoilt the planet for the children and animals, now I’m going to spoil it for you. Adults have made the world a worse place, so now I’m here for revenge.”

No child should have to think this way, and every adult on this planet should.

Children, however, did express more empathy towards other creatures than they did for themselves, a hopeful sign that when they take over real change will immediately go into effect. Unfortunately, until then, the children see climate change as a pesticide.

“Climate change is like the bug spray of nature, and people are the bugs,” a child told Hickman, who concluded that it’s time for adults to talk to their kids and listen to them. If we are not going to fight for them and their future, who will?

“I believe children are bearing the emotional burden of climate change more courageously than adults, but we owe it to them to share it,” Hickman said. “Listen to your children when they talk about climate change, you’ll learn more about how we should take responsibility for the mess, say sorry, and start to act.”

Taking action is what our children want us to do most. We need to be their heroes by working together to stop climate change just as the Avengers united to defeat Thanos.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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