Climate Anxiety Paralyzes. Gospel Hope Propels.

Apr 23, 2024 by

By Andrew Spencer, TGC.

“Two years to save the world.” That’s how Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, opened his remarks on April 10, 2024. His high-level policy speech at Chatham House in London was intended to inspire “bold new national climate plans” at the governmental level and action from “every person on this planet” to take advantage of the tiny time window we have to save ourselves and the world as we know it.

The hyperbolic rhetoric of environmentalism is nothing new. Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s best-selling book The Population Bomb was published in 1968 to warn readers of impending disaster unless population controls were instituted. Though most of their proposals weren’t implemented, the disaster has yet to come. Yet the couple revisited their project in a 2009 article, arguing, “Perhaps the most serious flaw in The Bomb was that it was much too optimistic about the future.”

Pessimistic language is a growing feature of popular culture, as Amanda Montell argues in Esquire. She calls it “doomslang,” a category that includes terms like “doomscrolling,” “bed rotting,” and “dumpster fire.” Montell argues the casual adoption of apocalyptically negative language is affecting mental health. One symptom of that mental health decline is the phenomenon of climate anxiety beginning to define younger generations.

And yet, even among those who accept humanity’s role in accelerating climate change, this rhetoric can undermine the goal. “Climate change is alarming,” argues climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe. But, she continues, “research on everything from airplane seatbelts to hand washing in hospitals shows that bad-news warnings are more likely to make people check out than change their behavior” (10).

Amid the cultural narrative of despair about the environment and our future as humans, Christians have an opportunity to share our hope for God’s creation.

Read here.

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