Eco-anxiety can be considered the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm, which comes from witnessing the seemingly irrevocable effects of climate change and the related concern for one’s future and that of future generations, according to the American Psychology Association (APA).
While it is not in itself a disease or mental health condition, experts worldwide are concerned about this issue and its impact on individuals. A global survey, which included 10,000 people concluded that of people aged between 16 and 25, 84 percent of people expressed at least moderate worry about climate change.
With this in mind, experts are pondering how to alleviate levels of eco-anxiety and counter eco-anxiety with climate optimism. There is a lot of guidance available online regarding how to cope with eco-anxiety. Much of the advice focuses on accessing a support network or lessening individual impact.
However, there are other resources available that can work to translate these negative emotions, such as anxiety and fear into concrete activism. Some of these include climate cafés which many organisations have been hosting to build community in an inclusive space to drive climate action. Below are some organisations creating spaces to help people better manage their climate emotions.
The Climate Café Hub
One of the most well-known in the climate café space is the Climate Café Hub. The Hub brings together a Climate Café movement, which has been growing since 2015. A community-led movement, it started in rural Scotland, and sister cafés have been emerging across the globe.
They share an ethos of being inclusive, community-led, welcoming spaces for individuals to come together with tea or coffee, chat, and act for our climate. A presentation from a Climate Reality leader is what sparked the idea for the Climate Café Hub. The Leader was giving a presentation, and after the presentation was over, people stopped talking and began to ask questions and share ideas.
They witnessed the power of bringing people together to share ideas and find solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges. Their climate cafés have popped up in multiple locations, including North Berwick, Aberfeldy, Perth, and more. They have also shared that more climate cafés will be coming soon. In the run-up to COP26, they also worked with Climate Reality and had a space at the conference where visitors could share stories, have conversations and enjoy a coffee.
Force of Nature climate cafés
Force of Nature is one non-profit organisation that recognises the magnitude of eco-anxiety and the impact it can have on a person. Understanding this, they exist to empower youths to create real change. They do this through mindset programmes, training pathways, and generating opportunities. One such opportunity is their climate cafés.
The concept of the climate cafés is built on the idea that we urgently need spaces to navigate our climate emotions so we can translate them into action. Their Force of Nature climate cafés are an effort to host meaningful conversations across the globe and galvanise community action. Climate cafés are community-organised safe spaces for people to have open yet structured conservations.
The organisation doesn’t host its own climate cafés. Rather, they have created a free resource that allows individuals to host their own. Additionally, they have launched a micro-grant scheme for youths who face financial barriers to hosting their café. This free climate café step-by-step guide has resulted in 161 climate cafés being born across the globe in 46 countries.
In November 2022, during COP27, there was a Force of Nature pop-up café available for eco-anxious guests at the Natural History Museum (NHM). The climate café offered talks from youth activists, as well as a ‘science corner’ where the museum’s researchers were able to discuss their work. The Natural History Museum also collaborated with Force of Nature and other youth activists to create a week-long programme of free events for youths in March 2023.
Gorey climate café
In Ireland, Wexford is leading the way, when it comes to climate cafés. It was announced in November 2022, that the members of the Wexford Environment Network were to launch the Gorey Climate Café. The inaugural event took place in the Opera Café and brought together people from all walks of life. They shared ideas about environmental initiatives and connected with one another about climate change.
The Wexford Environmental Network is a fluid initiative responding to the interests of those involved, in addition to the community. Their two primary aims are to offer a community and support to those invested in environmental problems, in addition to amplifying the voices of other environmental groups across the globe. The Climate Café had no direction or agenda, it was all about establishing a space and seeing what happens.
Throughout the event, people discussed a wide range of environmental topics casually. These included sustainable catering to fast fashion and more. Some attendees shared contact details, others exchanged thoughts and ideas, and the remainder sat back and enjoyed listening and experiencing the conversations. The aim was to plant seeds and bring people together and get them talking so they could transform that anxiety and fear into hopefulness and action.
Climate cafés are popping up all around the world to help people better cope with and navigate eco-anxiety. This kind of anxiety is only becoming more common, and there is a lot of uncertainty about how to deal with it effectively.
It’s affecting people young and old, and can make people feel powerless. However, with climate cafés, people can transform feelings of sadness and hopelessness into action. The cafés are also an excellent way to find like-minded individuals and build community around the climate movement.