Addressing climate anxiety

Libraries, Social Sciences, Humanities

- Anne MacLaurin

UVic Geography students partnered with St. Margaret's private school students to host community mapping tables around campus, inviting participants to share climate change innovations, and explore the UNSDGs.

Students at UVic shared solidarity and human connection last fall through Living With Climate Change, a series of campus events and learning opportunities: roundtables, reflective workshops, story telling, community mapping and a field trip.

“Climate change continues being discussed as something external to human society, which we supposedly need to fight and conquer … it is small wonder that it generates deep anxiety in our youth,” says Thom Heyd, philosophy and environment studies instructor, and initiator of the Living With Climate Change project.

Librarian Michael Lines (humanities and social sciences) co-led the project with Heyd with support from diverse faculties as well as the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS).

“With the library’s support, I worked with Professor Heyd to develop and lead a team of researchers, professionals, and students in a purpose-driven and lightly structured working group that produced this learning series that expanded from three to seven events,” says Lines.

“From the library perspective, it is exciting to help frame and support a public conversation on a key area where scholarship needs to become action,” adds Lines.

Partnering with UVic’s United Nations training programme, CIFAL and Rhianna Nagel with Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) supported the student-led events that addressed the four pillars of climate action:  mitigation, adaptation, resilience and societal transformation.

“What has struck me the most about our Living with Climate Change events is how quickly students gained confidence that they could live with the current and future challenges of climate change,” says Heyd.

“The Living With Climate Change round table event was really special,” says Lara Jensen, a geography and environmental studies student. “It brought me a renewed sense of awareness regarding the importance of community towards the goals of making meaningful change.”

There is obviously so much more to do, but this event has really helped me to realize that the roots of my climate anxiety, when nurtured by the love and compassion of community, has the potential to blossom into climate action.”

—Geography and environmental sciences student Lara Jensen

According to philosophy student Sebastián Tejeda, the roundtable café brought people together to overcome pessimism, apathy, and anxiety through knowledge and dialogue.

“It was an excellent experience for my overall outlook on dealing with climate change and a moment where I felt proud to be a UVic student, along with the camaraderie to realize we are not alone in our concerns, and that we all care about this issue,” says Tejeda.

For international exchange student Quentin Mérour, the time he spent as a student facilitator at the Resilience Roundtable was a great opportunity to bring together people from different backgrounds to talk about climate in a calm and thoughtful way.

“The event allowed us to sit down and think about complicated and potentially anxious issues calmly… it gives us hope,” says Mérour.

In late fall, the Faculty of Social Sciences announced that the Living with Climate Change team was nominated for the inaugural Above and Beyond Award, in recognition for the extraordinary work they did to raise awareness about the climate crisis.

The Living With Climate Change events culminated during the United Nations Conference, COP 27, and was intended to open the conversation on how to confront the new conditions of life affected by climate change.

“The primary goal,” says Heyd, “was to address climate anxiety and inspire constructive local action.”

Funding for Living With Climate Change project was supported by a grant from UVic Libraries.


In this story

Keywords: People Place Planet, student life, climate, mental health

People: Thom Heyd, Michael Lines

Publication: The Ring

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