Climate change is the most defining issue of our time. It is close to impossible to say that an individual exists without having faced the impacts of climate change, whether directly or indirectly. One of the unseen impacts it has come with has been on our mental health. Climate change is here with us and is here to stay for a very long time. Unfortunately, it is not something that we can also just wish away. This also means that its spill-over effects might also be longer and even keep recurring.

The climate crisis has forced most of us to come face to face with our fears, the most prevailing ones being the fear of the unknown and chronophobia: the fear of the future. More young people are quickly trapped in the cycle of trying to find solutions for the climate crisis and the mental exhaustion that it comes with. The ones who are not in denial, live in a state of ecophobia, and feel too helpless to even do anything.

Additionally, local communities that have lost their livelihoods, heritage, and culture have to deal with the feeling of irreversible loss. As they stare into the blankness of an uncertain future, they wallow in solastalgia: the feeling of loss when communities are faced with great loss due to climate change. All they can do is reminisce about how the world was and imagine how it would have been. For them, the climate crisis becomes more of an issue of survival.

In African society, mental health was rarely spoken of, with only extreme visible forms of it like madness considered as such. Luckily, it is now a conversation in public spaces, and it is getting the attention it should. This has opened up spaces for people to raise their voices and find solutions through story sharing, movement building, and being part of meaningful movements.

There are many ways to deal with climate anxiety, but the most effective one still remains connecting with nature. Nature still shapes our lives even in the middle of a technological revolution. And yet, our answers in the green spaces are slowly shrinking. This calls us to action: to act in our small way to save the planet. We fix the climate, we fix us.

By Barbra Kangwana, Youth Team Lead, Ubunifu Hub