Getting Woke to Eco-Anxiety

Today, I woke up to a cloudy sky with a red sun and a deep smoky haze over the Oakland skyline. We’ve had many wildfires in California this year. The smoke penetrates your lungs and burns your eyes even when you live hundreds of miles away from the center of the fires. As I was walking around downtown and seeing people with masks on, I began to feel uneasy and a slight nervousness in the pit of my stomach.

Eco-anxiety is a term that many Ecotherapists use to refer to anxiety resulting from worry about the state of our environment. Eco-anxiety can occur for anyone, anywhere.

I have to admit even as an Ecotherapist , when I first heard of the term Eco-anxiety I didn’t take it seriously.  I was like, oh this is some white folk term. As a Black Queer person, I experience anxiety on a regular basis,  such as walking down the street and seeing a pack of cops on the block. The mere presence of the police around me makes me nervous. Frequently, I cross the street or turn around and go another way to avoid them.  But, in the past 10 years i’ve been slowly becoming more Woke to the anxiety I experience about the state of the environment. And even more so, I’ve begun to  experience deep sadness and cry just from seeing videos and pictures of the wildfires or the dead fish washing up on beaches from the red tides n Florida, and I don’t even live there.  I pray at the waters a lot.

Ecotherapist and psychotherapist  Linda Buzzell, says people go through certain stages as we “wake up to ecoanxiety” and face our current environmental situation.  “Ecoanxiety is a fairly recent psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis. It’s an understandable reaction to ones growing awareness of climate change and the global problems that result from damage to the ecosystem. While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does include “ecoanxiety” as a specific diagnosis some people are expressing high levels of stress over climate change with symptoms including panic attacks, obsessive thinking, loss of appetite, and insomnia.”

Today as I looked up at what looked like the moon but was the sun at 2:00 in the afternoon and walked home with a mask on my face, I felt anxiety sink into my chest.

So, please know you are not alone. Eco-anxiety is REAL and we will experience it more and more as the apocalypse of end-stage Capitalism and Ecocide continues.

However, we can also use this time to deepen our connection to the natural world to ease our anxiety and hopefully feel more inspired to fight for our beautiful planet.  One way we can do this is by working with plants inside of our home to calm us and purify the air. I recently got a Snake Plant  for my bedroom that converts CO2 to Oxygen at night. In addition,  NASA conducted a clean air study to identify which type of houseplants can help purifier the air.  Check out this link here and go get some of these plants to have in your home to purify the air:

As we all begin to wake up and come to terms with eco-anxiety, we can use this energy to deepen our connection to the plant world and each other by taking care of all of Creation, and fighting for this beautiful place Earth that we call home.


J. Phoenix Smith, Ecotherapist