How hope can help with the existential crisis of being human in a time of climate change
When you have experienced depression, like I have, you can feel like everything is doom and gloom. This doesn’t help when there are ACTUAL things that are doom and gloom like climate change, rapid ecological destruction, plastic pollution of the oceans and rising fascism. There is actually a recognised phenomenon called ‘depressive realism’, whereby patients with depression actually see things in a more realistic light than non-depressed people.
This can lead to very depressive thoughts like “I don’t deserve to be alive when I am causing so much destruction”, or “Unless I am making a net benefit, I am just a scourge on the earth”. Phew. It’s actually very hard for me to write about, because I get really upset by these thoughts.
The only thing that I have found to help me with this existential crisis, is to hold on to hope. It might be unrealistic, but I don’t care. It’s the one thing that keeps me alive. I have hope because I believe that humans are incredible creatures- we are capable of so much destruction and evil, but we are also capable of amazing feats of creativity, collaboration and problem solving. If anyone can solve the big problems we face on this planet, it will be human beings coming together and using our hope, ingenuity and creativity.
So when you know that you are part of the biggest wide-scale destruction of life on the planet, how do you keep going? Maybe you can totally compartmentalise? Maybe you just believe that it’s not really happening or is being hyped up by the media? Maybe you throw yourself into the work of doing something to help change things (I did this but I ended up burning out). Or maybe you have hope, faith or belief in the human race coming together to overcome these problems together.
My attitude is that things need to change, but I can’t take the whole world’s woes on to my shoulders. I can’t be any help if I don’t look after myself. There are people better suited to tackle the nuts and bolts of these problems, and I will do what I can.
In the meantime, I will focus on reminding myself of the joyful parts of life. I think the world needs more art, more joy, and more culture. After all, if we don’t keep making art in dark times, what are we solving the problems of the world for? Art is such an essential part of the human condition, and if you are called to create, you can’t force yourself to become a climate change scientist. It just doesn’t work like that!
Do you have hope when it comes to things like climate change and ecological destruction? Or do you just ignore it with the hope it will go away? Does art help you stay alive when everything seems a bit pointless? I would love to hear from you!