There’s a growing recognition of eco-anxiety and the psychology of climate change. And rightly so. It’s going to be an ongoing threat that looms in the background of the 21st century, a bit like the threat of a nuclear attack did throughout the Cold War. Of course, a nuclear attack was only a possibility, whereas climate change really is happening right now. Nevertheless, it may form a background fear in similar ways, and a new survey suggests that children are worried about it.
A poll for Newsround, the BBC’s news service aimed at children, reports that three quarters of children say they are worried about the state of the planet. One in five say it has kept them awake at night, and a similar number has had a nightmare about climate change.
If children look to adults for reassurance, they may be disappointed there too. When asked if they trusted adults to deal with climate change effectively, 41% had no confidence in our ability. 59% said they didn’t think their voices were being heard, and 64% said the government didn’t listen to children’s concerns on the subject.
The results are from a survey of over 2,000 children aged 8 to 16. Newsround say that this is the first time that children in Britain have been surveyed in this way, and it should be something of a wake up call to parents.
Children are clearly concerned, and it won’t help if they don’t see that concern reflected in the adults in their lives. If our reaction to these findings is to blame environmentalists for scaring children, we’d be compounding the problem. The floods and fires are all over the news. Alarmism, if it ever was an issue on climate change, is surely a moot point once we can all smell the smoke.
This is an ongoing debate in my own household, where our two young children are growing up with activist parents and a daily awareness of the issues. I suspect that a lot of the fear comes from powerlessness, and in that sense being activists can be very positive. They can see the difference they have made, and hopefully they see as many solutions as they see problems.
As the Newsround Editor, Paul Plunkett, notes, this is a challenge for the BBC too. “We know that our audience are passionate about protecting the planet and the climate strikes in 2019 showed their determination to make their voices heard on environmental issues. The question the survey raises for parents and adults is how to show young people that, as a society, we are committed to addressing the challenges raised by climate change, because this survey suggests that at the moment – they aren’t convinced we are.”