For many viewers, watching Chernobyl crystallized parallels between widespread cultural panic around the nuclear threat and what we’re feeling now in the face of climate change. For veteran activists and therapists, the link has been clear for some time.
Max St John, 41, had experienced symptoms of anxiety in the past. After reading the global warming report by the IPCC in 2018, he once again felt a similar sense of panic set in that he’d experienced earlier in life. And though he’d chosen not to read it, even just following social media conversations about Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation paper on the risk of social collapse under climate change disrupted his sleep for a brief period.
He found it hard to enjoy his surroundings or quality time with his family as low-level despair set in. “It wasn’t so much a worry that I chewed over, but more a growing sense of doom that lay a filter over my daily experience,” he says.
In addition to Bendell’s paper, David Attenborough’s 2019 documentary Climate Change: The Facts; changes to climate terminology re-naming it a full-blown ‘crisis’; and news about how climate change affects insect populations have also made people more aware of their vulnerability, “something we’ve been quite split off from,” says Caroline Hickman, a teaching fellow at the University of Bath and member of the executive committee of the Climate Psychology Alliance.
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