Previously on This Just In…
A New Type of Anxiety Is Plaguing American Children
The children of America are becoming more anxious. From Boston to Bakersfield, childhood anxiety is on the rise. Of all the emotions American children are experiencing today, anxiety appears to be the most prevalent. This has been the case for years for years. However, due to climate alarmism and doomsday predictions of eco-evangelicals, a new type of anxiety has gripped the minds of America’s youth. It’s called eco-anxiety.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” To many readers, I’m sure, the idea of eco-anxiety sounds odd, preposterous, and even contrived. But to many, especially the people afflicted, it’s very real. And the feelings that accompany eco-anxiety are overwhelmingly negative.
A BBC article, published earlier this year, outlined the many ways in which eco-anxiety is affecting young children. For young Americans, eco-anxiety has created a sense of doom and gloom, a profound sense of despair. According to the APA, “long-term changes in climate can also surface a number of different emotions, including fear, anger, feelings of powerlessness, or exhaustion.” These emotions result in eco-anxiety, a “fear of extreme weather” that reaches phobia-like levels. Watching “the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations,” one is left feeling utterly helpless.
In the BBC article, psychotherapist Caroline Hickman discussed the findings of a global online survey she carried out last year. Hickman set out to gauge the effects of climate anxiety on teenagers and young adults worldwide, including those in the United States. Some 60 percent of respondents said they were “very” or “extremely” worried about the state of the environment. Meanwhile, 75 percent believe “the future is frightening.” Of the 10,000 surveyed, 56 percent believe that “humanity is doomed.” Because of climate change, one in four opposed the idea of ever having children.
This is worrying but not entirely surprising. After all, teens and 20-somethings have been fed the same message–over and over again again–that the end of the world is fast approaching. Due to the deleterious effects of climate change, having children, they’re told, is deeply immoral.
In the words of Joseph Goebbels, the propagandist extraordinaire, “repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth.” The climate narrative has been hijacked by eco-zealots. The author Michael Shellenberger has expertly demonstrated the many ways in which the claim that climate change will usher in Armageddon is nothing but a pernicious lie—a lie that is, quite literally, making people sick.
Propaganda excels because it capitalizes on our emotional vulnerabilities, overriding the part of the brain responsible for objective thinking. Today, it has never been easier to neutralize objective thinking. This is, after all, a time when overcorrection reigns supreme. It’s not enough to be enraged; one must be outraged. It’s not enough to be concerned about certain injustices; one must become an activist. It’s not enough to be concerned about the environment; one must be anxious about it. In truth, eco-anxiety is really just a symptom of a broader issue. Children are becoming increasingly anxious and pessimistic.
Eco-hysteria gets us nowhere, but try telling that to the fearmongers who are urging all Americans, children included, to move from eco-anxiety to eco-anger. Of course, this sort of eco-fueled alarmism is nothing new. We have been here before—many times before.
As Brendan O’Neill, Spiked’s chief political writer, recently noted, for decades, our “elites have been forecasting death and doom on a global scale, and none of it has happened.” O’Neill discussed the “global cooling” concerns of the 1970s, the “idea that Earth was headed for a new Ice Age.” In the ’80s, the United Nations, an organization that views climate change as a global emergency, argued that there was just a decade to save the world. Today, children are being told that climate change directly threatens their very existence. Is it any wonder that they are anxious?
The importance of optimism in a child’s life cannot be emphasized enough. Optimistic kids view challenges as a necessary part of existence; challenges are something to be recognized, evaluated, and overcome. Pessimistic children, however, find themselves paralyzed by a sense of helplessness and gnawing despair. Challenges are considered insurmountable. Less than a decade ago, it was rare for a child to be clinically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder prior to adolescence. Today, however, across the country, anxiety disorders are now the most common psychiatric condition in pre-adolescent children.
The United States of America is fast becoming the United States of Anxiety. Now, that’s a genuine cause for concern. Over 90 percent of the things we worry about never happen—but try telling that to the eco-alarmists who have been sounding the same alarm for decades.
—John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.