Published in BuzzFeed News, 2018
A new branch of psychology known as ecopsychology is emerging to help those who are dealing with feelings of grief, despair and hopelessness as a result of global warming.
Tiyan Baker is a 29-year-old artist and documentarian who researches climate change extensively for her practice, and is well versed in the global ecopsychology community.
Baker told BuzzFeed News that she first became heavily involved in researching climate change after living in China, and has experienced a deterioration of her mental wellbeing as a result of self-education around global warming.
"I really feel like I can visualise it almost," she said. "I've seen environmental degradation. You don't have to go far [in China] to see waterways that are clearly ruined, the air is unbreathable many days of the year."
Baker says she feels particularly sad about how climate change will affect the developing world.
"We're going to see mass death and mass migration – and there's a climate justice issue here because [developing nations] haven't caused a lot of the situation that we're in."
Baker's struggle with mental health in the face of climate change led her to join online communities of people who experience the same anxieties and grief.
She says one Facebook group she is involved in is made up of "very grim baby boomers".
"They believe in human extinction, they believe that it's inevitable and it's in the near-term, and they're kind of people that are wrapping up their lives emotionally," she said. "People go on there and they're like 'I'm getting a vasectomy next week', there's a lot of grief."
The term ecopsychology is attributed to a book written by Californian academic Theodore Roszak published in the 1990s, which proposed a new discipline of psychotherapy that sought to understand the "ecological unconscious" in each person. Roszak believed there was an inextricable link between the environment and human psychology.
Increasingly, this fusion of environmentalism and psychotherapy is being dedicated to the painful experience of coming to grips with the impending reality of climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in early October outlined the difference in global environmental changes that will occur if the Earth's surface temperature rises 2C above pre-industrial levels, compared with those that will occur if that rise is capped at the aspirational limit of 1.5C outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
In 2017 the world's temperature rose 1C above pre-industrial temperatures. The IPCC report states that in order to keep global temperatures below the Paris Climate Agreement cap, the world must achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The 2018 Report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate released earlier this year painted a bleaker portrait than the IPCC, stating that without a "decisive shift" by 2030 the globe will pass the point of no return and be unable to keep the global temperature rise to below 2C.