Do you think you are suffering from climate guilt? It might sound made up but it’s something that is affecting more people than you think. It’s similar to eco-anxiety, but instead of feeling scared for the future, you feel guilty for contributing to climate change.
Some express it in anger, frustration, or sadness. While it’s normal to feel like you do, and it’s something that affects me from time to time, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be like this. While individuals can play their part in protecting the planet, they shouldn’t have to feel this guilty. It’s not up to one individual to save the planet.
What is climate guilt?
Climate guilt is a feeling that a person experiences because of their habits that are harming the environment. For example, living in a house powered by fossil fuels or driving to work every day.
People around the world are suffering from climate change and it’s easy to think you are the reason why especially if you live in a richer country. It’s the rich countries that are contributing the most to the warming of the planet and is causing those least responsible to suffer. This certainly makes me feel extremely guilty at times.
Then on the other side of the spectrum, there are people who have no other choice but to continue with their daily habits even though they are harming the planet because of their current circumstances or financial capabilities.
The situation is not as clear as it seems for everyone. There are so many factors to consider.
Dealing with climate guilt
The first thing I want to say is that feeling like you are is normal. It is the biggest threat humanity has faced after all. People should be worried because every single life is at risk. However, you shouldn’t let it reach a point where the feeling of guilt takes over your life.
I am a huge believer in individual action. What I like saying is that if you don’t change, why expect everyone else to change? In this context, if you want people to reduce their meat intake and become (imperfectly) zero-waste, then you should probably do those things yourself first and lead as an example. I do think that individual action can lead to bigger things if you have the ambition and drive.
Nevertheless, this does not mean you should carry the planet’s problems on your shoulders. In reality, it’s those few large corporations that are doing the most harm to the planet.
As consumers, we have the power to choose which companies to fund every time we purchase something. So spend your money in a way that aligns with your ethics. This will make you feel less guilty too. Do what you feel is right. What you must remember is that it’s not you against the world. You are part of society. You are not alone.
So, don’t beat yourself if you can’t change something. If there’s no other option but to drive to work don’t go and quit your job or move house. Doing drastic things like these will not be good for you. You need to accept that there’s so much a person can do sometimes. It’s very unlikely that the average person will be able to shut down the biggest companies on the planet. Big changes take time. Accept that you are part of that change.
If you make a mistake or take a flight once in a while, you should not feel like you are destroying the world. You are doing your part and you must acknowledge that. Stop feeling like you are not doing enough and stop putting yourself down.
It’s easy to feel powerless. There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet right now. Most people wonder how their actions will change anything. We are trapped in a system where we believe consumers don’t have the power to change anything. Therefore, we often blame everyone at the top like large corporations and the government so that we stop feeling guilty and we can simply get on with our lives as usual.
While it’s true that it’s these big corporations that are destroying the environment and we should do whatever we can to stop them, you shouldn’t use it as an excuse to not act at an individual level.
The reality is that if every single individual changed their habits, in several years, climate change could become a thing of the past. However, the majority of people are not willing to change the way they travel and what they eat because they believe that the world won’t change just because they themselves stop eating beef. Reducing demand of certain foods and products is a sure way of making the world a better place but everyone just wants to continue their lives as normal. As if there isn’t a life-threatening challenge over the horizon.
Well, they are not wrong. One person changing their lifestyle will not transform the world. What will, is if everyone does it. That is why stopping the climate crisis is so tricky.
Additionally, there are people in the world who do not have the capabilities to make green and sustainable choices because these are often more expensive. If you are someone who is unable to buy more sustainable products don’t make yourself feel bad. Do your best, try to improve your current situation and inspire others. No one should ever let themselves feel powerless.
Those in power are still ignoring the effects they have on the planet while people like us who are trying our very best to make the planet a better place are left with this climate guilt, fear, and anxiety. Why is it that those trying to do good suffer from these, while those who are doing the most harm couldn’t care less?
It’s because there are two types of people when it comes to climate change. The first kind change their behaviour and lifestyle to fit in with their morals and reduce their contribution to climate change. The second kind change their morals to fit in with their habits. This is what most people choose so that they can continue with their life as normal and not feel any guilt. But this is not a solution.
While not everyone has the financial capabilities as I said, the one thing you should never do is change your ethics and principles. Have aspirations and goals so one day you can do something for the planet. Never change your beliefs to feel less guilty.
If you truly care about the environment then dream big and take action on it. Aim to become a better person and do your best whenever you can.
Don’t let climate guilt take over you.
Change the way you think and stop thinking you are one little person. Try to project your message as loud as you can. You are powerful and you can change society if you are willing to.
Remember this, it’s not your responsibility to save the world, but everyone has the responsibility to do something to protect it. Sooner or later everyone will realize this. For the sake of the planet, I hope it will be sooner.
All images from Unsplash