But what about sustaining mental health while working in sustainability?

This is a question several of my community members have brought up. Phrases like eco-anxiety or eco-anger are commonly used to describe what a lot of young people are feeling these days. This emotion is even more intense for those who are studying or working in sustainability. Everyday we make incremental progress towards our goals. Or sometimes we don’t. We move one step forward and then one step back on another issue. Sustainability requires systems change, but that’s going to take a while. So how do we sustain our own mental health while working in this field? I don’t have concrete answers but I have been thinking about organizing a community meet-up to discuss this.

PS: I’m living in the world’s most polluted city in the world. For a few days this month, it felt apocalyptic. One of my favorite movies is Wall-E, and it actually felt like the end of the world had come, similar to the movie. It’s honestly so depressing that it makes me wonder whether my individual actions as a professional, community organizer and consumer are even worth the effort. Should we just all hit the streets and protest? Is our collective effort right now making a difference?

 

Image result for Wall E

Coming back to positive updates..

Progress on SUSS has been slow, in part intentionally, because like I said I’m trying to make sure I don’t burn out! We’ve done some things since I last posted, which I thought I’ll share here as quick updates!

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  • It was really fun to present to my cohort at CISL about the SUSS journey – big thank you to everyone for coming and sharing their time!
  • We organized our first ever networking-only event. It was a small group of 10 people, but we had intense discussion and formed strong bonds. Planning to make this a regular event for small, meaningful discussions (e.g. eco-anxiety).
  • SUSS was a co-host at one of India’s biggest sustainability conferences, India and the Sustainability Standards, where we curated and moderated the Youth for Sustainability session
  • We are likely partnering with Herite School of Public Policy in Berlin and a streetwear Indian brand, to host collaborative events from January 2020.
  • SUSS co-founder, Lavanya was selected for UNLEASH, a week long innovation lab to work on the SDGs, and won the ‘Most Disruptive Technology Award’ for the solution she designed with her group.

 

That’s all for now. It’s okay to have ambitious goals and a continuous need to keep doing more to save the world. But it’s also okay to step back and reflect, because if we don’t sustain our own mental energy, we won’t be able to go on like this for too long.

 

Thoughts?

2 thoughts on “But what about sustaining mental health while working in sustainability?”

  1. Hi Gauri,

    thanks for sharing your thoughts! I completely agree on your thoughts around eco-anxiety. I first read about it in this article (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/28/david-attenborough-documentary-climate-anxiety-bbc) and have been thinking about it for a while. Just recently I had a similar experience, having the overwhelming feeling that what we’re doing is not good enough and that our progress isn’t as linear or fast as we’d like it to be. Below a few thoughts that help me to reframe this feeling, happy to hear yours and everyone else’s!

    – While we’re naturally drawn to risks and disasters, we should not lose sight of the positive changes, which are often slower, more incremental. The book Factfulness by Hans Rosling was a great read in this regard.

    – The idea that whatever a single person can do is not going to make a difference for the big picture is often cited as an argument for people not to do anything at all. However, if you think of the climate challenge as a carbon budget we have to hit, then every ton of carbon you can save or mitigate gets us tangibly closer to that budget, even if it’s in very small steps…

    – In her article cited above, Liv Grant writes “For years the dogma has been that climate change is too abstract a concept for people to truly care about it, yet my experience, and that of so many others, demonstrates that when people hear the human stories we can build that tenuous and critical emotional connection with such an amorphous subject.”. So maybe this helps in continuing to build the movement and put climate change on the mainstream political agenda, as we are seeing it happening in many areas around the world at the moment?

    Liked by 1 person

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