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KPBS Midday Edition

How to turn your climate anxiety into climate activism

San Diego high school students speak after walking out as part of the Global Climate Strike, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.
Andrew Bowen / KPBS
San Diego high school students speak after walking out as part of the Global Climate Strike, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.

The global climate crisis has become present in many people's day-to-day lives through heat waves, hurricanes, floods, fires and more.

Climate experts say the climate crisis is now causing anxiety and fear for the future among many, but especially young people.

In response, some mental health professionals are encouraging people to become active in the climate justice movement as an act of personal resilience.

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'Youth4Climate,' an organization of the nonprofit 'SanDiego350,' focuses on empowering young people to become leaders in the climate justice movement.

Megan Phelps, program coordinator at San Diego 350’s 'Youth4Climate' and staff research associate at the UC San Diego Climate Psychology and Action Lab, joined KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to talk about how to become a climate activist.

"What we're seeing is that a lot more young people are feeling anxiety, anger and fear about the climate crisis, and the fact that government is not taking adequate action to protect their futures," she said. "In fact, that's one of the top reasons that young people report joining our organization. We just did a feedback survey of our members, and 90% of them reported that was one of the reasons that they joined our organization."

Phelps said social media has also played a role in bringing more awareness to the climate crisis, which leads to younger generations wanting to get involved. She said becoming active in the climate justice movement can help alleviate fear among youth.

"One, just feeling like they're making a difference, and that their fears might not come true, and that they can inspire adequate climate action," Phelps said. "The other thing is just being with other like-minded people helps alleviate some of the climate anxiety because it's being validated and they feel a sense of collective efficacy that together we can solve this."

She said people can incorporate ways to be climate activists in their day-to-day lives by doing things such as joining an organization, and by taking personal steps such as driving less and transitioning to public transportation and voting.

Phelps said the 'Youth4Climate' programs are geared towards middle school and high school students, but the organization also works with college student volunteers.

You can fill out a volunteer interest form on the 'SanDiego350' website to become a climate volunteer.