Generation Z: the children, teens, and young adults born between 1996 and 2015. We have been born with the responsibility of fixing climate change, the result of previously neglectful generations. This weight bears heavy on our shoulders. It’s been estimated that the world will reach the point of no return by 2040, leaving us helpless before we hit 50. How has this affected Gen Z? What is it like to grow up being taught that the world is dying and it’s up to you to heal it? 

Climate Grief

Climate grief is similar to other forms of grief. Grieving the ecological loss of our planet, the mental toll of climate change is undeniable. Bereavement is always difficult, but while most forms of bereavement heal over time, climate grief will most likely not. Predictions have been made suggesting that as the climate continues to deteriorate, climate grief and anxiety will worsen. 

This mental toll is triggered by the physical loss of our ecosystems, environmental knowledge like cultures tied to certain environments, and the fear of future loss and irreversible damage to earth and life as we know it. It is impossible to understate the gravity of the pain, sadness, and anxiety experienced by individuals with climate grief as we bereave the lives and our planet with the knowledge things are deteriorating around us. 

Mental Health Risks 

Climate grief has the potential to create new mental health risks or worsen previous mental health issues. Natural disasters triggered by climate change like tsunamis or wildfires could result in permanent trauma and lead to PTSD and depression. While destructive disasters would be scary and traumatizing regardless of climate change, the reality of why they are happening amplifies the emotions tied to a forest burning down or another tropical island disappearing under the rising ocean.

A feeling of hopelessness, also linked to this bereavement, reduces the motivation to adapt or find ways to cope. Is it too late to even try? Gen Z is either expected to fix everything or just watch the world burn while we continue to go to our protests and have our screams unheard by generations who will never have to live with the consequences of their actions. Depression is more common in Gen Z than in any other generation. We are also the most well-behaved generation. Climate grief has created a generation of sad, responsible, and anxious young adults and teenagers. A 2016 survey indicated 63% of Gen Zers were concerned about climate change, making it one of their top concerns next to a global pandemic (oh dear), terrorism, the wealth gap, and a lack of education. 

How Does All of This Feel? 

The confusion, fear, and anger Gen Z feels are suffocating. As we realize that older generations genuinely and generally did not care enough to try to reduce carbon emissions and pollutants, existential questions begin to pop up.

Is it ethical to have children in a dying world? Is what I’m doing actually helping? The temptation to give up is hard to resist as we come to accept that we might not die of old age like many of our parents or grandparents will be able to. 

At The End of The Day… 

Climate Grief needs to be acknowledged as a mental health issue and public resources need to be provided to help the younger generations bereave properly. Large corporations also need to be held accountable for their actions. We’ve grown up being told to recycle and use less paper, while giant organizations pollute our water and ecosystems liberally. 

If you aren’t Gen Z, ask them how they’re doing. How have they been coping with climate change? Reach out to a member of a generation that has to read about how their future is melting or burning or going extinct more and more every day.

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