Children are increasingly confronted with climate change. Here’s his advice: NPR

When he was younger, climate change felt like an abstract concept to Gabriel Nagel. Then a forest fire burned near his house.

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When he was younger, climate change felt like an abstract concept to Gabriel Nagel. Then a forest fire burned near his house.

was still there

Climate change did not seem urgent to Gabriel Nagel as a child. In a seventh grade class, he saw the graph showing the rise in global carbon emissions, but it felt abstract.

Then, in 2017, a wildfire burned just a few blocks from his home in Boulder, Colorado.

“That was a moment where I realized that climate change is not something in the future,” says Nagel. “It’s something we’re dealing with right now, and no matter who you are, you’re going to be affected.”

Children around the world are increasingly facing the impacts of climate change, from the loss of their homes in disasters to the cancellation of recess due to extreme heat waves. Climate anxiety is on the rise as a younger generation faces the legacy of a much warmer world.

“Many young people experience pain, frustration, anxiety, and elements of betrayal by adults and other generations,” says Dr. Kelsey Hudson, a clinical psychologist who specializes in climate change.

By coping with those feelings, many young people are discovering ways to find meaning and purpose. Here are some of his tips.

1. Talk to a friend about what’s going on

Nagel and his family were evacuated during the wildfire in Boulder, Colorado, but luckily their home was unscathed. After that, he began to notice that wildfires seemed to be happening more frequently throughout the West, especially with the prolonged drought.

“I know other people not only through that fire, but also from other fires across Colorado who have lost their homes,” he says.

Nagel began to learn more about climate change and began to take action in his daily life, such as cycling more and eating less meat. But it was joining the sustainability club at his high school in Denver that made the biggest difference. There she met other students who are working to help her community, like planting trees and encouraging her school to start composting.

He also joined another student group, DPS Students for Climate Action. Over the course of nearly two years, the group pushed Denver Public Schools to pass its first climate policyadopting goals to reduce emissions and use clean energy throughout the district.

“Being around people who are just as passionate and have the same amount of optimism about the future can be really uplifting and motivating,” he says.

Feeling overwhelmed by the future of the planet, he runs into a friend, Mariah Rosensweig, whom he met through the sustainability club. They go for walks and hikes together, blowing off whatever’s on their minds.

“Sometimes it seems like what I’m doing will never be enough,” says Nagel. “And part of that is true. Like one person can’t change the fate of this planet, of climate change. But I think at the same time, I’m also hopeful that by working together, we can really solve this crisis.” .

2. Get out into nature

As a child, Rosensweig’s deep love for nature grew from being outdoors all the time.

“I was always one of the few girls who would be dirtier than all the boys,” says Rosensweig. “My grandfather nicknamed me the ‘tree panther’ because he was always up a tree and he didn’t know where he was.”

In high school, she became a beekeeper. For her, working on climate change is reminding people of their connection to the natural world. But seeing the damage to the natural world can be daunting.

Mariah Rosensweig knows that seeing the effects of climate change can be daunting. To combat those feelings, Rosenweig goes outside and connects with her senses and her natural world.

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“Now the conversation is not: what can we do to prevent climate change?” she says. “It’s: how are we going to live with that? As I’m still very young, hearing that change is frustrating because it’s like we’ve known this for a long time.”

When you feel like this, Rosensweig says it’s simple: Get out.

“I sit on the ground and really connect with my senses, especially my breath,” he says. “That will make you more aware of the world around you. And then the more aware you are, the more you’re going to care. The more you care, the more likely you are to do something about it.”

3. Join people doing something in your community

When 15-year-old Tanish Doshi first moved to Tuscon, Arizona, the extreme heat came as a shock, especially as rising summer temperatures broke records year after year.

“It feels like your skin is on fire,” he says. “A lot of people have access to safe places to stay, air conditioning, water, things like that. When you look at our homeless populations and different people, they don’t have that access most of the time here in the South.” Arizona. So the heat is very, very bad.”

When climate change seems daunting, Doshi’s advice is to find someone who cares and ask how they can help in your community.

When the Tucson Habitat for Humanity office flooded during heavy monsoon rains, Doshi rallied his friends to do something. They designed a flood control system around the building, placing drainage pipes, retention basins and diverting water to absorbent areas with plants. About 20 people helped with the construction, including his nine-year-old brother.

“For me, advocacy and action have alleviated some of my climate anxiety because it shows me that success is possible, right?” he says. “If a group of teens here in Tucson can have this success, and if teens across the country are having similar success, that can really lead to nationwide reform.”

Helping out in your community doesn’t need to be a big project, say psychologists like Hudson. It can be as simple as planting a pollinator-friendly flower. The key is to find meaning in the action and build social connections in the process.

“We can think about: what does it look like for young people to find a sense of meaning and purpose in this crisis?” says Hudson. “Connect with other like-minded people and build some agency through the engagement or climate action connection.”

4. Don’t be too intimidated to speak up.

When Sabal Dangi was 11 years old, he took a trip to Nepal, where his family is from. She saw how vulnerable people are to climate impacts, such as higher temperatures making water supplies less reliable.

“We would see how climate change is really affecting them at those high altitudes,” he says. “They use all their water from melting glaciers and from the Himalayas. And now they’re really trying to adapt and conserve.”

Dangi was concentrating on something that resonates with many young people: the global inequality of climate change. Extreme storms, floods, and droughts can be most devastating in low-income countries where people have few safety nets.

“Last year, my weather anxiety really started to peak,” he says. “It was just the feeling of not being able to do something.”

Dangi, now 16, wasn’t sure he knew enough about climate change to get involved. But after attending a few climate protests, he started a friday for future chapter where he lives in Fresno, California. The youth-led movement has chapters around the world leading climate strikes, where students walk out of school or protest after school.

At first it was just Dangi and a couple of friends, but the group grew in size as he tried harder. Discussing and engaging people on climate issues has helped him feel more positive.

“You don’t need to have a fancy title or anything like that to really talk about the planet,” says Dangi. “The world is everyone’s home. It’s everyone’s future. And it’s something everyone can really stand up for and speak up for.”

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