Clover Hogan: turning eco-anxiety into action
By OVO Energy Thursday 04 February 2021
Doing your bit to fight the climate crisis. It can be tough. Sure, there are uplifting elements to it – like realising how we can all make a difference through simple changes at home. And being reminded of the importance of nature and planting trees. But it ain’t always easy being green...
Dealing with the scale of the challenges we face can overwhelm some people. It’s understandable. We’re beginning to see more and more evidence of our climate changing, especially in the global south – which is devastating.
Experts are starting to worry about the impact that the climate crisis is having on people’s mental wellbeing. Especially the young. And now there’s a new push to help people affected by this rise of ‘eco-anxiety’.
Leading the charge is Clover Hogan. Last month, we were lucky enough to have Clover talk to us all about how we can break down eco-anxiety and take action! We’ll be sharing all that we learned in a sec.
But first, let’s meet Clover…
Clover Hogan is a 21-year-old climate activist and researcher who specialises in eco-anxiety. She founded the aptly-named Force of Nature: a youth-led organisation empowering Gen Z to step up – rather than shut down – in the face of the climate crisis. And she’s also launched an awesome podcast of the same name that looks at ordinary people doing extraordinary things to save the planet.
At 16, Clover was lobbying decision-makers at the Paris climate meeting, when she realised that a threat even greater than climate change was the universal feeling of powerlessness in the face of it. She made it her mission to mobilise mindsets. And Force of Nature has already done an amazing job at activating a global network of young activists ready to change things.
How Clover’s mission began
Clover spent her youth delighting in the wonders of nature in Queensland, Australia. And, funnily enough, it was through not being allowed to watch horror films that she found her way into the world of nature documentaries.
It turned out that many of these were horror films in their own right for Clover. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth led to what she sees as her first ‘heartbreak’, as she began feeling like humans were a plague on our own planet.
And a second heartbreak led Clover to begin the journey she’s now on. As Australia was engulfed in bushfire flames towards the end of 2019, she was engulfed in despair, frustration, grief, and helplessness. She felt powerless to protect the place she loved.
On top of this, she felt frustrated by the widely held belief that the climate crisis is a problem just for young people to deal with. Even though they’re inheriting a planet that’s been polluted for the past 200 years.
After some research, it was no surprise to Clover that there was an epidemic of eco-anxiety among 18-24 year olds. Fuelled by climate ‘doomscrolling’ on social media and a feeling like adults aren’t taking responsibility, it became clear that the mental health of young people was collateral damage in the climate crisis.
Climate despair vs climate denial
Clover began speaking to people across the world about eco-anxiety. And it was clear to her that whilst young people were in despair about the future of the planet, adults were simply in denial. This is beautifully illustrated by each generation’s answer to Clover asking how they predicted the world would be in 50 years.
Most adults pictured a glorious techno-utopia, complete with flying cars – suggesting their denial of our planet’s issues. Young people were more likely to imagine a dystopian blockbuster scenario of a ruined planet with empty supermarket shelves – showing despair at the situation.
Clover is the first to acknowledge that it’s normal to feel despair when it comes to the climate crisis. But she also thinks carrying this weight of responsibility around is causing young people to shut down and not face up to the problem – as passive as the adults in denial.
And what was obvious to her was that the feelings of climate denial and despair in both the young and old were rooted to the same thing – a sense of powerlessness.
With great responsibility comes great power
To encourage people to move out of despair and denial, Clover thought of a twist on the famous Spiderman quote “with great power comes great responsibility”. Because it’s not just the powerful who are responsible for fixing the climate crisis. We can all gain power through our climate efforts by taking responsibility for things in our control that make a difference.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the environmental problems that need fixing, we must focus on one that we can help solve. In doing this, we’ll rewrite the stories that stop us from dealing with the crisis. And that’s a powerful thing.
The main remedy for eco-anxiety, it turns out, is the same as the remedy for climate change – getting out and doing something in your power that can help in some way.
Clover sums it up perfectly:
“To solve our beautiful, bright planet’s dark problems, we must refuse to be ruled by fear. We must discard the belief that we're powerless, and realise that we are infinitely powerful.”
Clover’s top tip for dealing with eco-anxiety
The good news is that there are ways you can protect your mental health in the fight against climate change. But for Clover, the most important thing is to never block out feelings of despair related to the climate crisis. Feeling eco-anxious is a perfectly human response. It shows you’re awake to the important issues you should be.
We need to make space for these feelings, then match them with action. Working out what we can be responsible for as an individual to make a difference to a collective cause.
If we do this, we’ll have great power. But if we fail to, we’ll carry on being overwhelmed and immobilised by eco-phobia.
What we can do
We were chuffed to hear Clover show her support for how companies like OVO are helping people channel their eco-anxiety into accessible ways to help fight the climate crisis.
And while we know that there are a thousand ways to fix a problem as large as the climate crisis, it’s important to all do what we can.
We mustn’t carry the weight of every carbon atom on our shoulders. And we mustn’t let people’s inaction stop our action. Instead, we must stay positive in doing what we can on our mission to help change climate change.