Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: Book Review

Many of the petitions and information on my website, especially this month and next, are about climate change, so I think this guidebook might be perfect to post now.

A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet

By Sarah Jacquette Ray


If you are among the large group of people worried about climate change, you are not alone. And if you have been anxious, depressed or frightened, you need to read this book. It tackles  many of the psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of what many of us are feeling. The author teaches environmental studies at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, and has an excellent grip on the effect that climate change has on our psyches and also has a book full of suggestions to help us become resilient and creative in finding solutions.

In this self-help book, Ray writes about the existential ills that many of us are grappling with: guilt, depression, grief, and even eating disorders. She notes that we need to become informed about these psychological effects that are specific to climate change, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, eco-grief and solastalgia (coined by philosopher Glenn Albrecht, this word contains the Latin word for comfort and the Greek word for pain. This latter form of trauma is also linked with war, terrorism, land clearing, natural disasters, etc.)

The author tackles this issue of the psychological aspects of climate change with her uplifting chapters, such as: Cultivate Climate Wisdom; Move beyond Hope, Ditch Guilt, and Laugh More; and Resist Burnout. Each of the eight chapters tackles one issue that helps you understand what Ray discusses in the first chapter: Get Schooled on the Role of Emotions in Climate Justice Work.

Dipping into Buddhism with discussions of dharma (your calling in life), beginner’s mind, and other aspects of this spiritual system will help you find your power to make a difference. Ray shows us how we can all be powerful “when we identify our spheres of influence, redefine action, find strength in numbers, and cultivate emotional resistance.” (p. 52)

Moreover, the book contains 27 pages of notes on her research and 20 pages of bibliographical information, so the book is not just information from her teaching experiences, but rather information from many other people who are involved in climate change. It bolsters the ideas that Ray puts forth with plenty of reinforcements.

What I think is most inspirational to me is that after reading the book, I realize even more clearly that each of us can make a difference, especially when we work with others who share our concern. Find your “sweet spot,” the idea or area of interest that you want to tackle (as a nutrition educator, mine is food insecurity as a result of climate change) and take action slowly, not mindlessly because of panic or fear.

In her conclusion is a paragraph that deserves to be included in its entirety, because I think it will inspire you and also help you move forward in your quest for helping to make climate change something you can tackle with your hand, your heart, and your mind, as Ray points out—- not with action that comes from fear, but with a slow and deliberate stance. (I made it BOLD.)

“As an alternative to despair and hope, as a habit of mind to counter the distractions and addictions of modern life, as a way to draw on your own passions and strengths to effect change in the world, as a way to witness suffering without becoming incapacitated, as a way to enhance community and personal well-being while also challenging structures of oppression, and as an analysis of power that also focuses on daily practice, resilience helps us hold up competing truths, see the world in a new way, and find the strength to keep getting up in the morning.” (pp. 142-143)

Remember your resilience and find your niche with the help of this excellent book that will help your move from despair to decision-making, from anger to alleviating your confusion, and from listlessness to listening to your heart. Find like-minded people to share your fears and your wisdom and get going, slowly but surely! Stay cool-headed, stronghearted, and wisdom-focused to make a difference on the planet for children and generations to follow. I think of Mother Earth as having a serious illness and it is up to us to help her heal! This book will help you make decisions and keep cool and calm when needed, making decisions and declarations that will bolster your confidence that each one of us can make a difference.

University of California Press Editor for Environmental Studies, Stacy Eisenstark, has this to say about the book:”I’ve appreciated how much this book has resonated with a wide readership, which is an indicator of just how stressed out we all are about climate change and the environment.”

A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety, a paperback book with 207 pages is published by University of California Press and costs $16.95. Read it and “Keep Your Cool!”






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