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Eco anxiety, tree planting and eating beans

Photography by Tracey Creed
Words by Tracey Creed

Published October 12 2021

Eco anxiety and The Rage of Earth

Eco anxiety is an emerging condition—the American Psychological Association described it as the dread and helplessness that comes with watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfolds and generally being concerned about the future. And usually, the countries impacted are not cared about, and in that regard, the climate is a hidden issue because mainstream media doesn't talk about it, so people don't talk about it. We have ten years left before climate collapse, and some environmentalists love to point out packaging above the food we as society consume and how we need to get rid of that, but there are so many other things before we care about plastic packaging. For the curious, this YouTube channel, The Rage of Earth, provides greater context.

Much of these conversations come from a privileged place, focused on individual solutions rather than looking at the corporations primarily responsible for what's currently happening. It's not on the shoulders of the people to be able to shift this entire system. The system has been designed by these corporations that are still benefiting from it. We have an industry that contributes 20 per cent of our GDP by exporting 95 per cent of the inefficient products it produces to overseas markets. And so here in New Zealand, not unlike other nations, the government lacks the enthusiasm required for meeting the IPCC's recommendation that countries reduce emissions to 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030. Agricultural emissions continue to rise.

An article published in New Zealand Listener—issue July 17 to 23 described how 450,000 homes located within a kilometre of the coast would begin to lose private insurance coverage within ten years. If a property has even a 1 per cent chance with current sea levels, insurers will cancel impacted policies. As the New Zealand Insurance Council Chief Executive stated, "Insurers will not cover sea-level rise specifically because there's nothing unforeseen about it." He isn't wrong. Those impacted think councils will resolve these issues and build sea walls or look to the government to buy out their homes, effectively paying for the retreat from flooded coastlines. Most councils factor in planning for 23 cm to 37 cm of sea-level rise by 2050, though outcomes are projected to be worse—and these same councils continue to provide building consents for areas that will be impacted by flooding.

Now is the time to reimagine new systems

Am I hopeful? On the one hand, people have been saying the same thing for decades, but there is a shifting tide. We're at a unique moment because the pandemic is exposing the cracks in our systems—governments and corporations are being called out. People are paying attention and reorienting their relationship with consumption. As the climate crisis escalates, it's vital people understand how environmental issues and human behaviour are intertwined. We need everyone to work with their community to conserve our shared home.

Early September, we attended a tree planting session organised by White Associates in partnership with Sustainable Coastlines. ASC Architects, the firm where Amandine works, were invited to participate, so we went. Goji also attended. Over 400 natives were planted on the day, protecting waterways, improving water quality—sustaining our existence.⁠⁠ Sustainable Coastlines employs various environmental stewardship such as waterway restoration, beach cleanups, and litter data collection and provides training and education programs.⁠⁠ Currently, we are in lockdown, so outdoor actions such as tree planting or anything involving people gathering are not permitted. Yes, still, there is meaningful transnational solidarity that can be done right now.

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