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Are you ‘eco-worried’? Here’s how to find out

Here, she offers insights into the impact of climate on health.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Bonnie Schneider: Our environment influences the core drivers of health. Temperature variability, air and water quality, food safety and availability, and even our mental health are all tied to our natural environment. Changes to these variables can affect both healthy people and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

“Disasters can have an adverse effect on mental health, even among disasters that are not directly affected,” says Schneider.
Take temperature as an example. Have you ever tried to sleep in a hot room with no air conditioning? Elevated temperatures can disrupt sleep and impair mental clarity and memoryresearch has shown.
One research of young, healthy college students found that those who slept without air conditioning during a heatwave performed worse on cognitive tests the next day than those who stayed in rooms with the system. artificial cooler.
Climate change has been linked for several types of extreme weather events, including intensified flooding, wildfires, severe thunderstorms, and storms that last longer and produce more rain. In 2021, 20 weather and climate disaster events in the US resulted in damage in excess of 1 billion dollars per.

In general, natural disasters now occur more frequently, affecting more people.

A firefighter battles flames during the Creek Fire in Madera County, California, in September 2020.
These can cause burns and smoke inhalation from wildfires, injuries from falling debris and other hazards. Mental health affected, whether trauma, loss of community, or displacement. Research shows that the psychological consequences can last for years or even decades.

It is important to mention that natural disasters can affect mental health, even for people who are not directly affected. Of course, the upheaval in one’s community can make you nervous. But just seeing images of devastating weather on TV can trigger anxiety. That is the case even if the particular weather event is not actually related to climate change.

Bonnie Schneider's Book

CNN: What is “eco-anxiety” and how contagious is it?

Schneider: Ecological anxiety refers to the anxiety and fear that humans face with climate change and the future of the planet.

Among 16- to 25-year-olds, 84% expressed at least moderate concern about climate change in Global Survey 2021 10,000 people. More than 56% believe that “humanity is over” and more than 45% said their feelings about climate change negatively affect their daily lives and activities.
Experts at Climate Psychiatry Alliance and Climate Psychology Alliance confirms the real struggles that individuals, especially young people, are having with this type of anxiety. It can seriously disrupt daily life, interfere with people’s thoughts, and interfere with healthy sleep.

CNN: Do certain medical conditions make people more vulnerable to environmental changes?

Schneider: Right. Most health professionals say extreme weather of any kind can put a strain on the body. With climate change, we are having hotter days over a longer period of time. This can lead to trouble for people with certain autoimmune diseases that flare up under specific environmental conditions. For example, lupus can be triggered by bright sunlight from exposure to UV rays, according to medical professionals I interviewed.

Some evidence suggest a relationship between pain and relative humidity, pressure, and wind speed. For people with arthritis, more frequent strong storms can mean more pain. However, other data contradict these findings, such as research No association was found between rainfall and outpatient visits for joint or back pain. However, even these researchers acknowledge a possible correlation between weather and pain, and they urge additional research.

CNN: What does climate change have to do with infectious disease?

Schneider: The loss of biodiversity has become a major problem. Even small, subtle changes and disruptions to wildlife’s natural habitat affect humans. We are all part of an ecosystem.

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In September 2020 paper written by Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr David Morens, two infectious disease experts who warn that pandemics are occurring more frequently. They called the Covid-19 pandemic “another reminder that human activities represent an aggressive, damaging, and unbalanced interaction with wildlife and will increasingly cause cases.” new epidemic emergency.”
Environmental change alters many vector-borne diseases – lyme, for example. As temperatures rise, ticks become more of a problem in northern latitudes, which means we could start to see Lyme disease in places where people don’t expect it. This can cause difficulties, due to how challenge Lyme can be to diagnose.

Mosquitoes bring additional concern. More flooding increases their prevalence and the risk of them transmitting disease.

Then there are the flesh-eating bacteria in the water.

Rising water temperatures are thought to have brought deadly bacteria to previously untouched waters. For example, Vibrio species can enter the body through any small opening in the skin, rapidly causing severe illness and even death.

In June, NOAA scientists in Virginia and Maryland predict that “as the water in the Chesapeake Bay warms, the pathogen Vibrio vulnificus becomes more common.” (NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce.)
As of August 5, 23 cases of Vibrio vulnificus was reported alone in Florida – four of them deadly.

Now, we need to add another bacterium to our list of concerns.

In 2020 and 2022, two unrelated individuals on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi developed melioidosis. This rare and serious infectious disease is caused by direct contact with soil and water contaminated with the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) now warns people in the area with health conditions that could put them at higher risk – such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, lung disease chronic or excessive alcohol use – avoid contact with soil or muddy water, especially after heavy rains.

CNN: What impact does global warming have on allergies?

Schneider: Allergy season has longer. More frost-free days mean more potentially irritating pollen. There is also a debate among scientists about whether an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide makes pollen more intense.
What's going on in your mind is important.  Changing your expectations could mean more success, experts say

Molds are other allergens affected by weather, exacerbated by more frequent storms, intense flooding, and wet days.

Many first-time asthma attacks are also triggered by allergies. Asthma can be triggered by thunderstorms and smoke and fire. All are connected.

CNN: No wonder people are experiencing climate anxiety. What helps them cope?

Schneider: The psychologists and psychiatrists I have spoken with insist that we cannot mock eco-anxiety. It stems from valid concerns and people are really in trouble.

Experts recommend finding a community of like-minded people by joining groups like “Climate cafe“organized by the Alliance for Climate Psychology, where you can talk about difficult feelings in a safe space hosted by trained operators. Youth-specific organizations provide other opportunities to connect.
For individual counseling, the Alliance for Climate Psychiatry has list of “climate aware” therapists.
Taking actions, large and small, also helps. Experts recommend getting involved in climate justice through participating in events like NYC Climate Week, a global gathering in September with more than 500 events worldwide. Even participating in a local activity like cleaning the beach can reduce anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation and gratitude are other tools for dealing with environmental anxiety. On my website, I give guide for brief, simple mindfulness practices.
Easy product exchange to help you live a more eco-friendly life (Authorized by CNN as points)
When it comes to anxiety, nature has therapeutic effects for both adults and children. Gardening or doing something constructive outdoors – even in cold weather – can turn feelings of helplessness into autonomy. In “Enthusiasm,” I outline specific, age-based strategies for kids and advice for Adults.
Spending time in nature even has a healing effect, interestingly enough, for those who have experienced trauma from the effects of the elements. Researchers have found that humans have an inner desire to connect with the outdoors after a natural disaster. It’s part of the coping process.
For any of us, just 20 or 30 minutes of walking or sitting in a place that connects us to nature can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

That reduction is great for mind and body.

Jessica DuLong is a Brooklyn, New York-based journalist, book collaborator, writing coach, and author of “Saved at the Seawall: Stories from the September 11 Boat Lift” and “The Chronicles of the Stream” My River: Rediscovering America’s Building.”

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