Eco-anxiety in America

Katie Ward

Individual choices can ease the anxiety regarding climate change


Last Spring, President Trump decided to have the United States back out of the Paris Climate Accord Act. In his response, the decision was simply for those American citizens who had voted for him to make our country “great” again.

Trump not only made us one of only three countries not to sign the act, eliminating the goal to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent, but he also made the decision to back out of the United Nations Green Climate Fund, stating that it was costing the U.S. a “fortune.”

Fast forward to this past Friday when the Climate Science Special Report released the government’s National Climate Assessment, which is mandated by the law, and contradicted much, if not all of Trump’s and the Republican’s excuses for denying global warming in the first place.

“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the document reports.

“For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

The solid facts that back up human involvement in global warming is no fairy-tale story.
Just look at our own city — we have warnings of extreme snow fall, and it’s only November.

Everything in hindsight is easier said than done.

But while it can seem like our country is crumbling beneath our feet, literally and physically, it can’t help but to feel helpless.

From the panic that brewed in the fear of what was to come with Trump’s decision and the constant update of another natural disaster, it’s not hard to feel as though it is the end.

“Eco-anxiety,” is an emerging condition that the American Psychological Association describes as the feeling of dread and helplessness in watching the “slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold.”

Let’s be honest: being completely green and environmentally friendly can be a challenge.

Becoming completely green and obtaining a completely sustainable can become a costly lifestyle switch and most, including myself, feel stuck with how much I can contribute.

Especially with my mid-college income.

So what can I the individual do in our country to help find the solution and change the president refuses to pursue?

Helen Harwatt, a researcher in environmental nutrition focused on the development of food systems that balance human health and sustainability, has just the answer.

Harwatt and a team of scientists from Oregon State University, Bard College and Loma Linda University have calculated the hypothetical “what if” if every American made one dietary change in their food consumption: eating less beef and more beans.

In America alone, “beef accounts for 37 percent of all human-induced methane released into the air,” stated by senior reporter James Hamblin from The Atlantic.

“Hypothetically, replacing beans with beef could get the U.S. as much as 74 percent of the way to meeting 2020 greenhouse gas emission goals.”

That’s without cutting back on the energy infrastructure, the exceeding transportation systems or eating less of chicken, pork or fish.

To understand why this switch can make such an impact, consider this: the beans imported from South America’s rainforest are used to feed roughly 38,000 cattle, which is broken down to make energy in the body and then used as protein for humans.

Though in that process of digesting those beans, cows are emitting more greenhouse gases and consuming far more calories, which results in more deforestation.

According to the United Nations, 33 percent of the land on earth is inhabited for feeding livestock, resulting in almost a third of our land being used to produce meat and animal products.

If American’s were to trade in their beef for beans, the researchers concluded that 42 percent of U.S. cropland could be free.

Individual choice matters, even in the midst of our government’s failed attempt in beginning the voice of it’s country.

“I think it’s an easy-to-grasp concept that could be less challenging than a whole dietary shift,” said Harwatt.