Is it any wonder that children and young adults are going down with ‘eco-anxiety’ , as claimed in an opinion piece in the BMJ this week? One of the pieces of evidence it cites is a survey published in 2020, which claimed that 57 per cent of child psychiatrists had dealt with patients who were feeling anxious about climate change.
It would be easy to dismiss this as another case of the ‘snowflake generation’ lacking the toughness of their forebears. But even if it is true that earlier generations of children, such as those brought up during the second world war, seemed to cope much better with the genuine threat of being wiped out by the nightly bombing of British cities, I think we ought to take it seriously as a mental health issue. When you listen to the pronouncements of activists, MPs, TV presenters and many others, and try to imagine it from a child’s point of view, it is easy to see why so many might feel anxious and depressed.
To take one example, an organisation called the Climate Coalition has placed a double-page advert in the Times and the Telegraph today demanding more action from the Prime Minister on climate change. Given that the government has legally committed itself to getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 (at untold cost to the UK economy), it is hard to see what more the group – which includes the Co-op, the National Trust and numerous charities – would really like the government to do. The advert certainly doesn’t provide much in the way of ideas beyond imploring the PM to deliver “an historic climate deal that respects the contract between this generation and the next” (which generation? What kind of deal?).What