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How to Calm Your Climate Anxiety: Insights from a Kelowna Resident During Wildfire Season

Have you ever contemplated the possibility of losing your home, treasured belongings, and the very essence of your life?

Hopefully, you've been spared such harrowing thoughts. Yet, the unfolding events of August 2023 have compelled me to face these challenges head-on. As I articulate this article, the Maui wildfires continue to cast a shadow of uncertainty, while the City of Yellowknife grapples with evacuation orders. Closer to home, my neighbour West Kelowna has witnessed the evacuation of over 2500 people from their homes due to advancing wildfires.

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On the night of August 18th at around 11:00pm, I observed as gusty winds carried embers from the West Kelowna fires eastward onto my side of the bridge. 

The weather forecasts paint a bleak picture, predicting more severe winds and lightning storms devoid of the soothing touch of rain to be expected for at least the next 48 hours. Our weather app indicates no sign of rain for over a week and the prevailing atmosphere is thick with an impending thick smoke-ageddon style lingering feeling of doom that's hard to ignore.

Anxiety, a common companion, assumes a distinct form in the face of such trials. We're all too familiar with its different shades—social unease, work-related stress, the ebb and flow of relationships, and the health-related concerns that keep us up at night. Over time, we develop coping mechanisms to navigate these everyday challenges. However, climate anxiety looms on a different scale.

Climate anxiety isn't a mere term—it encapsulates a profound weight provoked by the cataclysmic consequences of climate change. It's the thoughts that refuse to be silenced, the persistent worry about what the future holds for our planet and generations to come. This emotional whirlwind demands our attention and action.

Navigating the Storm: Insights and Practical Strategies

1. Prioritizing Safety and Well-being

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In the throes of an emergency, personal safety supersedes material possessions. Considering my own health vulnerabilities—chronic asthma and sinus issues—I've made the decision to evacuate and spend what will probably be at least a week at my parents' house in Vancouver, BC. While I hope fervently that my home remains untouched. My well being and yours (if you too are in a similar situation) should always take precedence.

2. The Power of Community Unity

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Even in the darkest hours, the resilience of communities shines through. I was heartened to hear about our local Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) opening its doors to provide shelter, sustenance, and a safe place to rest for those in need. People around me are offering their homes as havens to friends and in some cases even strangers.

I have also heard of businesses doing the same including providing food for evacuees in need with no questions asked.

As a pet parent, it hurts me to hear on the news that people have left their pets behind and evacuated themselves. But I also appreciate how others have offered up their homes to pets in need, boarding them at no charge.

It is beautiful how so many are extending their hands to both familiar faces and strangers alike.

3. Seeking Support from Others

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Keeping anxiety bottled up only fuels its intensity. Sharing my feelings with friends, family, and those close to me offers a way to lighten the emotional load. I encourage everyone to do the same. It's important to also connect with strangers at this time making sure we check-in to see how we are all doing.

Recognizing that climate emergencies affect us all in different ways. I want to emphasize that for those of you who are having an especially hard time, it is important to seek professional mental health support. There is never any shame in this. We are all human and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is real. 

4. Embracing Emotions and Moving Forward

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In the face of adversity, allowing ourselves to feel is crucial. A lesson from "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" a book by Dan Millman resonates with me —a man (character in his book) faced with devastating loss (losing his home in a house fire) allowed himself to grieve fully before finding the strength to move forward. While it's far from easy, confronting emotions head-on is essential for eventual healing.

Paving the Way to a More Sustainable Future

1. Acknowledging Forces Beyond Control

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Certain events lie beyond human influence, often termed "acts of God." Natural disasters—hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes—have shaped human history and will continue to do so. In these moments, finding solace in faith and the knowledge that we're not alone is crucial.

2. Learning from History's Lessons

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Drawing wisdom from the past informs the road ahead. Exploring past climate events, learning from their impacts, and assessing improvements in disaster management systems equip us to face future challenges more effectively.

3. Taking Small Steps toward Sustainability

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Progress toward a sustainable future begins with small actions. Even as I evacuated my home due to health concerns, I recognize that there's always more I can do to lead a sustainable life. Each small choice contributes to a more eco-conscious lifestyle.

In Conclusion

Amidst the turmoil, rays of hope pierce through. My experiences as a Kelowna resident and as a sustainability app founder navigating the wildfire season offer insights into confronting climate anxiety head-on. By safeguarding well-being, fostering community solidarity, seeking support, and acknowledging emotions, we build resilience against climate anxiety.

When we embark on a journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle, we contribute to shaping a world better equipped to confront the challenges posed by a changing climate.

About the Author:Screen Shot 2022-10-14 at 8.56.37 PM


M (Mangla) Bansal is the CEO and Founder of Sustainable Life App. She's also the instructor of the How to Shop Sustainably eCourse, aimed at guiding eco-minded individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. 

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