Eleventh Hour: The role of the arts in overcoming climate anxiety

By Branch


Eight out of 10 children and young people across the world are worried that climate change is threatening people and the planet.


Forty-five percent globally reported that their feelings toward the prevailing climate crisis are having negative impacts on daily functioning, which include eating, concentrating, work, school, sleeping, spending time in nature, playing, having fun, and dealing with relationships.


In our country, this number went up to a worrying 75 percent, with the report recognizing that young people in the Global South are experiencing more severe climate anxiety—which is defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” 

These figures were according to a 2021 study “Young People’s Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal, and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon.”

The said study is the first large-scale investigation of climate anxiety in children and young people globally and its relationship to government response. It surveyed 10,000 children and young people, aged 16 to 25, from Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, UK, and the US. The Climate Reality Philippines first featured the findings in the 18th episode of the Klimatotohanan webcast series that aired in October last year.

Climate change and global climate inaction are placing a huge burden on people’s mental health.

The realities of climate change, coupled with global inadequate action, lead to chronic and inescapable stressors that will inevitably impact the mental health of children and young people.

We need to acknowledge the distress and find ways to support one another and this is what The Climate Reality Project Philippines emphasized during the Arts for Climate event on the sidelines of the 27th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

During the event, Climate Reality Philippines Branch Manager Nazrin Castro highlighted the crucial role of the arts in creating spaces to process the anxiety, grief, and rage brought on by the climate crisis.

By bringing arts and culture into climate discussions, Climate Reality is providing spaces for a broader range of people to tell their stories, participate in policy and decision-making, and drive world leaders to do what they have to do for a more sustainable future.

Castro also emphasized during the event that arts and culture have the potential to serve as a valuable source of knowledge for reimagining and creating paths toward climate action and sustainable development.

The Climate Reality Philippines is a witness that more and more individuals want to be part of the climate change movement. However, scientific jargon and intimidating conferences like COP27 are slowing things down for them.

By injecting arts and culture into climate policymaking and decision-making spaces, we also create pockets of opportunity to invigorate climate movements.

The arts can connect and bridge the gap between science and the realities of the climate crisis. It enables us to showcase the similarities, diversity, and connectedness of the lived experiences of different communities, and consequently boost people-centered, just, and human rights-based climate solutions.





From left: Albert Lalonde (Youth Climate Activist from Canada); Charles Bonhomme (Public Affairs Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation), Senator Patricia Bovey (Canada); André-Yanne Parent (Manager, Climate Reality Canada); Amy Gilliam-Thorp (Manager, African Climate Reality Project), Nazrin Castro (Manager, Climate Reality Philippines); and Ewi Stephanie Lamma (Climate Reality Leader from Cameroon) during the Arts for Climate event last Nov. 16 at the Canadian Pavilion in COP27.

Integrating Poets For Climate in climate education and activist training programs

In previous articles for this column, we talked about “Poets for Climate,” a program that aims to highlight the lived experiences of people on the ground and the need for world leaders to address the vicious cycle of loss and damage experienced by communities across the globe through the arts.

Aside from the Pebble Poem Workshops and mural projects we’ve conducted with African Climate Reality and Climate Reality Canada, we’ve integrated Poets for Climate into our Klima Eskwela program.

Klima Eskwela translates to climate school. These are learning and knowledge exchange sessions conducted in the most vulnerable communities in the country—those that are often visited by catastrophic typhoons exacerbated by climate change and experiencing sea level rise and drought.

Designed for cascading the latest climate science and policies to local government officials and local youth groups and students, our Klima Eskwela sessions now include sessions on poetry and the arts.

We’ve also integrated Poets for Climate into Klima Pandayan, our flagship mentoring program for Climate Reality Leaders. By doing this, we ensure there is a space for arts and culture in advocating for a clean energy transition, sustainable production and consumption, and sustainable and active mobility.

Moving forward, we look forward to working with Climate Reality Africa and Canada on taking Poets for Climate to new heights and bringing the arts and humanities in movements, policy spaces, and leadership spheres for climate action and sustainable development.




This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.

This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.