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Generation Fear: Student Activists Admit Crippling Anxiety About Climate

‘I feel really visceral anxiety about climate change every day’


Students around the world skipped school Friday ostensibly in protest of what they say is insufficient government control of the climate. In many cities, school administrators offered their support for this mass act of truancy.

In Washington, D.C., leaders of the movement spoke outside of the Capitol, where they called on Congress to move the United States toward “net zero” carbon emissions. All the while, these students confessed to suffering crippling anxiety over their perception of a global warming-induced Armageddon. Many expressed worry that they may be the last generation on Earth. 

Coinciding with the “Climate Strike” was an MSNBC forum with 2020 presidential candidates hosted at Georgetown University. At this event, college students quizzed these political aspirants on environmental topics. Many of these students likewise said they suffer debilitating fear over world weather patterns. 

Virtually every student who spoke at these events said they believed humanity would soon become extinct outside some massive government intervention. 

A student outside the Capitol, Alyssa Wiseman, said the climate is in such terrible shape, “we only have 18 months” until problems become irreversible — a notably hastened forecast over the 12-year doomsday clock proffered by the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

“Each and every voice is necessary to bring change. My name is Alyssa Wiseman, and I am here as a concerned citizen. As a child, I should not have to worry about my future. But my future is in jeopardy. All of our futures are in jeopardy. Your children’s futures are in jeopardy. We have only 11 years to rectify decades of damage that we have inflicted on our planet. And only 18 months until some damages are irreversible. We no longer have the luxury of time. We do not have the luxury of gradual change. We are in the midst of a global emergency. And we must act fast if we want to survive.”A student at the MSNBC forum said she suffers “visceral anxiety every day” over the climate.

“My name is Lucy Chatfield, I’m a sophomore studying environmental biology,” the student said to Sen. Cory Booker. “I’m 19 years old and like so many people my age, I feel really visceral anxiety about climate change every day. And today, as we speak, millions of young people all around the world are taking to the streets and going on strike to demand climate action because we feel this incredible urgency. If we’re going to have a livable future, we need a Green New Deal and we need it as soon as possible.”

A 16-year-old student, appearing outside the Capitol, said she was there to speak on behalf of “trees.”

“I am here to speak for the trees,” the student, Reina Hatcher, said. “And all other life on Earth which cannot speak. We are killing our planet. Not just for the human race but everything on Earth. We are destroying habitats. Poisoning water. Polluting air we need to breathe. And ruining our chance of having a future. We are only one species who is going to be responsible for the destruction of millions of others. This is not our planet to take.”Another outside the Capitol suffered what can only be described as a meltdown. 

“We are not here to talk about our sacrifices and our doom and gloom and nonexistence, we are here to create!” she shouted while stalking the stage. “We are creating this movement every day because every day's inaction drives more action from us!"

Other students wondered how the Earth can be saved in ways that are sensitive to people with disabilities. 

“My name is Joan Miller, I am a doctoral candidate at USC,” a student said at the MSNBC forum. “I study empathy as communication. My pronouns are ‘she,’ ‘her,’ ‘hers’. Yesterday we talked a lot about individual responsibility of change behavior like veganism, water waste and plastic straw bans, all of which initiatives disproportionately affect disabled people and poor people. Besides the carbon tax in these individual responsibilities, how can we shift the responsibility to incentivize corporations and high waste industries to change their behavior around climate change?”

For more, check out the montages above. 

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