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Eco-anxiety in Canada - statistics & facts

Biodiversity degradation, atmospheric pollution, the resurgence of environmental disasters such as floods, droughts, or forest fires, combined with the multiplication of warnings issued by researchers on the consequences of climate change, can cause significant anxiety, coupled with a feeling of helplessness in the face of the immensity of measures required to deal with the situation. Introduced in the early 2000s by the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, the term solastalgia, or eco-anxiety, thus refers to a form of existential distress caused by environmental change.

Solastalgia, or eco-anxiety in Canada

Although solastalgia is not considered a psychiatric pathology, it has multiple symptoms, such as stress, insomnia, anxiety, or panic attacks. They can be associated with a loss of confidence in the ability to address climate change, or with feelings of helplessness, guilt, sadness, and even anger over the inaction of economic and political decision-makers. Eco-anxiety is in fact an expression of a growing societal suffering, since 74 percent of Canadians express concern about global warming, while many are pessimistic about the future of the planet. Data also shows that young people tend to be more affected and concerned about environmental issues than previous generations: in April 2021, more than four in five of them considered climate change a serious threat.

Although a small number of climate skeptics continue to deny this phenomenon, the scientific community, as well as most Canadians, agree that global warming is largely caused by human activity (and in particular by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities). Canada is the only G7 country whose emissions have increased since the Paris Agreement was signed: over-consumption, intensive animal farming, the massive use of fossil fuels and the human lifestyle, particularly in the West, must therefore be questioned. According to one of the UN's communiqués, if humanity carries on living at its current rate, the Earth's temperature will rise by three to five degrees by 2100, leading to major climate disruptions in many parts of the world.

Climate action

While eco-anxiety can have a paralyzing effect, it can also be a driving force for collective or individual action. In this perspective, Canadians are gradually changing their daily habits, although to varying degrees. When the simplest actions, such as recycling waste, buying local products, or paying more for locally grown fresh food, are almost unanimously adopted, it seems more difficult to consider reducing one's consumption of meat, buying less clothing, or avoiding taking a plane.

However, while citizens play an important role in the fight against climate change, households account for only about one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, and individual responsibility is far from sufficient. Large corporations, institutions, and governments have the power to act on a much larger scale. While a good part of Canadians tend to rely on the federal government in addressing climate change, more than a quarter also trust both governments equally, although cooperation between them should be improved. Yet, Justin Trudeau's record on climate change is judged quite severely, especially among younger people, and Biden's promises are still viewed with skepticism by some Canadians.

The new climate legislation passed by the Parliament at the end of June 2021 - Canada's first climate accountability law, which will force the country to meet its environmental commitments - is cause for optimism, however. Whether this legislation will be followed by concrete results remains to be seen.


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