If you’ve picked up this handbook, and you’re terrified about climate change, you’re not alone.
After all, the climate crisis is the biggest collective threat we face in the 21st century. In this year alone, we have witnessed a range of climate disasters and extreme weather events, such as the Siberian heat wave, the intense floods in Bangladesh, and the Australian bush fires.
The Coronavirus pandemic has also exposed the pre-existing inequalities in our societies. It has highlighted how the burdens of a crisis fall most heavily on marginalised, low-income groups. The climate crisis is and will be the same- the most brutal impacts will affect people in low-income, marginalised communities especially in the Global South (the so-called “developing nations”).
We are only living through the early days of the climate crisis. Things are going to get much, much worse in the future. If thoughts of the future keep you up at night, we want to assure you that you’re not the only one who is scared, anxious and overwhelmed. Your feelings are normal, moral and shared.
We have created this handbook as a resource for you to take action on these feelings and fears. It covers three areas. Firstly, the emotional side of climate grief. Secondly, accessibly explained facts and resources on climate change (hopefully with more sarcasm and humour than your average guide). Finally, and crucially, we talk about steps you can take towards climate activism. If you’re struggling to process these emotions, and don’t know where to begin in this panic, we’re hoping that this handbook will be a good start.
What is special about this guide?
What’s often missing in the climate conversation is the emotional aspect of confronting the climate crisis. As students, we are taught how to research facts and collect robust data to support our arguments. It is rare – too rare – for the conversation to steer towards climate emotions – the fear, anxieties and distress we experience while thinking about our future, or how rapidly the world is changing. While science and politics has exploded in mainstream climate conversations, the emotions underlying our reaction to the crisis have been left unexamined, or deemed unimportant. Climate emotions are often difficult to process and communicate. After all, it is much easier to look away from the abyss of climate panic and carry on with our daily lives.
This has a cost. When we ignore our difficult emotions they don’t just vanish. They lurk, they chip away at our sense of wellbeing, of safety. They undermine our morale and weaken our enthusiasm to work together, to work hard for a just, equitable future. That’s why this handbook talks about emotions before it talks about polar bears and molecules of carbon dioxide.
Because the writers and readers of this handbook are mostly students at the University of Manchester, we cover a list of societies and networks at university level. Beyond that, we look at what the University and the Manchester City Council are or aren’t doing about climate change, and what they could do if they were pressured by you and your friends.
Although international and national climate news is overwhelming, we also cover brief facts on climate science and international and national (UK) policy. The goal is to explain science and policy in a simple, accessible manner without all the jargon (and where we have used specialised language, we’ve included longer definitions in our glossary. But as we mentioned earlier, these topics are discussed only after we explore the emotional dimension of climate change. That’s our priority.
We intend to do another edition, so if you’ve found something wrong with this page, or you have comments, you can either leave a comment below, or else email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
If you like this handbook, and you’re reading this before November 10th 2020, and you live, work or study within Manchester City Council’s boundaries, please sign the petition for a seventh scrutiny committee, then share the petition with seven of your friends…
Student Climate Handbook home page