07

Understanding Eco-anxiety and Ways of Coping

Gubatbp. featuring Dr. John Aruta and Beatrice Tulagan | October 14, 2021 

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Episode Transcript

ONGGIE:

 

Hi everyone. Welcome to Gubatbp. podcast. I’m Onggie Canivel, Executive Director of Forest Foundation.

 

BRYAN:

 

And hello I’m Bryan Mariano, Knowledge Management Specialist at Forest Foundation Philippines.

 

ONGGIE:

 

In this podcast, we tell stories about the forest, plants, and people. Gubatbp. comes from the wordplay of “gubat”, which translates to “forest” in Tagalog, and “at iba pa”, which means “and others”.

 

BRYAN: 

 

At Gubatbp., we find familiarity in the forest and its relation to our everyday lives.

Bryan: Welcome sa 7th episode natin ng Gubatbp podcast, hi everyone. Hello Onggie. For our past episodes, diniscuss natin yung joy of being a plantito and plantita, tending care sa plants, we also touched on representation of nature in literature and visuals, including ‘yung mga paintings diba, cartography and even ‘yung mapmaking. 

 

Onggie: Ah oo nga, Bryan. It’s been six episodes of really good conversations. Last time we were lucky enough to learn and actually go through yung forest bathing experience, thanks to Doc TJ of Mount Purro Nature Reserve. You can still listen to the forest bathing episode that I’m really happy to have been part of and it was really a pleasure and a real escape for me to be in nature for that episode.

 

Bryan: Yeah you’re right and if you’re like me din na you’re based dito sa Metro Manila, pwede rin naman to find pockets of nature in your local neighborhood, although alam natin na konti lang ito, ‘no. Pero, bring or find nature closer to your home para narin to experience yung benefits nun, being in nature kasi is not just good for our body but sa mental and emotional health narin natin.  

Onggie: Yup, and to add to that I think yung mental health has been at the forefront, even sa environmental groups that I’m a part of. In fact, it started several years ago, I started hearing about ecopsychology, environmental psychology, and of late, yung mga friends ko are talking about eco-anxiety, although it’s not a new concept pero i think given yung situation where we find ourselves in, there’s little awareness about it, maraming nagtatanong. And I think it sits timely that we talk about it or we look into this. Environmental psychology and eco-anxiety.  

 

Bryan: Right. Saka kasi diba, Philippines din yung isa sa pinaka matagal na naka lockdown, ang dami nating community quarantine. Sobrang limited ng mobility natin and I think it’s very important nga to have this kind of conversion. Medyo mabigat na usapin pero I think very important na pag-usapan, especially sa context ng urban spaces, the lack of green spaces nga natin, hindi naman lahat talaga may direct access doon sa green spaces, isa yan sa mga forms of inequality rin, kaya yung isang naging response natin is mag-alaga ng mga halaman diba sa bahay natin. At dahil nga limited yung pag tatravel sa panahon ngayon ng pandemic at maraming pag-aaral na rin nag nagsasabi na it really takes a toll sa mental health ng mga tao. And to learn more about these things, we have invited two guests for today’s episode and excited narin ako to hear their thoughts and insights about these topics. Onggie, let me introduce our guests. 

 

Yung una nating guest ay si Dr. John Jamir Benzon Aruta or John, he’s a professor from the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department ng De La Salle University. His research interests include environmental psychology and mental health. Isa sa mga recent paper na napublish niya ay about sa influence ng connectedness to nature and materialism sa ecological behavior dito sa Philippines.

 

As a journalist, Bea writes about the climate crisis, cultural shifts and social politics, as well as the environment, culture, gender, and mental health. Bilang climate organizer, she is particularly focused on the emerging youth climate movement in the global South, including Asia and the Philippines, and as well as women environmental defenders.

 

Grabe. Thank you for joining us today, John and Bea! Magandang araw sa inyo.

 

Onggie: Welcome John, Welcome Bea. 

 

John: Thank you very much, Bryan and Onggie, for inviting me. Appreciate it.

 

Bea: Thank you for having me as well. Magandang araw po sating lahat. 

 

Onggie: Magandang araw!

 

Bryan: Maganda araw sating lahat. Siguro yung kanina na napakingan natin, ano ba yung pinag-aaralan o ginagawa ni John sa environmental psychology and mental health. Tapos Onggie, nabanggit mo kanina yung terms na, “environmental psychology, ecopsychology, eco-anxiety” baka pwede tayo tulungan ni John sa pag-define o pag-explain ano ba ‘yung ecopsychology, eco-anxiety. Ano ba itong terms na ito, John?

 

John: Yeah, thank you, Bryan. Environmental Psychology, it’s a sub-branch of psychology, para siyang Engineering diba, may Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, may mga sub-branches. So sa psychology, meron ring mga sub-branches. Isa sa mga ito yung Environmental Psychology. 

 

Basically, ang environmental psychology talks about how humans impact the environment: humans produce a lot of plastic, humans cause deforestation, marine degradation etc, and also, the impact of the environment on human beings. Given the current status of the environment, naapektuhan ba ‘yung mga tao? In terms of their mental health for example. Or in terms of how they live their lives. Makikita mo ngayon yung mga bahay elevated, kasi response nila yun sa baha. Ano siya, reciprocal interaction ng humans and environment. 

 

Onggie: Yeah, right right. 

 

John: And yung question sa eco-anxiety, it’s a psychological response ng human beings sa climate crisis. And ang anxiety is, nagwo-worry ka. Aligaga ka. Natatakot ka na may mangyayaring masama dahil sa climate crisis at sa mga environmental problems, etc. I can talk about that maybe later in the following questions. 

 

Bryan: Right, thank you, John sa pag-provide sa amin ng definition ng mga terms na ito. This really provides yung grounding kung paano ba natin itatackle yung context in the next few minutes. Siguro sobrang striking din nung idea ng pagiging reciprocal nung humans and the environment actions, kasi diba, yun yung nagbe-break ng divide between humans and nature, na hindi siya binary, nakaka-apekto siya with one another, so certain types of people for instance ay makapag destroy ng certain ecosystem, tapos diba, hindi natin alam yung magiging epekto nun, domino effect yun sa ibang communities, sa ibang aspects ng society, ganyan. 

 

So hindi siya ganon ka-linear. And yung idea ng eco-anxiety, yun talaga eh, nag-woworry ka. Meron sort of distress doon sa kung paano mo nae-experience ng disruption ng environment. 

 

Naalala ko lang, John, meron isang psychologist rin, si (Glenn) Albrecht, 2007 yata, he coined the term na SOLASTALGIA or SOLACE and NOSTALGIA. Yun daw yung parang distress na nafi-feel ng tao produced by the environmental change, halimbawa, dati lumaki ako sa Valenzuela na sobrang laging binabaha, tapos meron kami don sa sa tapat ng bahay namin, ang tawag ng lolo ko, Pitak, para siyang barren land na may mga baka don, doon kami palagi naglalaro, tapos growing up natubunan na yun ng baha, wala na masyado matakbuhan doon, hindi kana makapag-palipad ng saranggola don, wala na masyadong puno don ganon, so feeling ko parang yun yung sinasabi ni Albrecht na solostalgia, yung namimiss mo yung ganong klase ng feeling, pero di kana makaconnect kasi somehow destroyed na yung environment na yun and sa case non, binaha na sya. Kaya parang hindi ko na ma-enjoy yung childhood ko kung babalik ako don. Nakaka-anxious na parang, nasan na? Parang ganon, diba. 

 

Onggie: Siguro in addition to that, Bryan, for me, isa sa mga, well hindi naman siya mismo surprise, pero sa binanggit ni John, how yung, we interact with the environment, and how the environment interacts with us, how we think of it, madalas iniisip natin, tayo lang may interaction sa environment, pero sa totoo lang, we pick up a lot from our environment as well, both physically, gathering of resources, pakiramdam mo na magaang, maaliwalas yung hanging, but I’m sure, beyond aesthetics, yung psychological well being mo rin affected sa interaction mo with environment. It’s really both ways. For me, this brings to focus on how we are actually connected with nature. Hindi pa talaga tayo, despite the way we may have been taught or how we sometimes think na hiwalay tayo, or separate from nature, we’re actually part of and in nature.

Onggie: Siguro we have Bea rin here, I’ve read some of her work, I’ve followed her work, I’m curious if she’s seen as well this reaction of the community to their environment, especially yung mga naapektuhan ng the impacts of the climate change. Bea have written a little bit about it. Maybe you can tell us a little bit more. What were the impacts, how did the communities feel? As well as the impacts of the climate change, on the environment. 

 

Bea: So I’ve worked a lot with communities, especially youth activities, next in line, frontliners in the fight against climate injustices. Syempre po, ang nararamdaman nila, they are very angry, they are very frustrated, there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of worry about their future, because, katulang nga nung sinabi ng isa kong friend na youth activist rin – parang wala daw siyang space to dream her own dreams, kasi you have the world to save pa. Kailangan mo ng activism, kailangan mo mag organize, kasi the world is, literally, going up in flames, what about her dreams, be a painter or be something else. 

 

There’s a lot of feeling of loss and grief even, around climate impacts. Fortunately, a lot of the people I know, a lot of them are activists, they turn these feelings of anxiety, this anger, into action. They collectivize, organize, they run climate campaigns, they demand for governments to take more action. So it’s very interesting to see that trend going po. 

 

Onggie: It’s sad to know that and totoo nga, here you are, literally, in the most challenging of times and you have to take on a fight and yet you’re still growing up, you’re still dreaming. You still have to dream and fulfill your dream. But I’m glad that you guys found a way to cope effectively and fight back, ano. Ang galing nga nung spirit na ganon, here we’re having difficulties but we can come together and come to more effective affection on climate. 

 

Bato ko naman kay John, I’m interested to know in your work studying the Filipino psyche and then, I suppose your students, you probably have first hand experience with all of these young people is this something that you’ve observed, how valuable itong coming together to solve this problem of climate, of environmental crisis. 

 

John: In my view, and this is also the general view of environmental psychology and the environmental sciences is that, ay hindi natin maso-solve ang environmental problems if we don’t act collectively. Pero kaya lang, human beings, primarily, will be concerned about their immediate benefits. We tend to underestimate what we can do as an individual, contributing to the collective purpose. We tend to underestimate. So, pwedeng sasabihin, “Eh, kahit hindi naman ako magbawas ng plastic, hindi naman magkakaroon ng difference yan. Mag tatanim lang ako isang puno, anong difference non?” We tend to underestimate the individual actions when put together can make a collective change. 

 

And diba, yung question mo Onggie kanina, the good news is that, mataas ang environmental concerns ng younger generations, that’s based on data. 

 

Onggie: Buti nalang! 

 

John: Kaya lang madaming factors that hinder environmental concerns, na maraming factors that hinder our actions to protect the environment, some of the factors that hinder are internal, or more psychological, while others are more external. Some examples of internal factors would be the values that we have, as people,  for example, may mga values na medyo egoistic, meaning your main, you put so much importance on gaining material resources etc, based on evidence, people who endorse those kind of values, they are less likely to engage in pro-environmental behavior. 

 

Pero meron rin mga values na, what we call, biospheric values, meaning these are values na endorsed by people who care for the environment. People like you guys. And evidence, people who endorse biospheric values, are more likely to engage in pro-environmental behavior. 

 

May tricky sa evidence dito. And sinasabi sa evidence, sa environmental psychology, hindi spat na bigyan mo lang ng information about climate change or environmental problems ang mga tao, kailangan mo mag-instill ng values. Bigyan ko kayo ng example na study, isa sa mga nag-aral, hinati nila yung dalawang grupo ng mga tao, this is somewhere in a Scandinavian country, hinati nila. The first group exposed sa plastic pollution movie, and then the other group exposed to movie that has nothing to do with environmental problems, so minesure nila after nung exposure na yon – sino ang mas mataas ang environment knowledge about plastic pollution, apparently mas mataas ung knowledge sa plastic pollution nung exposed doon sa plastic pollution problem movie, kesa doon sa isang group. 

 

Pero when they measured yung intention nila to actually donate money for environmental laws, make little sacrifices for the environment, walang difference. So ang ginawa nila, tiningnan nila yung values nung mga tao na ito. Nakita nila na yung mga tao na mataas sa biospheric values, people who care about the environment, who would prioritize the environment over personal benefit, have higher intention to protect the environment, they are willing to pay higher taxes for environmental laws, more willing to purchase green products that are basically more expensive, etc. In other words, hindi sapat na bigyan mo ng information ang mga tao. Knowledge about environmental problems is not enough, kailangan mag-instill ka ng values, turuan mo ng values, how to take care of the environment ang mga tao. That’s very very interesting if you ask me. 

 

Bryan: Interesting nga yung experiment na yun. Speaking of value and filipino youth, ano tingin mo don sa observation sa mga kabataan ngayon.. And meron bang sort of unique values siguro yung mga Pilipino? Meron ba tayong culture na ganon? Na pwede natin mas inurture? Ano ba yung sort of values na unique satin as Filipinos, na baka pwedeng yun yung mas inurture natin? Tama ka eh. Sobrang linear kasi nung pagbibigay lang ng impormasyon e. Yung impormasyon hindi nun sinasabi how to really act, so parang hindi siya ganun ka-actionable, pero isa rin sa importance nun is paano yun nakaka-appeal sa emotion ng mga tao para mas maging inspired sila to act and to change yung behaviors nila. Going back siguro doon sa Filipino psyche, ano yung mga sort of values ng mga Pilipino na tingin natin important to nurture or mas bigyang pansin?  

 

John: That’s a very interesting question. I will answer the question based on existing evidence, first, sino sa inyo yung lumaki sa probinsya, growing up in a more rural kind of environment apparently is associated with higher environmental concerns as an adult, so pwede mo i-tap yun. 

 

Onggie: I can attest to that.

 

John: Ako din, I grew up in the province. 

 

Onggie: Probinsyano ako eh. 

 

John: That’s one. Pero to answer Bryan’s question, ano yung unique sa Filipinos, ang Filipinos like other asian countries, we are collectivistic. Very sensitive tayo sa norms, what’s normal behavior and what’s acceptable socially and what’s not acceptable socially, ayaw natin nung hindi masyadong fit doon sa normal behavior in general. 22.52 Importante na, isang factor that we can tap is social norms, if we can make people create a perception or perceive that taking care of the environment is the normal behavior, diba, then they will follow. Because that’s naturally how people in collectivistic cultures will behave. But if they perceive not taking care of the environment as normal, that can also backfire. That can also be a strong motivation to not behave pro-environmentally. 

 

So kaya ako, dito sa village namin, pag may nakita akong basura, siyempre pupulutin ko yun, pero bago ko pulutin yun, titingnan ko kung may batang nakatingin, pag may batang nakatingin, pupulutin ko yun, papakita ko. In a way, I am signaling what is acceptable behavior. Very intentional. Tapos pwede rin, how you communicate environmental problems, yung mga strategies, they invite individuals that people will generally look up to, popular people. Kasi what popular people do is,  what’s sometimes perceived as what’s acceptable by the general public. So kung magbibigay ka ng communication strategies in taking care of the environment, pick somebody who has a good public image, that people really look up to. 

 

Onggie: Bea! I’m sure you also have insights on this as a campaigner and also as a witness to your communities and your community of youth. Share with us your insights, your inputs on this. 

 

Bea: Opo. So, ang ganda po nung sinabi ni Doc John, about collectivity. And to add to that lang, meron po ngayon, may resurgence ng approach sa organizing and communications strategies around climate change that deals with intersectionality. Ibig sabihin po natin diyan, ang pag communicate ngayon, ang organizing, ang pag atake natin sa problema ng climate sa Pilipinas at sa iba ring country, hindi nalang ito tungkol sa environment, pero tungkol narin to sa atin, 25.31, we are a part, embedded deeply, inextricably with our environment. Sinasabi po nila na climate change, hindi lang yan environmental issue, issue rin ito ng gender justice, human rights, economic justice, para po sa mga Pilipino, hindi lang po ito mga konsepto eh, yung mga -isms at justice na to. Kitang kita atin yan.  Everytime na may mga disasters, everytime na may mga storm, onset impact of climate change. Nakikita natin na yung mga pinaka-apektado lagi, ay yung mga taong marginalized na. Kaya po, communication wise and organizing wise, it is also very important to organize, obviously, around our values, but also the very reality, na the climate fight, the environmental justice fight, is intersectional.

 

Onggie: Wow, great point. Oo nga, it’s not just an environmental fight, it’s the fight, it’s an intersectional fight. Ang ganda nung framing ni Bea. We’ve always thought of it na, ito ay economic issue, ay gender issue yan, but because of how climate affects us all, and how climate affects the more vulnerable communities more, we really need to understand na it’s an intersectional concern. Great point, Bea. Bryan, do you have anything to add?

 

Bryan: Yeah. Regarding doon sa intersectionality, very important point yun na na-bring up mo, Bea. Gusto ko lang din itanong, as a climate organizer, tapos kanina  si Doc John, na-allude niya yung context of values. When doing these kinds of, climate activity, gathering people, ano yung tingin mo, kumbaga, nage-encourage sa mga tao to join these kinds of movements? And reasons kung bakit hindi ganon ka-nag-a-act yung ibang tao? May ganong bang observations? 

 

Bea: Kapag nakikita ng mga tao na hindi sila iba sa environment, hindi tayo hiwalay sa environment, naapektuhan tayo especially yung mga pinaka marginalized and vulnerable satin from climate change at iba pang environmental injustices, doon tyo namomotivate. Ang mga nangyayari sa mga youth activists, nakikita nila na it’s the fight of our lives talaga, it’s an existential fight, that’s more than just polar bears, or plastic waste or the plastic industry. Siguro, ulitin ko rin yung point kanina ni Doc John, na collectivity rin, kitang kita rin yon, sobrang nakakatuwa na yung mga kakilala kong youth campaigner ngayon, ang mga inoorganiza nila mga kaibigan at kapamilya nila. So sobrang great motivator rin sakanila na nakikita nila sa mga kasama nila sa araw-araw, same rin yung concerns, despite of different reasons. 

 

Halimbawa, may kaibigan ka na feminista… dahil nakikita niya ang epekto ng climate change sa kababaihan, doon siya namomotivate. I think its about, also, realizing na, siyempre, pare-pareho tayo ng concern which is solving climate change pero the issues are different, therefore, iba’t iba dapat yung pag atake natin sa issues, at conscious tayo dapat sa kung ano ang pinapahalagahan ng mga kausap natin. 

 

Doon naman sa parang, barriers to action, i think, it’s, I’ve been speaking a lot about this in the past few weeks, may pinasukan ako na panel the other day, it’s about how, nagiging crisis siya of imagining what’s possible. There are larger more diabolical forces at play, control our economics, that control our structures, na parang di tayo pinag-iimagine example ng world, for example na, walang clean energy, walang mangyayari, hindi ‘to epektibo, di natin kakakanin yan, etc, ang nangyayari ngayon inaapektuhan niya yung imagination at capacity ng tao to imagine what is possible. 

 

I think, as youth campaigners, as youth activists, organizers, our job here is not to demand what is politically feasible or kung ano yung acceptable lang para sa ating current structures, but to imagine more and demand what we deserve. So, kung yung barrier to action, i-encourage natin more, lalo na yung mga kabataan na another world is possible, at kaya yan pag nag collectivize tayo ng trabaho natin.

 

Bryan: Right, I think very important yung ganong klase ng pag-imagine, kasi ano ba yung mga potential futures kapag pinagpatuloy natin yung ganitong bagay, pagka-ganito yung ginawa nating intervention. I think, Onggie, ito rin yung pinag-uusapan natin before kung bakit tayo nagbabasa ng eco fiction. Kasi yoon yun parang portal na binigay satin ng mga authors, na gumagawa non. 

 

Kung paano natin ma-imagine yung future ng environmental destruction, may it be dystopia, utopia, and it provides us with affective na impact, hindi lang basta doon sa klase ng information, kumbaga we get to balance somehow, ano ba yung factors ng climate crisis na very important pero at the same time, yung nafufuel rin satin, yung affective encounters natin sa everyday life, na na-experience natin yung effects ng climate crisis.

 

Onggie: And certainly, for me, yung imagination, imagining a better future, should be part of our arsenal, those of us who want to solve better problems. Imagining a better future. Imagining our society, in a more sustainable phase, in a better place than we are right now, certainly, bahagi ng pag iisip at pagkilos yun.

 

Bryan: Tama, pag-iisip at pag-kilos. Hindi dapat mawala yung pagkilos na part. Hindi naman pwede na nag-i-imagine lang tayo diba.

Bryan: Ito Bea, may question lang rin ako for you. Medyo may pagka-personal lang rin to. You may or may not answer. Bilang climate organizer for several years at ikaw rin yung nagdo-document ng  stories ng communities sa reporting mo doon sa climate justice and women, dumating rin ba sa point sa efforts mo na yon, yung pinag-uusapan natin kanina about eco-anxiety? May ganon bang nafefeel rin ikaw from time to time, have you experienced that personally and kung oo, paano ka nagdi-deal doon, since I know na very exhausting rin talaga yung ganitong klase ng work. And we acknowledge that. Would you like to share about it ba? 

 

Bea: Sure, sure. I experience eco-anxiety everyday. Everyday of my life, I think about my future. And kung gustuhin ko man to have children in the future, their future, diba, parang may aabutan paba sila, na ganito kaganda na environment and it’s not just the environment, but also anxiety over everything else happening in the world right now. So, I deal with that everyday, especially for someone who is very sensitive and has actual anxiety, clinical anxiety. Multiplier siya ng vulnerability ko na, I’m already prone to to feeling anxious and depress as a mental health condition. Dagdagan pa ng trabaho ko that exposes me to a lot of this, so multiplier po talaga siya sakin, ng condition ko. 

 

Pero I think, inspiration po talaga sa communities that i worked with and the youth activists, that I keep mentioning. Of course, I do the usual coping mechanisms, i take frequent breaks, halimbawa ngayon naka leave ako, so I take frequent breaks from the work, but more than that, I try to see the issue as really a collective issue and not just my burden to carry. I take inspiration po from communities who tirelessly fight. Meron po akong isang ina-admire na organizer, taga-Bataan siya, Ate Derek Cabe, sinabi niya sakin minsan na, paminsan minsan iniisip rin nila magpahinga, pero some people they don’t get to walk away from their fights, kailaingan magpatuloy sila dahil buhay nila nakaksalalay doon. I think it’s inspiration for me, that dedication to the cause. 

 

So, what I want to say is, sa pag-deal with eco-anxiety, we deal with the trauma we expose ourselves to everyday just by reading and watching the news, is to take care of ourselves rin, in the midst of taking care of our community. Really try to see it as a collective issue 36.07, really keep on hoping, may tinatawag po na concept lately, radical hope, so keep hoping. Honor negative emotions but also know that you are not alone in this fight. 36.19

 

Onggie: Great sharing, Bea and, you know, for us may konti ring ganon, but of course not in the same level as you, but for us, working on the foundation, sanay kami na nasa field, sanay kami na nasa forest. It’s really been difficult as well, to keep on working and managing, imagining forest conservation, samantalang nakakulong ka sa concrete jungle that is Metro Manila. John, I’m curious, is there like, from a professional point of view, ang gaganda ng sinabi ni Bea, I’ve written down some of it, but for a professional, a psychologist point of view, is there a way to deal with it? 

 

John: Ah alright, first, I’d like to talk about, nag-eexist ba talaga ang climate anxiety, sino nakaka-experience nito, gaano kataas sa climate anxiety sa general population. 

 

First, climate anxiety is a psychological response to climate change and environmental problems. You worry about how bad the environmental problems will turn out, so ang physical manifestations niyan, aligaga ka, yung iba nagkakaron ng nightmares. Yung iba severe levels ng climate anxiety, trembling, yung usual anxiety, pero this time the cause is climate concerns. 

 

Ang evidence, sa general population, mababa ang level ng climate anxiety, pero may mga vulnerable sa climate anxiety and severe levels of climate anxiety. Sino ang mga ito? Based sa evidence, ito ang mga mataas ang concern for the environment, more vulnerable sila sa climate anxiety. Ang climate anxiety kasi, a certain level of climate anxiety is functional. It’s good, that means you can act to take care of environment, pero merong mga more severe levels that impair you. You are really down and you can’t do respond anymore, nagkaka-nightmare kana. Pero very rare ang mga cases na yon. 

 

Going back, sino yung mga vulnerable? Sila yung mga nakaka-experience first hand ng climate impact, extreme typhoons, drought – pero you experience climate anxiety, only if you attribute yung disaster or extreme weather to climate change. Kasi some people will say, it’s normal, it’s something that we experience every year and it’s something that’s destined to happen, maraming beliefs ang mga tao, iba-iba. Pero for those who believe this is caused by climate change, mas mataas yung climate anxiety response nila, mas vulnerable sila. Pangatlo, children and adults are more vulnerable to climate anxiety, especially indigenous people, sila talaga, their lives depend on nature and the resources provided by nature. 

 

Unfortunately, mababa ang climate anxiety sa general population, I’m not sure if this is fortunately or unfortunately, based on what the data says. Sa Philippines ang data namin on climate anxiety, we’re currently writing the paper on climate anxiety and we can see that Filipino adolescents, some of them have certain levels of climate anxieties, not all, and isa yun sa mga research agenda namin, to look at climate anxiety in Filipinos, in more general population, are there specific groups, Filipinos who are more vulnerable that others on climate anxiety. So far, in terms of data, we don’t have solid data yet in the Philippines on climate anxiety, but we can definitely observe who are more vulnerable based on our interactions. 

 

BRYAN: Actually, regarding sa pag-aaral sa climate anxiety, nung September 7, may lumabas na bagong article sa Preprints with The Lancet. And nag-aral noon ay taga-University sa UK, tapos pinag-aralan nila yung experience ng mga kabataan aged 16-25 regarding climate anxiety, so nag-survey sila ng 10,000 ng mga tao, at sinabi doon na 59% are very, extremely worried with climate crisis, then at least 84% moderately worried. So in terms of ganoong klase ng data, ang taas nya at binanggit doon ang correlation ng climate anxiety and distress, ay significantly related sa paano nila napeperceive ang impact ng inadequate government response and associated feeling of betrayal. 

 

So para isa yon sa mga pinaka-nakita nila na source ng anxiety sa mga bata, ito yung isa sa mga pinaka-recent na nakita ko na pag-aaral. Maganda yung effort ninyo na pag-aral rin na, ano ba yung situation dito sa Pilipinas, baka yung binabangit natin na values, yung pro-social behavior, yung binanggit ni Bea na collectivist na action perspective ng mga Pilipino, baka ilan iyon sa maaring makatulong para maari nating intindihin yung ganitong klase ng sitwasyon. 

 

John: I totally agree. I think importante na mag-karon ng climate anxiety and psychological response ng mga Pilipino sa climate change, kasi Philippines is geographically vulnerable to climate change, because of how we are positioned. Dinadaanan tayo ng at least 20 typhoons per year, and some of those typhoons are super typhoons, and also our economic status as a country, we are less able to protect ourselves from the disasters. So, we are really vulnerable. 

 

Unfortunately there’s very little research on how the younger generations respond to climate change, in a psychological way to climate anxiety, sino-sino ba itong mga to? Gaano sila naapektuhan, naniniwala ba sila sa climate change in the first place, hindi ka magkakaroon ng climate anxiety kung hindi ka naniniwala na may climate change or hindi ka informed and it’s actually happening right now. So, we don’t have data yet but these are very important directions. 

 

Bryan: As much as importante yung mga ganitong klase ng datos, hindi rin natin maitatangi na totoo talaga ang mga impacts diba, tulad doon sa mga stories na ginagawa ni Bea, sa mga kuwento ng komunidad, andon diin siya, nakikisalamuha. So yung stories na ‘yon, yung experiences na ‘yon, testifies doon sa effect ng crisis.

 

Onggie: Right. And I suspect, the ways we deal with it, depends on how creative you are, how well-linked you are to your peers, social protection that you feel around you, and as much as naka-link rin siya doon sa knowledge mo on information and causes and impacts of climate change and the certainly, doon sa ineffectiveness ng government and people who are supposed to address this.

 

When we did the previous episode, yung forest bathing, one of the things we tried is to be calm and to unwind, and let go of yung anxiety, yung stresses, while in the forest. Doc TJ led us through this wonderful breathing and mindfulness exercise, and sakin, it was very meaningful kasi, sa forest, in a setting that I like. But I wonder Doc John, if one way, if there is a pathway thinking about, and addressing eco-anxiety would be spending more time with nature. 

 

John: Absolutely. There’s very strong evidence that the more exposure you have to nature, mas mababa ang depression and anxiety symptoms. The forest bathing, sa Japan diba, yan yung Shinrin-Yoku, naglakakad ka sa forest, nakapaa ka. You’re just fully present in the experience, being mindful to the whole experience. You listen to the birds chirping, the leaves falling, everything, there’s a very strong evidence of exposure to nature and betterment on health. 

 

Pero medyo tricky ito, especially ngayon na technological age. Bigyan ko kayo ng example study, sa isang sample study na ‘to ang ginawa nila, there are 2 groups of people they asked to walk in the forest, 1st group of people were asked to just be fully present when you walk in the forest and just be fully present, be mindful, listen to everything. Listen to the sounds, the birds chirping, the feeling of your feet touching the ground, but just be fully present for 30 minutes.  And then the other group did the same thing, but with an added task, they will bring their phones and answer text messages and emails in the 30 mins forest walk. 

 

After the 30 minutes walk, what they did, they did a brainscan of each participant, those who are in the phone condition, those who are using their phones during the forest walk, they have very active brains, their brains were not rested, they were very stressed, despite being exposed to nature, Yung mga naglakad na very present, mindful, their brains are very rested and very calm, the brain scans are great. Ano ang sinasabi satin nito? Kung mage-expose ka sa nature, wag kang picture ng picture, don’t take gadgets that will distract you. Be fully present. If you are distracted and you are not fully present in the experience, it’s gonna be a futile attempt. You won’t benefit in terms of mental health.  So that’s the evidence. 

 

Onggie:: Great point, oo nga naman. You’re trying to immerse yourself and then nagte-text or nag-eemail ka. However we are a connected world, so I think yun ang challenge. I’d like to ask Bea, pasensya na Bryan madami akong tanong. Bea, I suppose, given na we are all sheltered in our homes, a lot of our connections are through emails, through zoom, does this affect your work as a climate advocate, climate organizer? And also, how is it finding yourself connected to digital means, but unable to connect with others through real face to face, real people interactions. 

 

Bea: Nothing beats po talaga being out, sometimes literal field, connecting with people, building relationships, sustaining relationships long after you’ve gone. Medyo double edged sword rin po talaga ‘tong panahon na to eh, the organizing, the campaigns being virtual and digital. On the one hand you get to access more people from more places kasi everyone’s tuned in to their computers. Marami po akong nakikilala ngayon, for example if you’ve met the youth climate strike, a lot of them are meeting online, through simply looking at, for example Bangladesh climate strike, and then finding their accounts online, connecting through that. 

 

Access issue rin po talaga in the Philippines alone, marami tayong kababayan who doesn’t have stable internet connection, so medyo nalilimit tayo. So, I think it’s a double edged sword pero, as with anything, we try to make the most out of it po. Try to hold out hope nalang na balang araw mami-meet rin natin ‘tong mga tao na ‘to. Face to face and to sustain ‘yung relationship na ‘yon. 

 

Onggie: I’m glad na ganon parin, while mediated by technology, the organizing and the campaigning, Seems like what you’re saying, we might think na it’s mediated by technology, mukhang it’s really enabled by hope, and yun nga, as John calls it collectivism ng youth and all of these activists. Great point, Bea.

BRYAN: Yeah, maraming salamat John and Bea. Naging malaman yung ating discussion about eco-psychology, about sa experiences natin. I think sobrang,  Onggie, natutuwa ako, kasi sobrang rich na meron tayong ibat-ibang perspectives rin, thank you John for sharing yung mga pag-aaral, all very important. 

 

Tapos tama rin si Bea, nakakarelate ako doon sa binanggit ni Bea na, nae-experince mo siya everyday, yung eco-anxiety, iba iba lang siya na level or atake sayo. Parang very important yung taking breaks from time to time and I like the idea of keeping yourself grounded talaga. And yung inspiration from communities the communities, yung mga kasama sa pag-o-organize, o kasama doon sa advocacy work. 

 

Yeah, I think, ang dami ko ring takeaways. Lagi namin pinag-uusapan ni Sir Onggie, every after ng episode, kailangan namin na mas mag-distill pa, mas mag reflect. Kasi ako personally, mas gusto ko matutunan aspeto ng intersectionality, paano ba natin ito mas masi-streamline sa advocacy work, na hindi lang isang aspeto ang pinag-uusapan natin. Hindi masyadong focus lang sa tao, at the same time, paano natin macoconsider ang mga pag-aaral na binanggit ni Sir John sa decision making processes, government, concerned stakeholders, kumbaga sobrang complex talaga, ng usapin na ito. It’s just that, feeling ko important lang rin na mahanap natin, makapag reflect tyo sa kung ano nagwowork para sa atin, at ano yung mga nagwowork para sa atin at ano pa yung mga pwede natin gawin sa mga ganitong klaseng information na meron tayo. 



Siguro, baka meron nalang rin mensahe ang bawat isa, siguro sayo John, para sa mga kabataan, related sa experience and expertise mo on environment psychology and mental health? Ano yung mga mare-recommend mo sakanila para makatulong sa panahon ng napakahabang community quarantine and lockdownd. At kay Bea, for sure marami pang taong, nagtatanong paano kami makaka join sa cause? Andon ‘yung motivation pero baka hindi pa sila aware sa spaces kung saan pwede sila mainvolve, mga ganon na mensahe. 

 

John: Thank you, Bryan. Siguro, final message ko is, as a person and as a scientist, I’m really hoping na yung younger generation ng mga Filipinos will take care of the environment, because I see these environmental problems as an intergenerational problem. Hindi natin mareresolve ito kung isang generation lang ang mag-aalaga sa environment. Kailangan continuous. For grownups, my message would be, think of your children, what kind of future and environment, you want your children to live in? 

 

And tungkol doon sa pandemic naka lockdown tayo ng mahabang panahon, very limited ung opportunity to go to nature merong mga scientific evidence, virtual nature experiences can actually help mental health, sounds of the birds, sound of the river virtually. Based sa evidence, iba parin yung actual nature exposure so why don’t you bring nature to your home plantito/a as you talked about in your previous episodes, thank you for inviting me. I really enjoyed this conversation. 

 

Onggie: Bea, may we hear from you?

 

Bea: So Bryan said something about reflection, and I think as movements, as advocates, as activists, whatever we call ourselves, it is our duty to keep on reflecting on how can we be the most effective.But at the same time, we have to also honor the human in us, honor the disappointments, the despair, the grief, and the most radical thing we can do to resist the injustices that we face, kahit climate pa yan or ano mang injustice yan, is to keep up hoping. Keep on hoping, and continue imagining and then working towards that better future that we are imaging for ourselves. Because I think, as campaigners, as organizers, are work is usually going against something, fighting against a coal plant, fighting against a company. But sometimes we forget that we also have to offer an alternative vision, an alternative solution. And I think this vision and solution na yan, this will be rooted in honoring first the things that bind us into each other, the things that make us human, our undying hope, our fight, our stubborn persistence, sa paglaban sa mga bagay na importante satin. 

 

So, I recently started a weekly newsletter, it’s called “The Very Best of Us.” It’s basically about what makes us human, as we confront these societal shocks and the pandemic. I think it’s a reflection talaga both, both personal and collective, to see how we can best address the problems that we face. Thank you so much for inviting me again.

 

Onggie: Bryan, we’ve heard many very beautiful things in these conversations. First, I’m hyped kasi may area for research, for study, that we really need to go and get into. I like yung sinasabi ni John, we need to study impact nung environment sa tao but at the same time, study how values formation, us this older generation, teaching, perhaps, leading, perhaps, or moving aside, and then let the younger generation experience it as means for learning, as important as just talking about it. As spreading information. Ang galing ng point ni John its not just info only, it’s also instilling values to guide action. That is a great pathway to look at. 

 

When thinking about this episode, I did a little research as well. I was trying to come to grips with my own dislocation, perhaps, from our work in the Forest Foundation and our communities, that’s why I asked si Jon kanina and Bea, ano ginagamit nyo, anong approaches, anong tools, I think we struck gold here in this conversation with John and Bea. I think yung being connected and yung hopeful, and engaging in conversations with people, who care about ourselves and the environment, in equal measures, because as John said, we are connected. And as Bea said, we honor the environment by honoring our own selves. 

 

That’s perhaps my real takeaway, I was looking for a magic bullet perhaps, a process na if I go through this, I’ll feel better. Just going through this conversation with John and Bea, and listening to our exchanges Bryan, I think maraming natanggal na anxiety sa akin. So it’s been a great conversation. Thank you John, Bea, Bryan.

Bryan: Thank you for listening to this episode. Gubatbp. and Forest Foundation would like to thank our guests Dr. John Jamir Benzon Aruta and Beatrice Tulagan for sharing their stories and insights about ecopsychology, eco-anxiety, and mental health during this pandemic.

 

To see more of Doc John’s works, you can visit his profile on researchgate.net. His papers include connectedness to nature, psychological distress among Filipino adults during the pandemic, and self-criticism in a collectivistic context, to name a few. We also provided links to his research articles on our resources page at Gubatbp. Website. 

 

To read more about Bea’s stories as a writer and a climate organizer, you can visit her website at www.beatricetulagan.com and follow her socials @beatulagan on instagram and twitter. You can also support and learn more about Bea’s writings by subscribing to her weekly newsletter at theverybestofus.org website.

 

We’d also like to thank our featured musicians for this episode, Coeli San Luis and Clara Benin—Clara is a Filipino singer/songwriter. Her music is characterized by a laidback and enchanting vocal style accompanied by an acoustic guitar, while Coeli is a creative storyteller, a singer-songwriter, and an expressive arts facilitator at Magis Creative Spaces, a Center for healing & learning through the arts in Metro Manila.

 

We just listened to the song “Puno” from the album, Here Today. Check out Puno on Spotify. 

 

At www.gubatbp.forestfoundation.ph, you can browse through our maps featured on each episode, and resource materials that you can read and checkout after listening to our episodes.

A list of places where people can connect with nature and continue imagining what’s possible. Also, as a way to cope with eco-anxiety and find the inspiration for action and meet similar-minded people who share the same intention of doing something about the climate crisis.

Understanding Eco-anxiety and Ways of Coping

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Gubatbp. featuring Dr. John Aruta and Beatrice Tulagan | October 14, 2021 

About the guest

John Benzon Aruta-modified

Dr. John Jamir Benzon Aruta

Dr. John Jamir Benzon Aruta or John is a professor from the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department of De La Salle University. His research interests include environmental psychology and mental health. One of his recent papers discussed the influence of connectedness to nature and materialism on ecological behavior in the Philippines. For more published works of Dr. John Jamir Benzon R. Aruta, please visit his Research Gate profile.
Beatrice Tulagan-modified

Beatrice Tulagan

Beatrice Tulagan, or Bea, is a writer and a climate organizer. As a journalist, Bea writes about the climate crisis, cultural shifts, and social politics, as well as the environment, culture, gender, and mental health. As a climate organizer, she is particularly focused on the emerging youth climate movement in the global South as well as women environmental defenders. Her weekly newsletter, The Very Best of Us is a reflection on honoring what makes us human as we confront the biggest crises and social shocks of our time.

Featured musician

Coeli is a creative storyteller, a singer-songwriter, and an expressive arts facilitator at Magis Creative Spaces, a Center for healing & learning through the arts in Metro Manila.

Clara is a Filipino singer/songwriter. Her music is characterized by a laidback and enchanting vocal style accompanied by an acoustic guitar.