Hello everyone! My name is Cameron Perfitt, and I am a happy human representative this year. I am halfway through my third year at Dalhousie, pursuing a double major in Sustainability and International Development Studies. While this degree has taught me so many applicable aspects of how to be more sustainable in various interconnected ways, this knowledge has also come with an unfortunate side effect of being constantly surrounded by the need for more sustainable practices; eco-anxiety.
Eco-anxiety is generally a form of anxiety surrounding the health of our environment and the adverse consequences of climate change, which have the power to alter our way of life drastically. While very nice, this specific form of anxiety in which has been given a lot more research in research years and is becoming an ever-important topic, especially for young people being exposed to the climate crisis and its real-world effect on our lives, whether that be through entering into the environmental sector for the first time, or even just scrolling through Instagram and news articles and seeing the worsening natural disasters around the world, including Hurricane Fiona in which happened last month.
While I was fascinated and excited to learn about climate change and sustainability in a holistic way that I had not been taught in high school, I felt a lingering message: "It's up to me to fix climate change, and time is running out." With this renewed and heightened sense of climate anxiety, I changed every aspect of my life drastically. I became involved in activist groups, changed everything I purchased to zero waste, and ate only local, sustainable, and plant-based foods. However, mid-way through the second semester, I began to feel intensely burned out, like I was sacrificing my mental health and energy for the climate crisis, which only seemed to be worsening with our politicians continuing their business as usual. There must be a way to feel that I am making a tangible difference without completely exhausting my mental resources and seeking to do just that. I realized that something had to change.
I started talking to various friends within my sustainability and international development studies classes. As a result, I found comfort in knowing I wasn't alone in feeling this way, using these conversations to release the feelings I had bottled up, and finding common ground with my friends. These conversations made me realize that having a sense of community and support was the best remedy to combat these intense feelings of eco-anxiety while also making me feel, for once, it was not just an uphill battle that I had to face alone. In the second semester of the first year, I began regaining my desire for organizing and activism.
I eventually joined the local campus group, Dives Dal group, joining their weekly meetings, and gaining a new perspective on effective activism. This time, I was able to, but this time with a more cognisant view which showed me that it is essential to balance caring for a climate change action and letting it consume you. I began finding a passion for climate action and making a difference in a cause I care about deeply with a team that is equally as passionate and, most importantly, equally understands the importance of stepping back and taking time for yourself when needed.
Another meaningful way I could reignite my passion for climate justice in a healthy and balanced way was through my reconnection to nature. As a kid, my family was very outdoorsy, often going on weekend camping trips and making time every day to spend some time walking around the nearby trails around my home. As I grew older and sports and school began to take precedence, I started spending more time outside and inside gyms, cars and libraries. While I was able to get by this way in high school, University I realized the importance of getting out. Following my burnout in my first year, I was determined to point to a pleasant park and appreciated the smell of the trees and the ocean air and how that was able to add a sense of renewal, focus and gratitude for everything in my life. While temporarily relieving my stress from study and paper writing, it also reminded me of what is at stake if we fail to protect and preserve our environment and how those impacts would affect us.
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