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Children don’t need counselling for climate anxiety, they need climate action

  • 13 September 2021
One evening last year, I lingered for a moment after tucking my 10-year-old into bed. A few minutes later, I heard a small voice through the darkness, ‘Mama?’ ‘Yes, sweetie?’ I replied. ‘I just don’t understand. Why won’t the government do anything about climate change?’ I genuinely struggled with my response.

It was reported recently that Coalition MPs have been calling for an expansion of the government’s school chaplaincy program in order to reduce the mental health impacts of climate change ‘activism and alarmism’ on children. Yes, that’s right, they want to address the mental health impact of activism, not the impact of the actual, visible effects of climate change itself, or the very real threat that it poses to children’s futures.

Effectively, these Coalition MPs are implying that children’s overactive imaginations — spurred on by so-called ‘climate alarmists’ — are the cause of their anxieties. Liberal MP Andrew Wallace, for example, blamed groups like Extinction Rebellion for ‘robbing children of hope’.

Do you know what robs children of hope? Spending an entire summer holiday stuck inside because the air outside is full of toxic smoke and the sky has disappeared. Or worse, evacuating from their home by boat as the local beach is engulfed in flames.

Children, world over, are anxious about climate change for one extremely valid reason: it poses an existential threat to their future and governments are failing to take sufficient action. As one climate activist from Tanzania put it, ‘You might think that we are too young to know about the risks and realities of climate change. But we see its effects in our daily lives.’

Global inaction is bad enough, but the Australian government is a stand out performer in this space. Indeed, it would inaccurate to say that they are not taking action. They could almost be described as world leaders in climate action. It’s just that their actions are actively contributing to the climate crisis.

'The reality of the climate crisis is not a pleasant one, but it is both absurd and insulting to think that we can shield children and young people from this reality. They are already living with the effects.'

No wonder they want school chaplains to stamp out awareness and activism.

In a move that amounts to vandalism on a mass scale, the government is framing climate change as a problem that exists only in the minds of children, and in doing so, is trying to justify its ongoing adoption of policies that