Force of Nature responds to eco-anxiety through education programmes, consulting and campaigns, asking people to step up rather than shut down in the face of the climate crisis.
Anxiety about what climate change means for the future is a big problem. In the UK, 70 per cent of 18–24-year-olds were experiencing “eco-anxiety”—helplessness, anger, insomnia, panic and guilt. Yet it’s hard to know how to address this widespread mental health issue. Half of teachers, a profession that works intensively with this age group, feel ill-equipped deal with student anxiety around climate change.
This is not news to climate activist Clover Hogan. At 16, Clover was lobbying decision-makers at COP21 in Paris when she realised that the threat greater even than climate change was the feeling of powerlessness in the face of it. From then she made it her mission to mobilise mindsets.
From the age of 19, when she started volunteering to teach climate change in classrooms across the UK, she again saw the powerlessness and eco-anxiety in the schools she visited. Rather than “empowered young leaders,” she met young people who were scared. This wasn’t just a problem in schools though, it was also something she heard in boardrooms: leaders with real power who believed themselves too small to make a difference and the system too broken to change.
This all came to a tipping point in 2019 as she watched the wildfires rage in Australia, where she grew up. Seeing images of her friends standing on roofs with hoses, trying to beat back the flames, she wondered for the first time if the problem was too big, or if it was in fact too late.
She channelled this doubt into Force of Nature, an organisation that responds to this growing eco-anxiety. A youth-led organisation, with a 12-person team and over 100 volunteers, they are inspiring a movement of people—from students to CEOs—to step up rather than shut down in the face of the climate crisis.
As Clover explains, “We must discard the belief that we’re powerless, and realise that we are infinitely powerful.” She insists that it’s only through letting go of our fears—of the scale of the problem or of our own potential—that we can help address the climate emergency.
Force of Nature works on a number of programmes, consulting and campaigns that empower the next generation of leaders. They have three main areas of activity: education, connecting with decision-makers and supporting young people.
Their student programmes, curriculum support and teacher resources help sustainability educators foster the next generation of leaders: responding to their students’ emotional needs, helping them mobilise mindsets for action, and increasing their impact as change-makers. Force of Nature has now delivered over 1,000 programmes to young people, with classrooms in 52 countries.
For Clover, an answer to eco-anxiety is in choosing something to focus on. This is something she discovered in her own journey as a climate activist: “I used to think that to be an environmentalist, I’d have to chain myself to trees and ride zodiacs into the path of whaling ships. But I’m a bit too word-nerdy for that. I found my place when I started investigating some of our planet’s most dangerous enemies: Apathy. Pessimism. Green-washing. Tokenism. By educating myself, I overcame my own mindset hurdles, and quickly realised that I wanted to help others do the same.”
And it seems to be working. Feedback from those who have participated in their classrooms found that there was a decrease in feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. Furthermore, students found that they developed skills that they already had, letting go of self-limiting attitudes and believing in the power of their own agency. The classrooms also helped students to link in with a network of young people determined to act and to realise their own potential. As one participant put it, “This classroom helped me realise that my actions do have weight and taking action is the only way to change the narrative.”
These lessons are an ongoing process. As Clover says, “No one is born a leader; you learn to become one through courage and imagination.” Giving advice to budding climate activists, she says, as “young people who have not been around long enough to let society clip the wings of their imaginations, I invite you to let your courage take flight.”
AtlasAction: You can help Force of Nature mobilise tomorrow’s climate leaders by donating here. You can also follow them on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or LinkedIn. You can also check out their Podcast We need to talk about eco-anxiety, now in its second season.
The research for this post was conducted by Bianca Fiore, a Barcelona-based storyteller and lasagne wizard. Covering stories of joy and the talent at work to re-imagine our world.
Clover Hogan, Founder of Force of Nature
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