The Cold Sweat Of Climate Anxiety

Skabt af Cathrine Widunok Wichmand

Rockpaperdresses, Cathrine Widunok Wichmand, Antwerpen guide, Visitflanders

^^^From our roadtrip in 2017

I think I’ve got a case of climate anxiety.
It hasn’t moved in permanently yet; it tends to appear out of the blue and cause a light palpitation and exam-stomach. Mainly when I watch and read the news (why I often skip them). And when I gaze down on Eddie during one of our (many) breastfeeding moments. Will he be able to have kids in this world, I wonder. Or will we be living on Mars by then? Sometimes I curse my exaggerated sensitivity and wild imagination – as the two of them combined really know how to implode my world.
And with climate anxiety comes a bad conscience. If I buy a new dress. If I eat ham on my pizza. Or when I dream myself far away to a tropical country (out of rail reach).

Are you familiar with it, climate anxiety?

The paediatrician actually asked me during my last visit, a postnatal reaction screening, whether there was anything I worried about when it comes to Eddie. I think she meant on a small scale. Whether I feel safe and confident in the role as his mother. But I immediately caught it and went big. ‘I’m freaking worried there won’t be a planet for him‘ … So, take that and put it into your computer, and then we’ll see if the Apocalypse starts chiming somewhere in the system!

But I really am. And I actually also worry whether there’ll be a planet for me. I mean, yes, I know that the planet will stay – but whether it’s inhabitable just for the rest of my life? I’m  worried it won’t be.

Rockpaperdresses, Cathrine Widunok Wichmand, Antwerpen guide, Visitflanders

Climate change isn’t new, but I think it used to be easier for me to just wave it off. In front of me. Close my eyes when going to a steak house (that one time a year), buy plane tickets to New York or something like that. Mañana mañana. That’s not quite acceptable anymore, right? As someone who lives in a resourceful part of Denmark with lots of surplus on my account and between my ears, I ought to take more responsibility.

I have to make do. We have to make do. We simply just have to.

But I’d rather not, and I actually experience that a lot of my friends wouldn’t either. We know that travelling by plane is bad – but we LOVE to experience the world and ‘expand our horizon’ (‘and going to Thailand and spending money there is actually also supportive of social sustainability’).

I am reluctant to point fingers as I know the risk of getting them right back at me, haha! Yes, you’re so damn aware! The last time I mentioned something about the greener path that we’d started to take, I received all of these ‘HOW ABOUT Xx?!’ and ‘HOW ABOUT Yy?’ And, honestly, is there anything more demotivating than being told that the step we’re taking isn’t worth enough? Energy levels vary when it comes to climate journeys, so even though I may be further ahead than my neighbour, I am definitely lagging behind others.

Rockpaperdresses, Cathrine Widunok Wichmand, Antwerpen guide, Visitflanders

I do sense that people are very aware of our decisions as bloggers/instagrammers. Especially when it comes to our travel activities. Did you see Hannah Stefansson’s story today? She apologised for her many travels due to reader comments (the latter part is something I assume judging by her writing). I also followed Mette-Marie being told off for wanting to take her daughter on a weekend trip to Marrakech. Our ears are easy to reach – just a wifi-connection away.
I do sometimes think, ‘how about the air hostesses?’ … ‘And captains’ … Politicians, musicians. Totally normal office employees, who have meetings, overseas partners. I once had a manager at DR in Copenhagen, who lived in Aalborg. He flew back and forth every week. How about fashion magazines? Their several fashion weeks and flights to get there – not to mention shoots in exotic parts of the world. What about those? Isn’t it everyone’s responsibility to try and change it for the better?
Perhaps the difference lies in the fact that when we’re invited on a press trip, it’s not just for the sake of delighting us. It’s also about inspiring others. Suddenly, it’s not just me going off to …. Yes, now Thailand has become the metaphor for this topic, so let’s continue that. It may also be you? I end up luring you in. Even though I’m of the opinion that everyone is responsible for their own actions. I stand by that. I’m not forcing anyone to buy anything!

Rockpaperdresses, Cathrine Widunok Wichmand, Antwerpen guide, Visitflanders

But do we dare taking some big time consequences for the sake of the climate?

I’ve mentioned several times that we’re primarily eating vegetarian food – including plant-based butter and oat milk since last summer. Even though Adam still prefers cow’s milk in his coffee, and I can’t be bothered to fret. And then we do what most sensible people do; wash at low degrees, turn off lights, sort our waste. That’s all good and well, but the big sinner is flying. Can we make do without?
Yes, I am icing my own cake now, because I am honestly proud of having turned down two press trips lately. With the climate as my reason. One in Europe and one in Asia. God knows I’d love to give my family a trip to the tropics. It’s more than justifiable in terms of work – just like travel writers have to visit a destination in order to be able to create a guide. It’s the same for me. It’s my work. But I do feel that I privately just can’t justify the amount of travels for Eddie.
I’ve kindly turned down two trips so far. I won’t deny that I might have to give in and say yes if I got some crazy offer about a trip to our dream destination (Japan! – which we’d planned to visit this spring if the pregnancy hadn’t happened).
But we’ve tried to map out our private holiday trips in 2019, the ones we know. As a starting point: no long-haul flights in 2019 – we did a few last year so we don’t think it’s the right thing to do again this year. Therefore – holiday in Europa.
We’re off to Italy in April/May – and we’re talking of going by train. I more so than Adam, but our concern for Eddie dominates. Knowing him by now, I’m not sure that 21 hours on a train is a hit. No doubt, 3.5 hours on a plane is easier. But, you know – we’re still discussing train options. And then I’m trying to see whether we can prolong/shorten our own holiday to make it tag onto a work trip I have in the south of France around about the same time, ‘now that we are in that region.’ That will save us a flight back to Copenhagen and the environment 0.5979 tonnes of carbon.
That’s the direction we’re aiming for – can we be SMARTER? For a work trip to Stockholm in March, I’m trying to concert my plane ticket to a train ticket. And then we’re talking of summer holidays in Denmark – island hopping or summerhouse.
All of it is a clear improvement compared to last year. I feel quite a bit #woke! Climate-travel-woke! 1) Avoid those impulsive trips caused by boredom/’need.’ 2) Plan and prioritise trips. 3) How can we experience without long flights? Longterm, we’d like to invest in an autocamper, totally inspired by Emily and Nik’s camping trips. What a gift for our kids it would be to experience Europe like that.
I’ll be honest and admit that now that we’re being sensible, turning down exciting exotic trips, discussing whether our little boy can cope with a long train journey in order to save the environment, it really does infuriate me to see others just fly off for three weeks in Thailand (sorry, Thailand). When people share #tenyearchallenge-iceberg mountains – while sitting under a palm tree several CO2-tonnes away. I’m jealous of all of their adventures but also upset by the fact that they clearly don’t care about the environment (justifying my third dress purchase this month with the thought that I ‘at least am not harming their air currently.’ – standards are good, double standards are twice as good). But I think you have to feel the cold sweat of climate anxiety yourself before really being able to change your habits, beyond sorting your waste (which absolutely also is important). I don’t think it really works to scold anyone. It surely doesn’t work for me.
Talking about what you do yourself is contagious – encouraging others to stop and consider their own habits. A movement is totally happening! A movement, which turns Marie Kondo into the hottest shit on Netflix. We have to live with less! Which sent 30,000 Belgian kids and young people out in the streets to demonstrate for the climate – for four consecutive weeks. Which caused more than 50,000 Danes, in less than two weeks, to sign a petition for a climate law in Denmark. Which turns the coming general election into one of the most interesting – perhaps ever. Some even refer to it as a climate election! (So please do think carefully about what to vote, right?)
Road trips can be the shit, the one we had last year, depicted here, was a dream. It’s not a human right to fly far away. And someday we’ll be able to do it and feel good about it again – onboard electric aircrafts. I look forward to that!

PS: who wants to set up a Momondo for train travel? It really makes it challenging to think train travel without!

Rockpaperdresses, Cathrine Widunok Wichmand, Antwerpen guide, Visitflanders

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