By Johnna Geick
The courtyard of the Colorado College campus is coated in lush green grass scattered plentifully with trees. Squirrels scamper around playfully and not a piece of litter is in sight. To the right is Tutt Library, running on a net-zero carbon energy system, and directly ahead is a purple-toned, midafternoon display of Pike’s Peak and the surrounding Rockies.
This place seems like the environmentalist’s paradise, but despite the school’s dedication to environmental sustainability and the popularity of environmentally centered majors, Colorado College students expressed relative hopelessness regarding the future of the global environment.
As increasingly concerning evidence regarding the state of our climate is uncovered, the psychological impact of such bleak predictions is coming into focus. One example is solastalgia, or eco-grief, which is the feeling of grief due to negative environmental changes, inducing feelings of powerlessness or lack of control. More and more cases of such feelings are being documented as the mood around the future of our environment worsens.
“Everything would have to change. The entire framework of society and the economy, it would all have to change and it just won’t happen in the timeframe it needs to happen in,” says Claire Bogart, a first-year from Westchester, New York. Bogart explained that while she does experience sadness surrounding the idea of diminishing species, she has grown comparatively callous to the concept of environmental change because of its apparent inevitability.
Finley Swan from Truckee, California, seemed to be in agreement when he said, “I’ve sort of already accepted that I don’t really have any control over much, or over anything really”.
CC students seemed to agree that nature holds emotional value in their lives. But when considering the plight of our planet, each student seemed to share the same bleak attitude: No matter how much individual effort they put forth, only a global effort would be significant.
First-year Luca Lietti grew up in San Diego, California, and said that environmental issues have had almost no emotional impact on him because he learned to adapt to them so early in life. Water conservation was common practice due to droughts and the necessity of water to put out forest fires near his home. Thus, these issues became normalized to him.
Similarly, Annie Mccauly of Providence, Rhode Island, said that despite her passion for the environment, she doesn’t identify with eco-grief. She hasn’t experienced any single, striking environmental issue in her lifetime but rather a gradual exposure to change that has lessened her emotional response.
“I think that it’s hard to wrap your head around the concept of climate change because it’s such a catastrophic issue, which is why I think it’s hard for people to rationalize it or even understand the emotions they have surrounding the topic” Mccauly said.
Though these Colorado College students still care for the environment, they all hold little hope for environmental improvement on a larger scale.
Swan and Lietti both independently mentioned that there wasn’t much they could do individually about environmental crisis because of their lack of influence and extensive knowledge on the subject.
It is important to consider, however, that each interviewed student is currently in their first semester at CC. Perhaps as these students continue to pursue their academic careers, they might discover the information necessary to provide all of us with some optimism and answers.