Climate Anxiety on YouTube: Young people reflect on how to handle the climate crisis



The material for this study is four YouTube videos that address climate anxiety published during the 2010s and produced by young people. The videos were analysed from an ecocritical perspective using a discourse theoretical framework and focusing on intermedial aspects. All of the videos inform about climate change and suggest activities that will help to reduce it. In the articulation of the climate crisis, the most prominent elements are heat and that the changes are happening very quickly. All of the videos articulate the fact that “we” caused the crisis. Generally, “we” includes all humanity, but it is sometimes meant to refer more specifically to people in highly developed countries or people interested in maintaining the status quo. The articulations of nature include elements such as justice and tranquillity. In a trope that often appears in the videos, human litter soils this idealised notion of nature. Cultural behaviours relate to overconsumption and, in one case, cities as threatening, monstrous machines. The videos also present alternative cultures and social behaviour in articulations of reaction and action in the face of the threat. Articulations of climate anxiety relate the condition to elements such as hopelessness and the feeling that it is too late. However, the condition can be cured by inducing hope. Even though the producers agree on the gravity of the situation, they do not generally include suggestions for radical change in their work. Instead, the message is that doing anything is better than doing nothing – even if the activity does not have any effect on the climate. Usually, the focus is on individual activities, but some of the videos also focus on organised collective activities, such as demonstrations or joining a group of like-minded people. Even so, the goal of these proposed activities is often making people with climate anxiety feel better.

Keywords: climate anxiety, YouTube video, climate change communication, medicalisation

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.24.6