top of page

Decolonising Narratives Surrounding the Climate and Ecological Crises and Mental Health

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

As part of our World Mental Health Day Blog Series, Samridha S. J. B. Rana shares his current research on the impact of the climate crisis on the mental health of young adults in Nepal and India.

 

We didn't start the fire! Decolonising narratives surrounding the climate and ecological crises and mental health and wellbeing to facilitate climate justice and equity


Our research aims to explore the impact of the climate and ecological crises on the mental health of young adults in Nepal and India. Currently, the literature skews overwhelmingly towards WEIRD (western; educated; industrialised; rich; and democratic) countries and their populations; emphasising the need to conduct research in the global south [1] to understand their vulnerability to climate and ecological crises. It is important to highlight the inequalities between the global north [2] and south, as although the climate crisis does not discriminate, the global north are better equipped with resources that have been developed to manage the worst outcomes of the ecological and climate crises. Populations from the global south that have been historically exploited lack resources to cope with a changing climate and are in danger of suffering the worst of the effects (Bohlinger & Sorteberg, 2018; Gibson et al., 2020; Simon et al., 2020; Pietromarchi, 2021; Suri, 2022; Bhambra & Newell, 2022; IPCC, pg. 5, 2023; Debnath et al., 2023); drawing attention to these voices is essential in bridging the gap between the global north and south to deliver climate justice and climate equity. The burden of responsibility lies with WEIRD countries who have historically contributed to a majority of issues that have led to global anthropogenic environmental degradation (AED), resulting in low and middle income countries (LMICs) bearing a disproportionate brunt of the effects of the ecological crisis. The historical baggage of colonialism has contributed much to this respect, and it can be argued that ‘climate colonialism’ adds to the climate burden of LMICs. Bhambra and Newell (2022) contend that the age of the Anthropocene has its origins in European colonialism. The Anthropocene, they say, ‘began with the birth of the colonial modern world; a modern world that was characterised by colonial processes including processes of dispossession, elimination settlement and extraction’ (Bhambra & Newell, 2022: 05). Understanding the impact on LMICs would be the first step in helping vulnerable populations confront the ecological and climate crises and thus assist addressing climate inequity to facilitate climate justice.


Nepal and India are already facing disastrous consequences of AED, where heatwaves have become more frequent and intense, increasing erratic precipitation patterns, an escalation in severity of cyclones along the Indian coast, and a rise in zoonotic diseases. Government agencies lack the resources- and in some cases, motivation- to deal with the effects of natural disasters, with no clear plan and often relying on reactive strategies to deal with them after they occur. Climate change is already having a major impact on food, water, and energy insecurity, and poverty in the region. It has been estimated that even 1.5-2°C rise in temperatures can have severe consequences in the Indian subcontinent (Saeed et al., 2021). Extended periods of heatwaves and droughts will leave large portions of the Indian subcontinent uninhabitable, leading to mass migrations among some of the most densely populated areas on Earth, causing strains on limited resources, and border stresses. The population is unprepared to handle these events, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, abandonment, and betrayal.


Understanding the views and experiences of people in Nepal and India regarding emotional responses to the ecological and climate crises and the coping strategies to deal with them will help address a critical gap in the literature, by empowering the voices of vulnerable populations in some of the most susceptible regions to climate change related disasters. In doing so, our aim is to address issues related to climate colonialism by decolonising the narratives surrounding the climate and ecological crises and its impact on mental health and wellbeing, by amplifying voices from the global south to help facilitate climate justice and equity.


Using a mixed-methods approach, we are currently engaged in documenting the voices of young adults in Nepal and India encompassing their experiences related to the ecological crisis and how they cope, to construct theory using Grounded Theory design. In our second study, we will conduct quantitative surveys to help measure levels of eco-emotions experienced by the target population. Currently, standardised tools to measure eco-emotions have not been validated among the target population; our study can help bridge this gap in the literature or contribute by creating a scale that could be applicable for a South Asian context. Our research adds value to the literature by giving a voice to the voiceless and empowering them to address the issue in order to hope for a better tomorrow.

 

Samridha S. J. B. Rana (also known as Sam) is a mental health professional from Nepal. He has been working extensively in Nepal and India as a therapist and lecturer, engaging with adolescents, young adults and older adults. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Clinical and Health Psychology from the School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh. Sam likes to spend his free time reading, writing, and spending time outdoors in nature.

 






References


1. Global south is a term used to denote regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand); mostly low-income and often politically and culturally marginalised nations (Dados & Connell, 2012).


2. Global north is a term used to denote relative power and wealth of countries in distinct parts of the world (i.e. North America, Europe, and Australia) (Odeh, 2010).

Comments


bottom of page