Back home in Atlanta, Cobb entered what she now calls “an acute mental health crisis.” Most mornings, she could not get out of bed, despite having four children to tend to. She would sob spontaneously. She obsessed about the notion that the US government would take no action to address climate change and confront its consequences. “I could not see a way forward,” she recalls. “My most resounding thought was, how could my country do this? I had to face the fact that there was a veritable tidal wave of people who don’t care about climate change and who put personal interest above the body of scientific information that I had contributed to.” Her depression persisted for weeks. “I didn’t recognize myself,” she says.
The joys of adult life—new cars, trips on planes, even having children—become fraught with implications for increased emissions. She finds it painful to watch “scientific colleagues standing on the sidelines being silent” and not participating in the political fray over climate change.
And Kate Marvel, a climate scientist and science writer, went even further in a tweet in January: “In a world where people have to deal with racism, inequality, and resurgent fascism, the notion that climate science is uniquely depressing is…weird.” But she later conceded, “If you’re a gloomy person, this work gives you a lot of reinforcement.”
Faith Kearns has turned to yoga and nature-related activities for respites. “I grew up in an alcoholic family,” she says. “You have to learn you’re not in control of everything…That can come handy when dealing with climate change.”