At Nardi Media, we love working with book authors, but we also love working with incredible changemakers who are set out to make the world a better place!
I recently had an educational conversation with one of those people on Nardi Media’s Friends of Nardi series on Instagram Live, Dr. Courtney Howard. Dr. Howard is an ER physician in Yellowknife in Canada’s subarctic and a climate change expert. In our conversation, we talk all about how we can take our own baby steps to address climate change, how we can talk to our kids about it, and how we can address eco-anxiety.
As a former journalist and producer for an energy and environmentalist news show called EnergyNow, I was so privileged to be able to cover climate change stories around the world, but it also gave me a bit of eco-anxiety! Since working with Dr. Howard, she has taught me so much about the baby steps we can all take from home to address both climate change and the anxiety we may feel around it.
Keep scrolling for a recap of our conversation!
- Ashley: Talk to us a little bit about your work in climate change and health.
- Dr. Howard: Where I am in Yellowknife is one of the Ground Zero’s of climate change, and I work in the home of the only CT scanner in this part of the world, so when people bump their heads all the way in the Arctic Ocean, they come and see me about it. A lot of people out here get a lot of their food from the land, either from hunting or fishing because the locals were able to once walk on water, but now they can’t because it’s warming, and that affects their health and safety as they basically traverse the landscape. It also affects their culture and mental health. One of our jobs as doctors is to advocate for our patient population in terms of public policy and health, so I decided to do work with that. I love helping as a citizen and a professional.
- Ashley: You do so much! What advice do you have for people who want to take the right steps to solve global warming?
- Dr. Howard: I think the key step is to switch your mindset from consumer to actor because the solution is much more than buying eco-friendly products. We were born to have a major contribution to the world and we have so much power, so when we step into that power, what happens is immensely gratifying. Right now, it’s not cheap or easy enough for the world to make the choices we need to in order to de-carbonize as fast as possible, so that means we have to change the systems. That starts with our community and taking a step out of your normal space to talk to experts about their work. Start to think about what you care about, whether it’s healthy food, clean air, etc., and learn more about it. For example, if you like exercising or nature, it can be as easy as walking to school or work instead of driving.
- Ashley: Can you talk to us about eco-anxiety? What is it and what can we do about it?
- Dr. Howard: We have this eco-anxiety because we can see that threat is approaching, but we don’t know the steps to take to deal with it. So what I tell people is action is better than anxiety. It feels so much better to do some of the simple steps I mentioned to help not just the world, but your mental health. As a mom, it’s especially important because you want to protect your kids and build the future world you want for them, but you feel guilty. I would say enjoy your kids and spend time with them, and then when you’re ready, get out there and explore how you can be a changemaker. I think the more you let go of that guilt, the more you’ll realize that you can be both a great parent and a changemaker.
- Ashley: What are some tips that you can share to talk to our kids about climate change?
- Dr. Howard: They get messages in school and in the media so it is good to assume that your kids know about it and assume they want to have that conversation with you. We want our children to receive the same message from ourselves as parents as they receive from accurate sources out in the world. It’s important to address climate change as a family because otherwise, your kids will see a threat coming and wonder why the people who are supposed to protect them aren’t saying or doing anything about it, and that can cause a loss of trust. You want them to feel involved and that you’re all in this together. I also found that kids create more community and love, which is what we need to do this kind of work.
- Ashley: I also think it’s never too late to get them involved! Now is the perfect time.
- Dr. Howard: Yes, now is always the perfect time! We need to protect our communities from heat and wildfires and ensure our elderly neighbors are safe and protected. The more we understand our community the more we can protect them now and in the future. And what I love about the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions work is that so much of it is better for health immediately. For example, a plant-rich diet is better for our health and the planet, getting to where you want to go under your own power decreases cancer risk, heart disease risk, and improves anxiety and depression symptoms. When we give women and girls access to the family planning they want, all the outcomes of the family are better – mother mortality and child mortality go down because they have the resources they need, and women get more power within the community to help drive that. And when we add more trees and parks to our cities, not only does that clear the air, but it also creates cooler spots for the hot days we have coming.
- Ashley: One more question. What message do you have for people as to where we are right now with climate change and where it’s going?
- Dr. Howard: Sometimes people get worried about the overall picture, and they feel they have to save the world or it’s nothing. But instead, I try to get people to have better Tuesdays. If I plant a tree, that’s going to give someone a nice shady spot when they’re taking a break from work on a Tuesday, and that is going to make the world better. When you see how happy they are, you want to make a better Tuesday for someone else. And then you might feel inspired to talk to your municipal council to add bike lanes next to that shady spot. The small changes are so encouraging because you feel good and meet people who have the resources to create change, and it creates this cycle of inspiration and action to make even bigger change. In your role as an actor more than a consumer, see what one first change can make. When you do something small, you’ll be extremely happy about where you’re spending your energy.