Coline Pavot

The ill of the age

So what is this syndrome affecting nearly 60% of young Americans?[1] It’s eco-anxiety,[2] a term coined in the 1990s – and which entered the dictionary last spring – to describe the anxiety of people worried about the global ecological crisis and its consequences. For Martin Hirsch, former CEO of the Paris public hospital system, it is real public health issue. What are the roots of this new syndrome? What are its consequences and how can it be treated? These are just some of the questions we will seek to answer.


Understanding the problem

This global phenomenon has been growing for several years. An increasing number of people are suffering from eco-anxiety to the point where it affects their mental health and quality of life. A range of symptoms can be observed, from simple anxiety about climate change to profound depression. “Green depression” affects all social and economic categories, with an over-representation of young people, who are increasingly concerned about environmental issues. Fears for the future, feelings of powerlessness and difficulties in projecting oneself into a world plagued by natural disasters are all part and parcel of this syndrome, which is often misunderstood and a factor in isolation.


The roots of the problem

“We are not born eco-anxious, we become so by becoming aware of the situation”, says Dr Alice Desbiolles in her book dedicated to this phenomenon.[3] It’s true that scientists’ findings are increasingly alarming, and that the impacts of climate change (heatwaves, fires, etc.) are becoming more pronounced and more visible. Given the scale of the situation, eco-anxious people are finding it hard to project themselves into the future. They are losing hope in the impact of their actions, faced with public policies that are too weak and often ignore social justice. This distress is understandable, given that the possibility of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C is moving further out of reach by the day. So isn’t eco-anxiety just a normal reaction to an abnormal reality?


Action as a remedy

Channelling this anxiety to make it a strength would seem to be the most effective remedy. To begin with, we recommend breaking out of isolation. Talking about your doubts and anxieties and sharing them with a group of like-minded people is the first step towards healing. The next step is often to take action. There are many ways of doing so. While some may decide to change jobs to find a more meaningful one, others may opt for a more militant form of engagement. Sharing knowledge on these subjects to raise awareness among as many people as possible, as we do at La Financière de l’Echiquier (LFDE) via a number of educational initiatives such as the SRI School and the Climate School[4] launched in 2022, is another possible solution. By passing on this knowledge, as many people as possible can be mobilised into action, for example by choosing to invest in positive-impact solutions.

Responsible investment adds an extra dimension to our work as asset managers. Things have been moving in the right direction for several years. We are enthusiastically witnessing a significant increase in the number of investment funds making commitments, driven by increasingly demanding clients. On a day-to-day basis, we are working with a growing number of companies that are making a resolute commitment to their transition. This sense of direction and this collective dynamic allow us to avoid sinking into anxiety, and enable our teams to keep mobilising their energies for a more sustainable world.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this document are the fund manager’s own. LFDE shall not be held liable for these opinions in any way. Investors should note that their investment does not generate a direct impact on the environment or society, but that the sub-fund seeks to select and invest in companies that meet the specific criteria set out in the management strategy. The decision to invest should not be based solely on a fund’s non-financial approach, but should also take into account its other characteristics, particularly its risks, as described in its prospectus.
[1] Climatic Change, 2020
[2] Eco-anxiety concerns the future, whereas solastalgia refers more to retrospective distress.
[3] L’éco-anxiété. Vivre sereinement dans un monde abîmé, Fayard, 2020
[4] Training programmes for LFDE clients and partners in France.