This TikTok City Planner Is Helping My Climate Anxiety
I’m still anxious about the climate but at least this city planner is making me feel some hope.
Sam Austin, a city planner, might be the only person on TikTok who is giving me bad climate news but making me feel OK about it. (By OK I just mean not totally fuelling my climate anxiety and making me slip into existential dread mode.)
Young people are most likely to experience climate anxiety and that’s because we are so readily exposed to it. We are the ones inheriting a dying planet and yet we are hardly being heard when we try to speak up about it. Our very futures are at risk and it just feels like we are screaming at a brick wall.
In a study surveying over 10,000 young people aged 16-25 in 10 different countries, more than half (59 percent) reported feeling very or extremely worried about climate change. In the same study, 84 percent reported that they were at least moderately worried. Research from the 2022 Mission Australia Youth Survey found that 26 percent of young Australians are “very” or “extremely concerned” about climate change and 38 percent of respondents said they experienced high psychological distress.
So yeah, a lot of us are feeling unwell about the environment. I totally sympathise with people who have reached such an intense state of climate anxiety that they can no longer read the news because it’s too taxing on their mental health. But I just can’t do that. I think it’s important for us to stay aware about what’s going on so we can put pressure on those who are making decisions that affect our future. This is where Sam The City Planner Of My Dreams comes in.
Sam is the current Young Planner of the Year for NSW, so I trust what he is telling me. In the first TikTok I came across, he says that Marsden Park will become one of the hottest places on Earth. He then explains all of the reasons Marsden Park is contributing to urban heat that exceeds 50°C. It’s intense information to be hit with, but I felt weirdly calm watching it. Maybe it’s the music or his tone but there’s something about Sam’s delivery that doesn’t make me want to curl into a ball.
Sure, he is presenting information that would normally cause me to slip into a dissociative state and just stare at the walls trying not to think about our eventual environmental collapse because of how far we are pushing the climate. But the way Sam frames it doesn’t make me feel like all hope is lost. In fact, he is giving us ways to help fight against urban heat. Plant more trees, stop painting roofs black, and stop making suburbs that are so dense.
Sam’s TikToks are easier to digest than Hank Green’s, who made me spiral after opening his climate TikTok with “Are we all about to die?” Read the goddamn room Hank. I’m stressed!
I feel like Sam is speaking to me, an anxious young person, directly. In his TedXYouth Talk on the housing crisis system, he urges young people to get involved in the climate fight but he also urges people to actually listen to young people. Shocking concept, right?
In a way, his videos have helped me feel like we’re a little less doomed. Sam obviously can’t cure my climate anxiety but he has reminded me that there are still very simple things we can do, both on a micro and macro level, that will help improve the situation.
In the meantime, let’s stop building suburbs that are pulling us into the first circle of hell, please.
Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on Twitter.
Image credit: TikTok