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Vermont Public’s weekly dose of all things environment.

Out There: Living through the apocalypse summer

It’s Thursday, July 27. Here’s what’s on deck:

  • A color-changing spider
  • Opportunities to help with flood cleanup
  • Two new planets in our galaxy

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Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


But first,

Sitting with climate anxiety

 A yellow-orange sun hangs in a dusky pink sky over layers of blue hills.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Hazy skies hung over Vermont on the night of July 17, 2023, as seen here from Route 100 in Lowell.

It’s been a rough summer in Vermont, what with the recurrent wildfire smoke, the deadly, destructive flooding, the landslides,the heat waves. And we are (perhaps) more fully realizing that Vermont is not immune to the devastation wrought by climate change.

That is … a lot. We wanted some advice on staying sane and how to channel our anxiety amid a rapidly changing world.

I recently chatted with Dan Quinlan with the Vermont Climate & Health Alliance. The group is made up of health professionals like doctors, nurses, therapists and veterinarians that are concerned about climate change. Here’s some of his advice.

On what exactly “eco-anxiety” or “climate anxiety” means

“It's the recognition among people of the extent and breadth of the impacts of climate change on our environment, on our lives,” Quinlan said. In the field of public health, researchers often talk about the “social determinants of health.” These are things that shape our lives, but aren’t medical. Where we are born, what type of education we receive, do we have access to food, or a job?

If we don’t take action, climate change will affect ALL of that.

“Food systems, it would have impacts on our ability to get around day to day, could easily have impacts on our ability to have a job where we live, all those things,” Quinlan said.

And that = anxiety.

“People might not use that language (social determinants of health), but they have a visceral, or they have an intuition around that – that is where things could be headed, which of course, creates an enormous amount of anxiety.”

On what to do with that anxiety

First, Quinlan says, “It’s quite normal.” I’m saying it again for the people at the back: It is normal to feel stressed out about climate change.

Here are four strategies that he recommends:

  1. If your feelings of anxiety or depression feel extreme – see a professional. And increasingly, mental health practitioners are being trained on how to help people respond to climate emotions.
  2. Find others who are feeling these feels and study how they worked through them. That could come through reading books on how others have processed really hard things. Or from chatting with friends IRL or in a specialized community. 

    Quinlan recommends reading/watching this, this and this. The Climate Psychology Alliance of North America also has a really good reading list. And this recentNew Yorkerarticle has some great resources.

    “So just immersing oneself in that kind of literature and videos helps, because you realize, ‘Oh, wait a minute, I'm not alone,’” Quinlan said. “In fact, there are a lot of people out there who are struggling with issues that are climate change-related, and here's how they dealt with it.”

  3. Get involved. Join a group working on issues that you’re concerned about. Taking action has been shown to make us feel better. Plus, taking actions, even small, on a collective basis, can have big impacts. 

    “I always encourage people to get involved, whether it's an hour a month, you know, an hour a week, an hour a day,” Quinlan said. “We've got all these wonderful advocacy groups in the state of Vermont. They're very well-connected into how the Legislature works, how state government works, how city government works, and they're trying to move forward in a way that's positive, and through compromise and smart solutions.”

  4. Cultivate a daily practice. Meditate, take a walk, sit quietly. It’s not the activity as much as being able to change your brain’s negative response patterns around climate change. 

    “Those things become enormously helpful in dealing with the day to day anxiety and helping one dial it down and be present in the moment,” Quinlan said.

I’ll leave you with this: be gentle with yourself.
“All we can do is take this one step at a time, every day, with other people,” Quinlan said.

In your backyard

Goldenrod crab spider

Reed Nye
Vermont Public
You might find these spiders on goldenrods or milkweed plants, often hunting prey several times their size.

Get out there

🧤 Volunteer with flood recovery. Help is still needed. Here is a roundup of some ways to get involved, including a link to the VT Flooding 2023 Response and Recovery Mutual Aid group on Facebook and information on how to volunteer in towns like Barre, Montpelier, Waterbury and Cabot.

🥾 Hit the trails during Bennington Trailfest. Saturday, July 29. Free food, entertainment and “trail talk.” Held at the Bennington Community Recreation Center located at 655 Gage Street from noon to 2:30 p.m.

🚵 Outdoor Gear Exchange is hosting their third annual BIPOC Outdoor festival at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Activities include mountain bike instruction, yoga, nature walks, paddle boarding and more. Saturday, July 29 from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets are free.

Before you go

NASA/MIT/TESS and Ethan Kruse (University of Maryland College Park)

🌌 A new pair of planets: As a student, Quechee resident Jack Duranceau spent years working in an astronomy lab at Dartmouth College looking for young exoplanets – planets orbiting recently-formed stars. For his thesis project, he discovered two– planets TOI 3353 B and C, in a far-off solar system just over 20 million years old (a baby compared to our ~4.5 billion year old solar system). The planets are about as big and dense as Neptune and much closer to their sun than Mercury is to ours. He says young solar systems like this haven’t been well-studied, and can teach us about how planets evolve over time. Duranceau said he’s not allowed to name the planets he found but if he could, he would name them after his cats – June and Caspian.

And hey, it’s been rad having you here. In August, we’ll publish this newsletter biweekly and we need your help! Take our 3-minute survey and tell us what you think about Out There. And if you like us, pass it to a friend!

Enter your email to sign up for Out There
Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.



Credits: This week’s edition was put together by Brittany Patterson and Lexi Krupp, with lots of help from the Vermont Public team, including graphics by Laura Nakasaka, and spider facts compiled by Jane Lindhom. Our "In Your Backyard" graphic was created by Reed Nye.

Brittany Patterson joined Vermont Public in December 2020. Previously, she was an energy and environment reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the Ohio Valley ReSource. Prior to that, she covered public lands, the Interior Department and forests for E&E News' ClimateWire, based in Washington, D.C. Brittany also teaches audio storytelling and has taught classes at West Virginia University, Saint Michael's College and the University of Vermont. She holds degrees in journalism from San Jose State University and U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. A native of California, Brittany has fallen in love with Vermont. She enjoys hiking, skiing, baking and cuddling with her rescues, a 95-pound American Bulldog mix named Cooper, and Mila, the most beautiful calico cat you'll ever meet.
Lexi covers science and health stories for Vermont Public.
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