By Sarah Syed–


I remember the day I learned about the climate crisis vividly. I felt like a solitary tree in an open field, branches swaying violently as the wind howled. Statistics, wildfires, displacement, glaciers melting, sea levels rising and the realisation that the goals set out seemed more significant as published documents rather than actionable items. It felt like watching a slow-motion catastrophe unfold, with each story adding weight to the heavy cloud of impending doom. This sense of fear and worry, where the climate crisis seems bigger than any solution, and my empathetic nature, connecting me to the struggles of others and the challenges facing our planet, was a chain of eco-anxiety. Then I looked in a different direction. What if, instead of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the climate crisis, we saw it as an opportunity for meaningful change? What if it became a ripple effect of eco-optimism?  

To make a real impact, we must transition from empathy to action, especially within philanthropy. By focusing on practical solutions and encouraging proactive steps, community foundations can help transform eco-anxiety into a driving force for positive change. 

Dreaming for a Better Future

If you had a magic wand to solve the climate crisis, what would you do first? Maybe do a complete transition to renewable energy, or restore ecosystems globally? While these actions sound miraculous, they aren’t beyond our reach with concerted effort and strategic planning. If I had a magic wand to mitigate the climate crisis, it would be to reshape the way society and people talk about the climate crisis. There is so much fear embedded in daily climate news it can be almost paralysing. But the climate crisis does serve us with an opportunity to change the way we respond to global issues. It can allow us to build stronger communities on multiple fronts. We can achieve similar results through a series of actionable steps taken daily. Think of growing a forest: you don’t just plant one tree and wait for more to grow through the seeds; you plant several, care for them, and watch them flourish. Over time, these trees will spread their seeds naturally, leading to a self-sustaining ecosystem. The same applies to philanthropic organizations and individuals alike. Curiosity and a growth mindset are the cornerstones of this approach. Curiosity drives us to explore new ideas, learn about sustainable practices, and innovate solutions. A growth mindset helps us see challenges as opportunities for improvement and encourages resilience and perseverance. And its definitely helped me.

Dreaming for a Better Future = Builders of Today and Tomorrow

Okay, Imagine that forest you’re growing that we just talked about. It requires curiosity to learn about the best planting techniques and a growth mindset to continually improve and adapt these techniques over time. You need to be open to experimenting with different methods, learning from failures, and celebrating small victories.

Throughout high school, I wanted to create an opportunity to connect other youth together to design solutions to the climate crisis using emerging technology. Youth are often considered the leaders of tomorrow, but youth have expertise to be the leaders of today. I decided to put together an international hackathon from scratch with a group of youth volunteers and friends. It took over 4 months of planning to put together the final result. However, learning from mistakes, celebrating little milestones like acquiring funding for winners, and developing youth partnerships made it a fulfilling experience that inspired my work today but also taught me hope is vision built by action. 

This combination of curiosity and a growth mindset acts as a blueprint for tackling the climate crisis. It’s about realizing that we don’t need magic wands to solve the problem. The tools and solutions are already in front of us; they just need some molding. Creativity, passion, and community engagement are more powerful than any magical solution.

Three Tips for community foundations to transform Eco-Anxiety into Eco-Action

Addressing the climate crisis requires a shift towards a solutions-oriented mindset. Rather than getting lost in the overwhelming scale of the problem, I want us to focus on the diverse range of solutions available. 

Here’s a path I’ve seen that could help:

Addressing the Root Cause Through Collaboration

The climate crisis cannot be solved by one person (trust me, I’ve tried). It requires the collective effort of many. Community foundations can play a pivotal role in fostering collaboration among different sectors, including governments, businesses, non-profits, and local communities. By bringing diverse stakeholders together, we can create comprehensive strategies that address the root causes of environmental problems. 

Transparency in Funding 

Community foundations should prioritize funding and promoting these practical solutions over merely raising awareness. By supporting innovative projects and scalable models, organizations can inspire others to join in and contribute to meaningful change. However, also ensuring investments are from other climate organisations and do not participate in a feedback-loop with fossil fuels subsidies is key for transparency and accountability. It is important that organisations not only design climate action blueprints but implement them in equitable ways. 

Support Resilience and Adaptation Effort

Supporting resilience and adaptation efforts is essential in the face of climate change. Community foundations should fund projects that help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and shifting agricultural patterns. This includes funding infrastructure improvements, disaster preparedness initiatives, and adaptive technologies to enhance communities’ ability to withstand and recover from environmental challenges.

By focusing on the possibilities rather than the problems, we can motivate people to get involved and make a difference. This shift in perspective has helped me alleviate eco-anxiety, and I know it will for others too. Let’s encourage a proactive, solution-oriented mindset! Celebrating small victories and emphasizing the potential for large-scale impact can galvanise communities into collective action.

The climate crisis, while daunting, is also an opportunity to reimagine our world and build a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable society. I believe that each of us has a role to play in this transformation. By taking personal responsibility and making conscious choices, we can contribute to a collective effort that drives meaningful change. It’s about more than just addressing the immediate impacts of climate change; it’s about envisioning and creating a world where future generations can thrive. By embracing solutions, fostering collaboration, investing in education, supporting resilience efforts, and promoting positivity, we can transform our anxiety into action and create a brighter future for all. It’s not about standing on the shore and watching the wave; it’s about learning to surf and using the energy of the wave to propel us forward.