At the outset of the year, I wrote that one of my objectives for 2023 was to make the Young Barristers’ Committee front and centre on the Bar's response to the Climate Crisis. It is a multi-faceted goal, which to my mind requires – amongst other things – improving the number and quality of conversations the profession is having on the subject and how it affects our professional and personal lives. It’s for this reason that I was delighted to chair a recent event in Middle Temple’s Survive and Thrive programme entitled: Climate Anxiety and the Environmentally Conscious Lawyer.
I was joined by two esteemed panellists who are experts in the areas of environment and climate anxiety. The first was psychoanalyst and writer Anouchka Grose, who has a written several best-selling books, including on understanding and managing eco-anxiety. The second speaker was the Bar’s very own Estelle Dehon KC, an environmental law specialist, and chair of the Bar Council’s Climate Crisis Working Group.
Over the course of the event we discussed a lot, including what we mean by ‘climate anxiety’; why lawyers should care about the climate crisis; what achievable steps practitioners can take to make their practices more sustainable; how barristers can harness climate anxiety into something more positive; and what role activism plays in the battle against climate anxiety.
For many, climate or eco-anxiety may not be a familiar term, but there seems to be little doubt that it is affecting people with ever greater frequency, particularly as the need for urgency around the response to the crisis, its impact, and the fast-approaching tipping point, continues to increase. It is therefore an important tool for us all as people and as professionals to recognise this new and growing threat to our wellbeing, the signs and symptoms, and how to manage them.
Our discussions also covered what barristers specifically can do to help manage their anxieties, be proactive (should they chose to) and make their practices more sustainable. The focus was on what steps individuals, rather than institutions, can and should take in this respect – firstly because empowering individuals was an important part of Middle Temple’s Survive and Thrive series, but also because one major cause of anxiety can be a sense of a lack of agency, helplessness in the face of a large and insurmountable problem, or as Estelle described it: “The maddening feeling that you know what needs to happen but those in a position of power to do anything don't”.
Fortunately, we all came away with a lengthy list of suggestions of how we can feel more empowered, and if you’re interested, I’d encourage you to watch the video:
If you’d like to speak to the Young Barristers’ Committee about what more you think we should be doing in this space, or you want to get involved, then please contact us via email: [email protected]
Michael Harwood is the 2023 Chair of the Bar Council's Young Barristers Committee.