Words by Smiley Team
Have you ever been to a climate café?
It’s likely you haven’t, but perhaps you will soon – they’ve been popping up in areas around the country more often in the past few years.
These cafés have the important purpose of supporting those who are worried about the climate crisis, giving them the opportunity to share feelings and strategies.
They've recently been introduced in Norfolk, as part of sUStain is a new, pioneering climate anxiety project from Norfolk and Waveney Mind, which will provide support for adults and young people, in partnership with UEA, the Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA) and The Resilience Project.
The project will offer awareness events to normalise concerns, monthly ‘climate café’ drop-ins co-facillitated by UEA students where feelings and strategies can be shared; as well as a 7-week programme based on mindfulness and elements of the Active Hope approach ("following the best-selling book Active Hope: how to face the mess we are in without going crazy")
The overall aim is to offer a range of support around eco-anxiety and climate grief. Speaking to Smiley News, Caroline Fernandez, sUStain Project Coordinator, says the project has been in the making for around three years.
“We were noticing more young women coming to our local counselling concerned about the future, and saying they are anxious,” she says. “Young people are bombarded with information but with little support after it – so we thought, what can we do to support young people?”
Their local Mind branch developed the sUStain programme after getting funding from the Coop Resilience Fund to deliver a year-long project in partnership with UEA and the Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA).
“At our climate cafés, you can look at the feelings you’re having in a shared space,” explains Caroline. “You’re listened to and acknowledged – you’re reminded it’s a normal response to something that is happening.”
The cafés encourage people to be aware of what’s going on, and find positive ways to look after themselves. “They’re actually based on the death model of death cafés,” says Caroline, “where we acknowledge people’s grief, talk about the feelings people are having – all with tea, coffee and cake.”
Climate cafés at UEA are for students, but there will also be climate cafés in Norwich and North Norfolk aimed at local people many of whom are experiencing first-hand the effects of coastal erosion and extreme weather events.
There are facilitators at the cafés – with students who have been trained to do so by the Climate Psychology Alliance. And these facilitators help hold the space, set the ground rules, and ensure everyone feels comfortable in the cafe.
GET INVOLVED: If you are a student nearby, the first UEA Climate café will be May 11th 3:30 at The Hive UEA. Or how about setting up climate cafés in your own area?
You can also go to the free event to find out what "Active Hope" means and why it’s a radical tool we can practice. You'll also have the opportunity to take part in a mini Climate Café. 'Sustaining Ourselves in the Climate Crisis' is running on Tuesday 24 May from 6.30-8.30pm at Norwich, NR3 1TN. For more information or to book please email [email protected].
SUPPORT: You can support Norfolk and Waveney Mind, which provides mental health support to people in the area.