One of the best ways we can channel our feelings of climate anxiety into something more productive is to become more actively involved in our communities. By doing so, we can tap into local support networks and get to know our neighbors. Check out 3 tips for connecting with your community below:
1. Get to know organizations in your neighborhood
There are likely at least a few community organizations in your area, take the time to learn more about the work they are doing. What are their organizational goals, events, or programs and how can you support them? Most of these questions can be answered from a quick look at an organization’s website, but if you have questions or are interested in getting more involved, you can always reach out with specific questions.
There are many ways to support an organization – from volunteering to donating to sharing information about their work with others. If nothing else, it’s good to be aware of what organizations exist in your area – even if you don’t get directly involved with their work, knowing what is happening in your neighborhood is a great way to stay in touch with your community.
If you live in the Cincinnati area you can find a list of local community organizations on Imago’s Climate Anxiety Resource page. Scroll down to the Resource tabs and click the “Local Organizations” box.
2. Connect to online community groups
Traditional community organizations are probably not the only community-minded networks in your neighborhood. More widespread internet access and the popularity of social media has led to the creation of a number of informal online-based community groups. For example, neighborhood specific Buy Nothing and Freecycle groups are very common and can be found by searching for your city or neighborhood on Facebook. Anyone who lives in a neighborhood can join these groups and post about items they have to give away or items they are in search of. I’ve seen posts for free furniture, tools, outgrown children’s clothes, unused pet food and so much more in my neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group. These groups not only cultivate a sense of community among neighbors, but they also encourage direct sharing and help curb unnecessary waste.
Another type of online community is a mutual aid group. The concept of mutual aid has been around for a long time, but the internet has allowed people to connect more quickly and easily than in the past. Mutual aid groups rely on a network of people interested in solidarity and reciprocity rather than more traditional charitable giving. The spirit of mutual aid is truly community-based: members work together to uplift and share time, skills, and resources to build a community of support. Mutual aid groups see calls for food distribution, rent help, legal aid, and more. When we hear the word “aid” the first thought that comes to mind may be monetary support, and that is certainly one way we can support one another, but mutual aid also encourages us to consider our personal skills and resources. Maybe you can help mend clothes, repair small electronics or cook an extra meal to share – offer those skills up in your local mutual aid group. Maybe you have a car and have time to drive people to appointments or the grocery store – if people are looking for rides, connect with them. The spirit of “take what you need, give what you can” is what drives mutual aid networks.
If you live in the Cincinnati area, you can join the Cincinnati Mutual Aid Facebook group here. If you’re interested in learning more about Mutual Aid, check out this article.
3. Talk to your neighbors
This might be the simplest and potentially the most intimidating tip of all. The ways to get to know your neighbors are plentiful, but it’s always good to start out simple: be friendly, say hello, spend time outside and in your community. If you’re able, consider installing a little free library, pantry, or garden bed in your yard. You can share about the existence of these new additions in the online community groups you’ve joined and through signage. The more you put yourself out there, the more likely you’ll be to make deeper connections with your neighbors. Check out this fun comic about the benefits of connecting with neighbors and the initial awkwardness that sometimes has to be overcome when doing so.
If you’re interested in learning more about community building, check out the “Community Building” resource tabs at imagoearth.org/climate-anxiety. There you’ll also find our Climate Anxiety email series with deeper dives on topics like breaking unhealthy climate anxiety habits and talking about climate change with kids.