Children are worried about the planet… but this is what keeps us adults awake at night

Mushroom cloud
Aaargh, it's the end of the world as we know it Credit:  Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images Contributor

News just in regarding the anxiety plague: record numbers of children are suffering from eco-anxiety – namely, fear of the planet dying and all of us with it, in the not-too-distant future. And it’s not down to Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. Not at all. The fault lies with anxious parents, projecting their fears and generally oversharing. 

Once upon a time, a book at bedtime meant “Oh look, darling! Here’s a gorilla in your animal book!” Now it’s more like “Oh look, a gorilla, but a bad man will probably come in the night and kill him and then there will be only one gorilla left…”

That sort of thing.

Which brings us to the real issue; the chart of adult anxieties 2019. For years, there used to be a fairly predictable list of common anxieties (money, health, are the children OK? – not necessarily in that order), but then the whole anxiety problem ballooned and became more of a shifting scale of “in” anxieties, high-status anxieties, season-related anxieties and so on. The chart as it stands right now – though it could look very different by the end of the week – goes roughly as follows:

How can I be more cool under pressure like Samantha Cameron?

Sam Cam has admitted to taking a nip of gin at 8am before facing the press, and looks great in absolutely anything. Every so often, we suffer from competitive anxiety and Sam has just got something Mona Lisa-y that we can’t get close to.

Do I have to read The Testaments? Really? 

Ooof. I mean, haven’t we done Gilead and then some? (This anxiety has replaced ‘Must we start watching Peaky Blinders at this point?’ Surely we should wait to catch the next wave, whatever that is?)

Margaret Atwood and her Booker Prize-nominated sequel, The Testaments Credit: PA/Booker

Our country is a mess, what will become of us? 

Just replaced straight Brexit anxiety. It’s also what we call a “cluster” anxiety in that it covers all the WTF emotions and then many specific concerns, ranging from chicken theft, to people being rude on Question Time, murderous cyclists, everyone concreting over their gardens, and fear of going into hospital and being left for days in the sluicing area.

Eating anxiety 

So much to remember and so much to get wrong. When do we eat all the yogurt we have to eat if we’re semi-fasting/not eating until after midday? And what about porridge?

Test anxiety

When are we going to book the many and varied “must-check-everything-all-the-time-to-be-sure-not-to-die” tests?

Being exposed to other people’s made-up anxieties 

You know, it’s the hostess banging on about the stress of having children who may be discriminated against on account of their Firsts from Oxford; it’s the couple who are having sleepless nights thanks to the builders working on their new garden room; it’s the agony of organising Kittie’s wedding… blah blah blah.

Spiders…

… which, as of this month, are said to be bigger and faster thanks to the mild conditions. We saw one recently that was the size of a budgie. This has overtaken moth anxiety.

Garden spiders: bigger than ever Credit: Alan Smith/British Wildlife Phot/ PA

Is Ruth Davidson OK? 

Has replaced “Is Angela Merkel/the Queen OK?”, because this is shaping up to be her annus horribilis II. 

‘The year is two-thirds of the way through’ anxiety 

It can go one of two ways at this point. You’re either all new resolutions, throwing out old jumpers and planning Sobertober (is that what it’s called?) plus a mini-break to Copenhagen. Or, alternatively, you are poleaxed by the pace at which this year has shot past, leaving you in its wake, and you still haven’t found the swimsuit you bought in the sale last year, or made the easy summer pudding, or worn the dress of the summer from Zara.

Vaping, obviously bad – but bad enough to give up?

That’s what we’re talking about. That, and the dying planet, too.