Beth Osnes, who teaches in UCB’s theater department and its environmental sciences department, has done her butterfly act for some time to help her address climate anxiety, which she describes as a crippling mental-health crisis.
“I started to get that terrible ooze feeling, that comes in like a sickness that you get from despair. It was like swallowing crude oil or something,” Osnes said, adding that her sickness comes from knowing about pollution.
“Just the knowledge of what’s happening to our planet, it feels almost disabling,” she added. “It almost puts your heart on the ground. And we can’t address the climate crisis if our hearts are on the ground.”
Osnes said she hoped her “Butterfly Affect [sic]” experience, like the theoretical phenomenon from which it derives its name, would cascade from something small into a much larger movement.
The act was intended “to inspire a collective commitment to co-create a world that is equitable, sustainable, and conducive to thriving life and ecosystems,” she told Colorado Public Radio.
According to Osnes’ faculty bio, she has also produced a climate musical and founded a a pro-LGBT group meant to promote “female and non-binary youth vocal empowerment.”
Osnes has also published numerous papers, most of which have to do directly with climate change.
For instance, she published one paper called “Lens on Climate Change: Making Climate Meaningful Through Student-Produced Videos” and another titled, “A Laughing Matter? Confronting climate change through humor.”
And while university psychologists warn that climate anxiety is increasingly prevalent among young people, some far-left professors, such as Sarah Ray of California State Polytechnic University Humboldt, have warned that climate anxiety might be infused with racism.
“[A] year into the pandemic, after the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, and the attack on the U.S. Capitol, I am deeply concerned about the racial implications of climate anxiety,” Ray wrote in 2021, wondering why the interest in climate anxiety is so “white.”
“Is climate anxiety a form of white fragility or even racial anxiety?” she asked.