To tackle the climate crisis, we need wide-scale action — and fast. But news of the climate crisis tends to inspire fear, anxiety, and overwhelm, emotions which tend to obstruct rather than mobilize the change we need.
That’s why as a climate activist, advocate, or professional, a journal practice is incredibly powerful. A dedicated journal practice allows us to metabolize feelings of eco-anxiety and grief so that they can be transformed into action.
In this interview, we chat with Yvonne Cuaresma, founder of the Climate Journal Project and superstar on the thinkPARALLAX Accounts Team, to explore the power of journaling as a catalyst for personal and planetary healing.
What initially sparked your interest in the climate movement?
I was born in Saudi Arabia and now live in the U.S., but my parents are both Filipino. When we would visit the Philippines, I was stunned by the beautiful natural landscapes — but saddened to see many beaches littered with styrofoam and plastic. I later learned and witnessed that the Philippines is also a geographic target for tsunamis, typhoons, and other natural disasters, which are getting worse as the climate crisis progresses.
I felt a need to help especially because while I didn’t live there, most of my family still did. I knew that natural systems are all connected, and so my actions could still impact faraway communities with fewer resources to recover. As a student and young professional, I sought a purpose-driven career that would allow me advance social and environmental progress at home and abroad.
Describe your journey of founding the Climate Journal Project.
When the pandemic struck, I moved from New York City back to my childhood home in Los Angeles. Like many others, my anxiety had increased since the start of the pandemic: the future was uncertain, we were isolated from our communities, and the state of the world looked grim. But back in my childhood room, I found myself surrounded by dozens of my old journals, and rediscovered journaling as a way to cope with that anxiety. When I wrote down what I was feeling, I could process, move forward, and ultimately reconnect with my purpose: to give back to the planet.
In May 2020, the Climate Journal Project began as a morning email that I sent to a small group of friends and family. Within two weeks, the email list swelled to more than 250 subscribers, and it became clear that the CJP was resonating with people from around the globe: we had people tuning in from Africa, Thailand, the U.K. It spread like wildfire.
We held our first formal meeting that summer. Attendees connected each other to impactful jobs and educational opportunities; they created zero-waste guides for BLM protests; ultimately, they joined in a community that could feel, heal, and move forward together.
What have you learned about yourself and about the climate movement as founder of the CJP?
Anxiety looks different for everyone. When we meet as a group, I always begin by emphasizing that whatever your anxiety looks like, you are welcome here. And while sharing can be intimidating, it’s incredibly healing to connect with others who are experiencing similar emotions — journaling allows us to process those emotions privately first, and in turn feel safe to share with others.
How does a journaling practice relate to the climate movement?
As we’re fighting to protect the planet, we must remember that we are a part of the planet — so we should care for and protect each other! We can only be the best leaders and advocates that we can be if we take care of ourselves first. Our energy is finite. When we are mentally drained, it’s difficult to contribute to solutions. That’s why protecting your energy through self care practices like journaling is essential. When we nourish our energy, we can lead the climate movement with kindness, compassion, and strength.
We can only be the best leaders and advocates that we can be if we take care of ourselves first.
What are the benefits of journaling?
Journaling creates space to release anxiety without judgment. It also allows us to celebrate wins, learn lessons, and appreciate the progress we’ve made. By facilitating the articulation of complex thoughts, journaling provides space to brainstorm as we work towards solutions.
What would be your advice to someone who has never journaled before?
Carve out a physical space and time of day dedicated to journaling. If journaling helps you unwind after a long day, lighting a candle and playing soothing music can help create a relaxing atmosphere. Above all, journaling should relieve stress, not add to it, so be kind and forgiving to yourself when you forget to journal — like yoga or meditation, it's your own personal practice.
When it comes to climate, what are a few ways that individual people can act to help create change?
Stay connected to nature: the more time we spend exploring the planet, the more we will be driven to protect and preserve it. Our homes are also a great place to effect change: composting, adopting mindful shopping habits, investing in water- and energy-efficient appliances — the options are limitless. Eventually, these habits become a lifestyle.
We should also continue to “think globally, act locally”: as each town, city, and community contributes to climate change in different ways, our contributions should also be diverse. Getting involved with local environmental groups in your area is a great way to embrace this mindset.
At the end of each CJP meeting, we leave participants with a call to action: climate organizations to support, local events to plug into, and ways to connect with and uplift one another.
How can others get involved with the Climate Journal Project?
We release weekly journal prompts, which folks can receive by signing up on our newsletter here. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified of live journal circles, events, and our upcoming podcast release.
We also invite anyone who would like to deepen their journal practice to purchase a journal here, which comes with guided prompts. The DAWN journal is better suited for morning journalers; for evening journalers, DUSK is a great fit.
We are hoping to host more virtual Climate Journal Circles this year, and hope to see you there!