"When he was 6 years old, Sim Bilal began to have nightmares of floods pouring through his South Los Angeles home.
The bad dreams started when he first watched Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” a seminal documentary about human-driven global warming, with his parents. For years, he struggled with severe anxiety over the fate of the planet. For a time, he would return from school and lie in bed, feeling powerless over the growing climate crisis.
“I’m not a very emotional person, but this is such a huge existential issue,” said Bilal, 20. “It’s really debilitating.”
As he learned more about what sea level rise would look like, he began to imagine what his city could become. Homes flooded, native trees withering in the heat, butterflies and bees facing extinction, widespread famine, dying crops in the Central Valley. Last summer he felt it was all coming to fruition with wildfires raging across the state, filling the skies with smoke for months.
In this era of drought, heat waves, wildfires and rising seas, young people are especially prone to falling into a sense of environmental doom, as they are coming of age when every year feels more dire. Experts call these feelings of despair climate anxiety, with symptoms that include panic attacks, insomnia, obsessive thinking and grief."