It’s time for another Q&A session to introduce a new Watkins author to the world, and today we’re speaking to Anouchka Grose, whose first Watkins title A Guide to Eco-Anxiety is available now in multiple formats.
Hi Anouchka! Let’s get straight into it: what inspired you to write the book now?
The book came out of a mixture of things — the therapy work I do with people who suffer from eco-anxiety, the fact that my daughter and all her friends seem to agree that the planet is no longer a safe place in which to bring up a child, and my own feelings of helplessness about the climate emergency. The book was commissioned by Watkins — I didn’t wake up one morning with the idea that I have the cure for climate grief or anything — but I was really grateful to be asked as it’s something I think about every day, both in my work and the rest of my life. I think it’s really important that people who care about the planet can find some peace and happiness alongside taking the problem seriously and doing something about it. I don’t think it needs to be a choice between denial and misery — that would be terrible.
So, how did your work (past or present) influence the book? Can you tell readers a little about that?
I went vegetarian when I was fifteen, and have been mostly vegetarian, or vegan, since then. I also wrote a book called ‘The Teenage Vegetarian’s Survival Guide’ in 1991, which was as much about the environment as it was about animal rights. Basically, I’ve been banging on about all this stuff for decades.
In my therapy practice I’m lucky enough to work with people who are involved in various forms of activism, not just environmental, and I find them very inspiring. They might suffer a great deal in private, but they also manage to mobilise themselves and others into situations that demand a huge amount of bravery, and also an admirable element of hope. You need to have hope, otherwise why would you bother? In a sense, those people are the real authors of the book; I’m just trying to channel some of their energy.
Talk to us about your writing process. Did you write at certain times of day, or in a particular place?
I wrote the book in six months while working full time as a psychoanalyst. I often start sessions at 7.00 in the morning and finish at 7.00 at night. I have gaps in my day — sometimes surprise ones when people cancel — so I tried to use them for writing. But most of it happened at the weekends. I basically gave up my social life for six months, telling myself I could have a bit of a party at the end of it — but then we went into lockdown. Life never goes how you expect it to, I guess! My favourite thing about writing the book was the birdbox I installed in the window next to my desk. The birds kept me going — I felt a bit like Snow White getting a helping hand from some little creatures.
Do you have a favourite chapter or section of the book, or part that was your favourite to write?
My favourite chapter is probably the one on climate grief because the ideas in it are the ones that most relate to my clinical work. It also contains a case study that I wrote with some help from the person whose story it is. I was very grateful to them for letting me do it. It’s the chapter where it suddenly seemed possible to tie together ideas about politics, the environment, psychoanalysis and real people’s lives. It didn’t come out right the first time — it had to go through a few edits before everyone was happy — but it’s the heart of the book for me so I’m glad we got there in the end. I also like the chapter on having a baby. I came across some really brilliant sociological ideas that throw into question the whole notion that it’s best not to breed. That chapter gave me hope that I may someday be a grandmother…
Lastly, what is one thing that you hope people will take away from reading the book?I really, really hope that people who read the book will come away with the idea that being a serious environmentalist needn’t necessarily equate with being a deeply unhappy and anxious person. Of course, if you look at the damage that’s being done to the world it can make you crazy, but it’s extremely important not to lose touch with the idea that life is a miracle, whatever form it takes.
Anouchka Grose is a British-Australian psychoanalyst and writer, she is the author of Eco-Anxiety: How to Protect the Planet and Your Mental Health (available now!). Anouchka is passionately concerned about the effect of the climate crisis on our mental health. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and Beyond Belief, and is the author of several other books around subjects from psychoanalysis to vegetarianism.
Learn more about Anouchka here.