Global warming is melting polar ice caps. The rapidly declining honeybee population is threatening to reduce our food sources. A great garbage patch twice the size of Texas is swirling around the Pacific Ocean, harming sea life.
Feeling anxious about it all? Depressed?
Perhaps you are, but if you are seeing a therapist for mental health issues, it's unlikely that drought and environmental worries are entering the discussion.
Craig Chalquist and Linda Buzzell want to change that.
The psychotherapists recently edited a book of essays called "Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind" (Sierra Club, $16.95) that urges therapists to address environmental concerns and disasters in therapy sessions. They want nature to share center stage with family relations and other topics in mental health rehabilitation.
Ecotherapy - a word that hasn't found its way into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary - not only addresses environmental catastrophe anxiety, but urges people to form a greater connection with the Earth and nature as a part of healing.
The weekend gardening you do is helpful. So are trips to the beach, fighting to keep neighborhood trees from being chopped down and having a pet.
We are so disconnected from nature that thinking it wouldn't have an effect on us psychologically and spiritually is a "delusion that we're beginning to wake up from," says Buzzell, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based marriage and family therapist.
"That we're living so unnaturally and so disconnected to nature is, I believe, the root of depression and anxiety for many people that are flooding into doctors' offices right now," Buzzell says.
For thousands of years, humans lived as animals in nature. Then, the industrial revolution hit, and the space between the natural environment and the human-built environment began to grow. Now we sit for eight hours a day in a small box staring at a glowing screen.
Going back to nature, Buzzell and Chalquist say, can relieve feelings of anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure and brighten spirits.
"In the garden, you're surrounded by images and symbols of growth," says Chalquist, a Walnut Creek, Calif.-based professor at John F. Kennedy University's School of Holistic Studies. "Being in nature reminds us that we are part of the web of life."
Chalquist's current back-to-nature activities include working in "Our Garden," a community demonstration garden. As a certified master gardener, Chalquist says that when he is in the garden, he is present in a firm way.
"I feel like I belong here. I don't feel like a drifter. I feel like I am part of California," he says.
Buzzell, who works with clients in talk therapy sessions, often takes clients into her backyard for sessions. There, they can talk about what she calls the "green elephant" in the room - the environment and her clients' responses to it.
Far from being another fringe attempt at redefining psychotherapy, ecotherapy should be another tool in a therapists' toolbox to help treat clients, Buzzell and Chalquist say. Their book is being read in college psychology classes and discussed on NPR and in Time magazine.
There are steps people can take to heal themselves of what the duo call "ecoanxiety."
Taking action to protect the environment - something as small as talking a neighbor out of pouring oil down the storm drain - can make an emotional difference.
Second, a person can do something to be the change they want to see. They can plant a fruit tree or vegetable garden or start a neighborhood produce exchange.
Finally, Buzzell says, people can raise their level of consciousness about the Earth. Spend more time in nature, she says, and your perspective may change.
"I am hoping that people will realize that the nature connection is essential to human health," Buzzell says. "People can find whatever that thing is in nature that they can connect with. It's going to be different for everybody but you start there."