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This irreverent browser extension can help fight your climate anxiety

When you read depressing climate news, UnF*** the Future pops up with a cheeky comment on how to take action.

Doomscrolling through the never-ending news about climate disasters can be overwhelming: In a recent survey of thousands of people ages 16 to 25, nearly half said that climate anxiety is negatively affecting their daily life. The more horrifying the headlines get, the more it can start to feel that what’s happening is unstoppable.

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A new Chrome extension is designed to help by popping up each time you start reading a negative climate story, and then irreverently suggesting a way to take concrete action. If you’re reading about how the U.N. secretary-general called the latest climate report a “code red for humanity,” for example, you might get a message that says, “Congress is a toddler and you have to repeat basic things often, so tell Congress to support investments to protect nature and clean energy.”

From left: Remark cofounders Jess Lybeck, Beth Birchfield, and Don MacKinnon [Image: courtesy Remark]
“Over this last summer, our team really found ourselves distraught by all the terrible climate headlines,” says Jessica Lybeck, cofounder and CEO of Remark, the startup that designed the browser extension called UnF*** the Future. “It was a summer full of wildfires, droughts, flooding, the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report. And so we decided that we wanted to start to explore a tech platform that could address our climate anxiety and encourage folks like us to take action.”

[Image: courtesy Remark]
The team’s first app, called Remark, is a mobile app that makes it easier for people to send sustainability feedback to companies. As they talked to users, they learned that people were most likely to take action when they’d just read a negative news story, so the startup decided to design a second tool. They also chose to give it a less serious tone than, say, the typical alert from a nonprofit.

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[Image: courtesy Remark]
“When you’re getting really overwhelmed by the headlines and the enormity of the problems we face, the snark and the profanity and the humor makes taking action a little bit more digestible,” Lybeck says. “And frankly, it’s just a lot more fun.” The tool includes suggestions for more than 150 actions, ranging from contacting President Joe Biden to finding a more climate-friendly bank. Each suggestion comes with a link to a simple step that someone can take immediately.

And it’s working: The average user now takes three of the suggested actions per week. (Users have also said that they want to see the alerts even more often, so the startup is working on a daily version that can pop up independently of news headlines.)

Having something clear and meaningful to do may help climate anxiety decrease slightly. “My cofounders and I talk a lot about climate action as self-care,” Lybeck says. “We want to make an impact with the things that we do on a day-to-day basis. And it feels good to be able to take some of that restless, helpless energy and be able to do something about it. Our team gets excited about the millions of folks who feel exactly like us.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley

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