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Editor’s note: Renée Lertzman Ph.D. is a climate psychologist, researcher and strategist, focusing on individual and collective action on our climate and environmental crises. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion at CNN.

Thirty years ago, I sat in a darkened lecture hall listening to what was happening to our Earth because of the decisions people had made. Climate change, toxic contamination, species loss, forest fires, soil depletion: it was a litany of all the ways humans had gone very wrong. At least, that’s how it felt to me, at age 19. Human behavior was directly influencing the globe’s weather patterns. It was almost unthinkable.

Apparently, it was so unthinkable for those around me – that people were literally not thinking about it.

Meanwhile, my world was turned upside down, forcing me to reassess almost everything – how I traveled, what I ate, wore, what I drank out of, slept in, even put on my face – surprisingly intimate things. It also made me think about who I was in the world, and who I wanted to be. I did not identify as a scientist, activist or “radical.” Yet, at that time, those seemed to be the only people who understood our lethal and dangerous trajectory.

I tried talking with other people about it. I wanted to understand what I was feeling, and why others seemed somehow immune. Was it grief? Was it a unique, new kind of anxiety? A crisis of “epistemic trust” – the helplessness Dr. Daniel Siegel calls when the world no longer seems trustworthy?

It was all of the above. Yet at that time, not many people wanted to talk about it. This is now changing. And that’s a good thing, because it’s the ticket to our collective survival.