A local man has made it his mission to spread the word about the prevalence of eco-anxiety as it relates to youth mental health in our country. Larry Pegg was drawn to the issue after his 21-year-old daughter, Kelly Anne, died by suicide in December, 2007.
After her passing, Larry found letters she wrote expressing her despair when it came to the future from an environmental perspective. “She was hiding a deep darkness towards humanity’s lack of respect for living things and the planet,” Larry says.
The loss of his daughter lit a fire inside Larry to get his message out there. Children and youth all over the world are expressing their anxieties about the future of the planet. A survey in the U.K. showed that half of children between the ages of seven and eleven worry about climate change. Reuters reported in September that British psychologists say that children are increasingly suffering anxiety and grief about climate change.
Larry says that it is not only his own personal loss that has shown him that these psychologists are right. He was one of thousands who marched to Parliament Hill on Friday, September 27, as part of the global climate strike. He had over 500 youth and their adult supporters sign two Bristol boards acknowledging the link between climate change action and mental health. As he told the youth he met on Parliament Hill his story, they tearfully told him of their own struggles coming to terms with what the reality of climate change means for their futures. “Many of them are planning not to have children,” he says. “Kids don’t know how to address their deep seeded fear.”
It is a disservice to the country, Larry believes, that many of these very educated and smart young people don’t have the ability to vote. “They can drive cars and join the army, but they can’t vote,” he says disapprovingly. To rectify this, he believes it is up to adults who do have a voice when it comes to electing our next Prime Minister to listen to the youth, and even give them your vote. “Grandparents who may be voting for the last time, and undecided voters, give your vote to the kids,” he says. “Children’s lives depend on this.”
Larry’s quest to spread awareness of the importance of addressing climate change and youth mental health is what keeps him getting up every morning. His passion was palpable as he got several people who were in Geronimo Coffee House, where we had our interview, to add their names to his posters in support. One local entrepreneur, Sarah Culhane who lives in Metcalfe, was extremely interested in his story as she herself is working towards reducing her own environmental footprint. “It’s important work,” she says, asking Larry if she could give him a hug.
It is clear that Larry is in constant pain from the loss of his daughter, even 12 years later. As a musician, he channels his pain into writing songs about global issues as it relates to mental health. “I find joy in moments under the umbrella of grief,” he says. “It rains almost everyday in my heart.”
He recently shared one of his songs, No More Carbon Crime, at a Green Party rally, which he says he supports because they have the most robust plan to address climate change. “The Greens seem to understand this deep existential crisis that kids are having.”
Despite his intense heartache, Larry believes there is hope, if concrete action is taken to address climate change for future generations. “Our most precious resources are our kids,” he says tearfully. “If we can see the light, let’s go to it.”