“Getting that sinking feeling” (Maine Sunday Telegram, Sept. 20) raises an important and little-discussed problem: How do we cope with feelings about climate change?

The article describes the despair, discouragement and fear so many people have and shows us Mainers whose businesses and households have been hurt by the freak storms that many people feel are fueled by higher temperatures.

It’s important to talk about these feelings so they don’t paralyze us with fear or despair, anger or depression and so we can overcome them and take action. It’s especially important for adults to talk with young people about this. In my experience, middle schoolers are very aware of climate change and quite worried about it.

“We should think about it, we want to think about it, we can’t think about it, because it’s too scary,” one girl told me. Talking about these feelings brings them into the light of day and gives us a chance to talk about what we as individuals and as a country can do to reduce carbon emissions.

I like Joanna Macy’s and Chris Johnstone’s approach in the book “Active Hope.” They say that, in the face of huge long-term problems like climate change we have three options: ignorance or denial; negative emotions like anger, depression and despair; or “active hope,” taking actions with others to work on the problem. Active hope can move us toward optimism and away from despair.

Individual and household actions are important, but they aren’t enough. We need to work with others so that government policies and business practices change enough to make real progress in reducing carbon emissions.

Active hope can encourage us to tell businesses we support clean energy and recycling; tell our representatives and government leaders we want strong policies to reduce carbon; and join organizations advocating climate-protecting laws and practices.

Susan Payne

Cape Elizabeth