University of Sydney researchers, Professor Deanna D'Alessandro and Dr Erin Kelly, led the creation of Positive Action: Science and psychology to support young Australians with climate distress.
"We were impressed with the questions that were submitted at registration and in the Q&A at the event," says Professor D'Allessandro. "We hope everyone who attended, and those who watch the recording, come away feeling more informed, empowered, and with hope," adds Dr Kelly.
A video recording of the online panel discussion is now available to watch on-demand.
Associate Professor Alice Motion is a chemist and science communicator based at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on open science and Science Communication, Outreach, Participation and Education (SCOPE). Finding ways to connect people with science and to make research more accessible is the overarching theme of Alice’s interdisciplinary research.
Alice is the founder of the Breaking Good project – a citizen science project that aims to empower high school and undergraduate students to be active researchers in projects that will improve human health.
Sam is a PhD student and is co-leading the Musk Foundation student XPRIZE team. He holds a Masters of Science in Energy and Sustainability from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Science in Operations Research & Information Engineering from Cornell University. His PhD focuses on technoeconomics and Social License to operate for Direct Air Capture, and is jointly supervised by Professor Chris Wright from the Business School. He was a Direct Air Capture consultant at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington D.C. and authors RemoveCarbon.co.
Cheryl Ou is the spokesperson of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use (PREMISE) and Matilda Centre Youth Advisory Board (YAB), providing input into the governance and research priorities of PREMISE and contribute to specific youth-focused research projects. The YAB comprises a culturally, linguistically and gender diverse group of 10 members aged 16-25, with representatives from metropolitan, rural, regional and remote areas of Australia. They bring expertise and an interest in mental health and substance use via their own lived experience, that of their families or communities.
Dr Susie Burke is a psychologist, researcher, writer, and climate change campaigner with a background in individual and couples therapy, group work, conflict resolution, disaster psychology, parenting issues, and environmental issues.
Susie helps people cope with and come to terms with climate change and disasters.
Carol Ride is a psychologist and Founder/Executive Director of Psychology for a Safe Climate.
Carol has worked as a therapist and trainer for more than 30 years and has been involved in the climate movement since 2006, helping form a local community climate action group.
Carol has worked as a psychologist in the field of couple therapy, as a therapist, supervisor and trainer. Her shift to work in the field of climate change as a psychologist and activist is motivated by the urgent need to contribute to engaging and supporting people in responding to the unfolding climate crisis. She believes the huge injustice being done to our young people throughout the world is unconscionable.
Louise is a clinical psychologist with 25 years experience, across a range of settings, who was introduced to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in 2004 and became a peer reviewed trainer in 2012. She works as a therapist, supervisor, trainer, and executive coach and is the Director of The Sydney ACT Centre. She is also a mum and step mum to three gorgeous girls, and this is what drives her commitment to climate action.
Alongside her clinical work, she has spent the past few years as a Sydney organiser for the group, Australian Parents for Climate Action where she engages daily with a bunch of dedicated parents working towards a safe and sustainable future for their children and future generations.
Good evening, everyone and thank you so much for joining this Positive Action panel which is a collaboration between the Net Zero Initiative and the Matilda Centre, the University of Sydney. My name is Alice motion. And it's my great pleasure to welcome you to this positive action panel this evening. Before we start tonight's event, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners, of which the University of Sydney has built the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. There is no place in Australia, water, land, or air that has not been known, nurtured, or loved by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This always was and always will be Aboriginal land. And noting that we're joining from different places across Australia, I'd like to extend an acknowledgement to country to the traditional owners of the land where you are this evening. This evening, we're going to hear from some wonderful panellists. And we're also going to have an opportunity to ask questions of those panellists. So, I'd encourage you to please put your questions into the Q&A panel. And we'll get to you towards the end of the discussion if we have time. So please do post those questions throughout this evening's event. And before we start, I'd like to introduce you to the two people who are, they're the masterminds behind this event, two colleagues of mine at the University of Sydney. So please could I welcome Erin Kelly and Deanna D'Alessandro to tell us a little bit more about this, how this event came about.
So thank you, Alice. Firstly, I became concerned about the impact of climate change on young people's mental health when I was working as a clinical psychologist, with young people, and a lot of my clients were expressing distress and I didn't know what to do, there was sort of new guidelines around how to manage climate change distress. And then I started to look out for those resources, but then also wanting to do something to help either through my work in research, the Matilda Centre, or in other ways, so yeah, this is part of that.
So yes, as Erin mentions, this is very much inspired by positive action. So as a scientist, leading one of the teams in the School of Chemistry working on technologies that are relevant to solutions to climate change, we were very much discussing how we feel empowered, in terms of the research we do, and, and how that might be able to help others to let them know that there are very much positive actions that can be done. So that's very much the spirit in which we're here this evening, Alice, back to you.
Thank you so much, Erin and Deanna, lovely to hear from you, and to hear about how science and psychology can come together to collaborate on projects such like such as this. And also, I would just like to note, too, that although this is a positive action panel this evening, we know that some of the topics that we're discussing, are quite distressing, and we are talking about anxiety, and particularly anxiety in young people. And we don't have any crisis workers on hand to offer support this evening. But we'd like to share some contact information and resources that you can access should you need to discuss anything with anyone about what's discussed this evening. So please do take advantage of those links that are shared in the chat right now. So, before we begin our discussion, I'd like to take a moment to introduce our absolutely fantastic panel this evening. We have a short bio for each of them, which I'll share with you now but you'll hear more from each of them in just a moment. So first up, we have Sam Wenger, who is a PhD student at the University of Sydney, and Sam is co-leading the Musk Foundation Student XPRIZE. His PhD focuses on Direct Air Capture. He was a direct air capture consultant at the Bipartisan Policy Centre in, Washington DC, and authors remove carbon.co next up we have Cheryl Ou, who is the chairperson at the Matilda Centre and the PREMISE Youth Advisory Board for Youth Advisory Board provides input into the governance and research priorities of PREMISE and contributes to specific youth focused research projects. Welcome Cheryl. Next up we have Dr. Susie Burke, who is a psychologist, researcher, writer, and climate change campaigner with a background in individual and couples therapy group work, conflict resolution, disaster psychology, parenting issues and environmental issues. Susie helps people to cope with and come to terms with climate change and disasters. So welcome Susie.
Next up we have Carol Ride, who is a psychologist and founder of Psychology for a Safe Climate. She has worked as a therapist and trainer for more than 30 years and has been involved in the climate movement since movement since 2006, helping to form a local community climate action group. Her shift to work in the field of climate change as a psychologist and activist is motivated by the urgent need to contribute to engaging and supporting people are responding to the unfolding climate crisis. Welcome, Carol.
And last, but by no means least, we have Louise Shepherd who is a clinical psychologist with 25 years of experience. She was introduced to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT in 2004, and became a peer reviewed trainer in 2012. Louise works as a therapist, supervisor, trainer, and executive coach and is the director of the Sydney ACT Centre. Being a mum is what drives her commitment to climate action. Alongside her clinical work, she's involved with the Australian Parents for Climate Action, which is a not-for-profit group of parents who are working towards a safe and sustainable future for their children and future generations.
So wow, what a fantastic panel. We're delighted to welcome you all this evening. We're very lucky that we're going to hear from you today and I'm sure this is going to be a fantastic session.
So I'll start with my first question that's for Cheryl, we'll come to you first. As the chair of the Youth Advisory Board, what do you think are the main concerns that young people have when it comes to climate change? And how does this affect mental health, particularly among young people?
I think that's a really great question. I think a lot of it for young people is that in our generation, a lot of things have changed with the climate. And it feels like a lot of times we're powerless to do anything about it. And I've heard a lot from my friends and people and young people I've met, that a lot of the changes are going on the wireman. They want to contribute, but they don't know how. And as sometimes the changes feels too big and overwhelming for them to handle, especially with the bushfires, and the Queensland floods, which I've experienced, it hits a lot of people have, but especially for young people, when they still don't have the grounding in society, when they still are trying to find their way to throughout the world, money to study and stuff on top of it, they're working with a requirement that they don't know if it will support them in the future and wanted to contribute to a better future not just for themselves, but for the future people. And not being able to do that can lead to lower anxiety. But also think on the flip side, it's really allowed for young people to be aware of a lot of things going out, well, they want you to be proactive and to change. So I think the pros and cons and having a way to be able to make a change, like this forum, where as a young person, I can speak about my experiences, and work with people who are making those changes, a great opportunity for young people to feel more in control of the future and take care of the woman and you know, take charge of the Mental Health.
Thank you so much, Cheryl. And I think you know, in your role with the Matilda Centre as chairing the Youth Advisory Board, it's great to hear that that voice is being heard in many conversations. So, thank you for all that you do. And some we might come to you next. So, you're a PhD student, I think your work you're working in the School of Chemistry. And I'd really like to know, how did you become interested in carbon removal technologies, and I introduced you as somebody who's wet and direct air capture. But what does that actually mean?
So, I'll start with the second question first. So direct air capture is actually a form of carbon removal. There's plenty of ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, kind of the most straightforward are planting trees, enhancing, enhancing coastal blue carbon, things like that. Direct air capture is an engineered solution in which we can use materials that are highly absorbent for capturing co2. And we can capture large volumes of co2 at scale. And the way that I kind of got involved with this is in 2018, an IPCC report came out. And it suggested that even with large scale efforts to mitigate emissions, that we need to start capturing about 10 to 20 billion tonnes of co2 out of fear out of the air by 2050, which is a huge effort. And one of my professors at my masters, he told me that, really there's only a few 1000 people that are working on this at the moment. And I saw an opportunity to make an impact. And so, I reached out to Deanna. And now I'm one of Deanna's PhD students in the School of Chemistry working to make materials that can capture co2.
Thanks, Sam. And I think Deanna and all of us are delighted that you reached out to them. It's great to have such fantastic scientists working on this, this research. Susie, we might come to you next. And as we heard from your introduction, you have many hats as most of the folks here on the panel do today. Firstly, I'd like to ask you, what does being a climate change campaigner involve? And then secondly, in your practice, as a psychologist, how do you help people to cope with and come to terms with climate change and disasters? Could you share a little bit of that with us, please?
Sure, thank you. Climate Change Campaign? Well, I suppose it covers a whole lot of things. So, it covers being an activist and doing, you know, direct action in, with community groups, you know, to protest coal-fired power stations and getting out into the shipping lanes in Newcastle and stopping the coal ships and things like that. But also, my role as a psychologist when I was working at the Strange Psychological Society would also involve going and talking to Parliament about and you know, government inquiries about things related to the psychology of climate change and behaviour change and wind farms and a whole host of things that I was involved with, then. And I guess it also involves being an advocate and being a part of the Climate and Health Alliance. And, you know, being interested in and involved in the work that Carol does with Psychology for a Safe Climate and being able to talk publicly about the importance of social science and climate change and looking at the contributions that we can make to understanding how humans contributing to the problem of climate change, and the impact that climate change has on us in terms of mental health, and also the ways in which we can contribute to solutions, all of which require changes in human behaviour. And that's something that social scientists or psychologists are trained to be experts in. So, I guess that covers some of what being a climate change campaigner that might mean in the context of myself personally, but also as a psychologist. So that was the first question. And the second question was about what do I do to work with people to help them cope? Well, one of the things that I've been doing in the last several years is writing articles with other psychologists, a couple of developmental psychologists, around the impacts that climate change has on young people and adults. And one of the models that we use a lot is the transactional stress and coping model, which has been around since last since last century. But it's a really useful model that Maria Ojala, a Swedish psychologist bought back into sort of popular uses your familiarity in the work that she did, working with young people in Sweden, and looking at the ways in which they cope with climate change. And so, it's a very useful model for sort of looking at the different things that we can do to help us and to help young people cope. And so, the three coping strategies that are covered in that stress and that transactional stress coping model are problem focused coping, which is all the things that we do. And we do things with our legs and our arms. And our words are all the things that we do to reduce the thing that is causing the stress, which in this case, is climate change. So those are all the things that we do to mitigate the threat of climate change when we take action on climate change, or to adapt to the threat of climate change. So that's the problem focused coping strategies. And then, so that's in effect, that's the air direct air capture work that Sam is doing. And it's the, it's the being a part of groups. And it's putting on events like this, as well, as, as it is, you know, joining in protest, and advocating and doing household activities, and doing group plant tree plantings and all those sorts of things. And then the second one, and they will no particular order is emotion focused coping strategies. So, these are the things that we do to manage or make room for the uncomfortable feelings that we have about climate change. So those are all the sorts of things that psychologist spends a lot of time working with people on, which might be moving their bodies and spending time in nature and talking with trusted others about how they're feeling and expressing their feelings in expressing their feelings, maybe through having a cry or through artistic expression. It involves, you know, having massages, and releasing stress hormones through, you know, affectionate touch, and all those sorts of things. So, it's not necessarily tackling the problem of climate change. But it's all the other things that we do to help us manage the feelings. And then the third, coping strategy is meaning focused coping strategy. And this is one that people working in health field are perhaps not as familiar with, but Maria Ojala really identified. This has been one of the coping strategies that she found that young people were using to deal with climate change. And so, meaning focused coping is sort of the things that we do with our thinking to change the meaning that climate change has taught us or to change the way in which we think about climate change in order to be able to cope with it. So largely, it's about generating a hopeful perspective, but we could talk endlessly about the different types of hoping and how to develop hope. And I don't have time to talk about that. But that will be broadly one of the examples. But the three main strategies that Maria identified that young people we're using, we're one, noticing how many other people around the world are caring about this problem that you also care about and taking heart from the fact that you know, billions of people around the world care deeply about climate change or and or are actively working to do something about it. So that's one of the strategies. And another one is thinking about how really big problems like slavery and apartheid and women not having the vote and things like that have been tackled historically and how change has happened through history and taking cash from realising that humans have always confronted these enormous challenges at the time when they're in the middle of it felt insurmountable. But through the Dugard, persistent efforts of people all over the world change happened. And that's a sort of a hopeful perspective as well. And, and the third one is thinking about some of the benefits of a zero-carbon world, for example. And so being able to not just think about climate change, and taking action on climate change as being, you know, suffering and deprivation, but to be imagining the world that we can create, and the benefits that we will reap from a world where we're more interconnected, and we're better at sharing and cooperating and sharing resources. And we're more involved in active transport, eating lower on the food chain, all those sorts of things, and being able to see that a better world is possible through concerted efforts to tackle climate change.
Thank you, Susie. I mean, in just you outlining Ojala's framework there, I feel a sense of positivity, I found that very uplifting. And noting that we have some other folks to get to I just wanted to ask you another question on the back of there. And how do you balance how much time you're spending on each of those three areas? Like how do you keep that in check so that you're balancing the meaning the problem focused and the emotional aspects? Is there? Is there a way we can you know, reflect on that ourselves or get guidance from our friends or family? Or do we need more professional help in that context?
Oh, no one's ever asked that question. That's such an interesting question. I did run a workshop a little while ago, where I said, write them up on the fridge. And then if you're feeling really stressed, look at the three, take the three coping strategies, the art, I forgot to do emotion focused coping. So now I need to get to work on several themes. So, I don't have a particular answer for that. But it certainly is helpful to be being mindful of all three, because they're all really legitimate, valuable strategies.
Thank you, Susie. And we'll go to Carol next. And, Carol, I'd love to ask, what led you to start up psychology for a safe climate? And could you tell us a little bit more about what your organisation does?
Thanks very much. As we look, we've started the group because I was working as a climate activist in the community. And people started asking questions when they knew I was a psychologist saying, how can you help us understand why people are in denial about climate change. So, it started off right in that territory. And then we formed a group of people who are interested to collectively as psychologists and psychotherapists to work together and Susie helped us get together first time when we decided to work together to help people with this issue, and also, we started moving into a different territory, which was supporting people emotionally who are working as climate activist. And as they were feeling greatly frustrated, and, and inclined to perhaps become very despairing or to overwork and become burnt out. We also started working with those who were witness solutions as policy makers, or scientists, researchers and started working with them as groups in organisations to help them express the weight of the work that we're doing. The distress they are feeling when policy was not shifting in the direction that they knew it needed to move in, and to help them connect, connect with their peers around the feelings that they were carrying around their work. And that helped build cohesiveness between the people working together. And it helped people reach out to each other if they would even support rather than sort of working in silos. And then the third area that we gradually started working in was supporting people who are working as therapists to actually deal with their engagement with climate change because we knew that people were seeking out support from psychotherapists and psychologists and there wasn't really confidence by that expressed by those people. in supporting people, sometimes the therapist won't engage themselves. So, they were not sympathetic to the problems that people bring you along. And some were just feeling out of the depths. So, we've started working to provide support to therapists through professional development to help them deeper their engagement with climate change, form connections with each other, and engage and discuss together how to best support people with the young people or older people. So really, the basis of our work now is helping people work together around this territory, around the emotional load that is carried with the people are therapists, researchers, policy makers, or parents, that all community members that they need each other, they need a place to talk about what they're feeling, and so that they can actually support each other to support others.
Thank you so much, Carol. And Louise will come to you next. And I have questions in a couple of parts for you. So, I mentioned in your introduction, that you are the director of the Sydney ACT centre, would you be able to share with us for those of us who aren't as familiar as you and your colleagues? Perhaps? What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy? Excuse me? And how can this be used to help manage climate distress or anxiety?
Sure. So, ACT is, is an approach which is very much focused on the two parts of it, the acceptance part is very much about how we can handle the thoughts and feelings that we have in a way that's more effective, so that we're not so pushed around by our thoughts and feelings. And the and that comes through sort of mindfulness skills, it comes through being able to step back and notice thinking rather than be quite so consumed and buy into a lot of the sort of stories that we might have about things going on around us. And the commitment part is very much about living a values-based life. So, it's very much about working out what's important to you. So big kind of questions like ‘how do you want to spend the time that you have on this planet?’ Being able to really think about what makes a meaningful and fulfilling life. And so, when it comes to climate change, and being able to understand that the thoughts and feelings, we might have a lot of feelings, for instance, that are very understandable given what we're facing. So, to be feeling anxious, to be feeling grief, to be feeling frustration, angry helplessness, that all of those feelings are to be expected, really, if we are paying attention to what's going on in the world, and that we can make room for those. But at the same time, we don't want to marinate in our feelings. So, we want to be able to make room for them, but not actually to live according to what our feelings tell us. And that's where our values are really important. So rather than that we make decisions in life based on how we feel that we use our feelings as information. But actually, we're really much very much guided by what's important to us and who we want to be. And so, you know, feeling anxious about the state of the world, we want to make room for that we want to acknowledge it, we want to notice all the thoughts and feelings that we might be having. And then we want to think about well, what are the kinds of values that matter? Like I want to be curious, or I want to be I want to contribute? And so, then we can think about what can I do with my mouth with my hands with my feet that line up with those values and set goals that kind of that fit with our chosen values? Hopefully that kind of sums it up.
Thanks, Louise. Yes, it does. And I think to ask you just a little bit more about one of the other hats that you're also wearing today. Could you tell us a little bit more about the work that Australian Parents for Climate Action are doing? And then we might also ask for some resources or how to get involved in terms of both your worked with the ACT Centre or A.C.T. and also how folks could perhaps get involved in the Australian parents for climate action. Work to assure
So Australian Parents, for me has been just the most amazing home I guess, that I've found. And I would encourage everyone to kind of think about if you don't already have one to find your kind of home, because this work can be obviously very confronting and at times overwhelming. And I stumbled into Australian parents I can't even remember exactly, but I think I found it on Facebook. And it's basically it's a nonpartisan group. It's very much about people being able to come together people who care about children and the future. You don't have to be a parent and there's plenty of parents, carers grandparents. And really, it's a place where people can come and learn about climate change, where they can take action, and also where they can find support. So, it ends up being a bit of a community online, but also, you know, in different locations. And then there's also people will catch up to well, before the pandemic, there were more opportunities, and they're coming in, again, to be able to get out on the streets and to protests and to ask for what we think is, is needed. But also, things like, you know, writing to MPs, and getting solar panels on schools, and all sorts of things. So, there's lots of different ways. And around the country, I think, depending on where people are, that they might, where parents, because people, you know, people look to parents how I put it, like, everyone loves their kids, right, everyone loves they, their grandkids, or the people that they the children that they care for. And so it's a really lovely way to come together, you don't have to have a background of, you know, chaining yourself to a tray or whatever, even though I have enormous respect for people who do that, but it's very much trying to bring in a lot of people who may not necessarily see themselves as climate activists, I think is maybe one of the things that really has been good about just bringing in a whole group of different people. There's a in terms of resources on the Australian parents’ website, which is AP for ca.org. There's a great checklist, like a climate action checklist that might be worth checking out. And there's often things like at the moment, for instance, there's a, there's a letter of like a template to write to Tanya Plibersek. So, there's often just like a campaign where, you know, we can easily kind of send something off to our local MP or to other ministers, just to let them know what we think is what we think matters and what we expect about elected leaders. And in terms of resources on ACT, in terms of specific resources around climate, nothing kind of jumps out. But there are certainly, let me think, I mean, there's a whole stack of great books. 'A Liberated Mind' by Steve Hayes is a is an excellent book, there's 'The Reality Slap' by Russ Harris, which is a good one for, for when things kind of go wrong. An old favourite of mine, which is not ACT, but a great book is 'When Things Fall Apart' from Pema Chödrön, great Buddhist work on when things go wrong in life. And then and again, not ACT but I think a really great book that maybe others would also recommend is 'Active Hope', by Joanna Macy. And I always forget Chris Johnstone, I always have a pile of books beside me that I'm going to talk about, because otherwise I forget the titles of them. That yeah, hopefully that answers. Thank you, Alice.
Thank you so much, Louise, I think we're all scribbling down some books to go and get out of the library or list for future presents. So, thank you for sharing. We've got wonderful panellists here. But we've also got some pre-recorded messages from two special people that we'll hear from now. So, we're going to hear from Cory Tutt the CEO and founder of Deadly Science and also from Professor Emma Johnson, who's our Deputy Vice Chancellor research and was the lead author of the recent state of the environment report. And both Corey and Emma have recorded a message for us. So, I think we will hear from them in just a moment before we come back to the panel.
Yaama maliyaa mob! Cory Tutt here from Deadly Science, and I'm here at the Matilda Centre on Gadigal Country of the Eora Nation. And as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, our people, the first scientists, but we're also the first carers of the country. And how I get through the climate crisis is I want to go for walks, I like to get amongst nature, I like to get amongst it. The thing for me is that if we care for country, the country will care for you. And that is a lesson we should all take. So, as I get, you know, deal with the climate crisis, I try and go for walks, I try and get fresh air, try to get my body moving, I try and get around. But it also is very concerning. And, you know, I think you should all stay deadly, stay safe, and remember, we've only got one country and we've gotta look after it. Yaluu.
Hi everybody, and thanks for watching my little vignette. I am no expert psychologist. But here are some hot tips for how I deal with climate anxiety. First of all, active transport as I'm doing now, to get to an event - good for your mind, good for your body good for climate.
Eating less meat, red meat in particular - good for the body, good for the mind, and good for the climate.
Advocacy - very good for the mind, pretty good for the body, I think I'm not sure about that one, but it's definitely good for the climate.
And finally, active restoration. There are so many parts of Australia of our biodiversity that have been neglected or destroyed, and getting your hands dirty and replanting or even weeding in marine environments, if you've got the right support, can be a really constructive thing to do. And again - good for you mind, good for your body, and good for the climate. And look at this stunning sunset.
Thank you again to Corey Tutt and Emma Johnson for those lovely videos says lovely contributions and was nice to finish with the image of the sunset, just as the sun is setting here and campus at the University of Sydney today too. And we might jump off those videos, I think I'd like to come to Sam and Cheryl first actually. So, Emma and Cory both shared some of their strategies for dealing with climate anxiety. And I think they actually probably touched on some of the psychological strategies that Susie and Louise mentioned in the descriptions that they gave there, too. But perhaps we'll start with you first Sam, you know, as somebody who's working as a PhD researcher doing your science and trying to, you know, deal with some of the ups and downs of research that that that, you know, find their way to you in their lab? How do you also stay engaged and cope with discussions around the climate? And how do you, you know, take a break from that when you need to?
It's a really tough question, because obviously, it's a challenge that just doesn't, it's not going away anytime soon. And so, obviously, it takes up a lot of my mental capacity, I go to work, I think about this. And so yeah, it can be really challenging to cope. But at the same time, I think that staying positive, focusing on solutions, and trying to, for me apply myself as much as I can is, is something that's really important to me. And then in terms of staying up to date, I like to listen to a lot of different climate podcasts, I listened to catalyst, I listened to my climate journey, which is about, you know, everyone has their own climate journey with how they're learning with learning about the problem learning about solutions. And then, you know, I talk about this stuff with a lot of my colleagues and other fellow PhD students. And something that makes me feel good and keeps me positive is the fact that all of us who are working on climate solutions tend to be very positive people, very solution-oriented people. And I think that's really important. And it speaks a lot about kind of the direction that we're heading in. And I think that there's real room for improvement, obviously. And so that's kind of how I keep myself motivated is working with other motivated people who are also optimistic.
Thank you Sam. Cheryl, perhaps the same question to you particularly, do you have any advice for others? And what do you know what, where do you find hope? In some of these discussions?
I've really resonated with what everyone said, and especially Susie's words about how young people use [inaudible] And I use that a lot to think about older people, like even here today, who really care about this, who wants to make a change, that change does take time, and that, you know, if we so work towards it, we can do it. And I like to imagine a better future as well. Like, what happens if our one was carbon negative? Like, what would that look like for us, like thinking not just of how they will make it worse can get better. But I think a lot of my hope comes from spending time with my loved one, especially my niece and nephew, and wanting a better future with them and you know, spending time with them our environment we'd like we'd love to go on a walk in the park near my house. Then we play a little Pokémon game where they pretend Pokémon in the park and stuff and just seeing them enjoy nature talk about animals and insects, makes me feel hope for the environment and makes me feel encouraged and want to keep that going. And knowing that people love nature, they love where we are love, we love our climate and we just want to do what we can to support them. With me that hope and being part of nature and [inaudible] and this is what I'm working towards.
Thanks, Cheryl. It strikes me that both from your answers and many of the folks on the panel today, that it's kind of amazing that we can seek some of that solace and support from nature in the same even though that's what we're trying to think about looking after today, that it's sort of gives back when we, when we think about ways that we can better look after nature in our environment, too. I'm now going to go to some questions. First of all, from some that was submitted when people registered for the panel. Of note, there's a few questions in the Q&A. And I'll definitely come to at least one or two of those in a moment. And I think we have three questions there. If you have any questions and your participant, please do add a question to the Q&A tab. But first of all, I'd like to go to Carolyn and Louise with this question. And ask you How is managing anxiety in particularly climate anxiety in young people different to managing anxiety of climate anxiety in people who are older? Perhaps Louise first, and then I'll come to you, Carol.
Aha, okay. But I think I think some of the dilemmas that younger people have are going to be different than ones. So, I'm 50. So, I'm kind of halfway, I guess, depending on how long I hang around. But if you're a younger person, you might have dilemmas, I guess, possibly one of the biggest ones we hear about is the choice of whether to become a parent. In the climate emergency, which I just can't imagine, it's such a huge thing to be thinking about. So that's one of the sort of managing some of the anxiety around those kinds of dilemmas and decisions, I think, is something that I would say is different. I guess also, it's also going to be different, just because people when they you know, in their teens, and 20s, they've got their whole life ahead of them. And they are also looking into a future that is really quite scary. You know, so I think that's going to be quite different. And so, I would manage that differently. Because it's you want to validate and really hear I think, you know, really, really listen to what people are concerned about, and what their unique experience and what their concerns are. I mean, I know with my kids are nine and 11. And sometimes the things that they worry about, I might not quite understand or it's so long since I had those same concerns. But I think that you know, really just being able to be listening and respecting where people are at and what it is that's on their minds. So, I think they're probably the sorts of things actually one other quick thing. I know, when I was a lot younger, and when I hear my stepdaughter who's 17, or when I hear, you know, young people have that sort of sense of idealism, idealism, and they just have seen things I think in such a beautiful pure way, like, you know, that its things are right or wrong. And I think that that kind of really impacts in terms of anxiety, because it's like, it's so hard to understand. So shocking, I think, when you're younger to think, well, why the hell, you know, has this been allowed to happen? Or why the hell hasn't someone stopped this, and I feel it at my age, but I know that my younger self would have just been so much more horrified and shocked and angry, that that these sorts of things have been allowed to happen. So, I think that's probably I don't know, that kind of answers, but that's how I think about anxiety for younger people.
Thanks, Louise. And Carol, would you like to share any of your perspectives?
Thank you. Thanks, Louise. Look, I think that we have to recognise that young people, many of them are very, very aware of the climate science and the urgency of the problem. And probably a bit peer influence in terms of gathering that understanding of the critical situation we're in is probably much more widespread amongst some young people than adult groups. And Greta Thunberg has been quite a leader in that in terms of leading the world with young people knowing that the climate science is not actually telling us that we've got a good future there needs to be urgent action that we're not taking the scale of change that's necessary. So, I think it's we really have to respect the young people, and what they know about the situation and how unstable their future is. And we do know from research that was done by a virus around researching 10,000 young people from 10 countries around the world, that 75% of them said that they thought the future was frightening. And many of us have expressed their anger and sense of betrayal that the governments around the world were not taking the action. That's, that's really needed. Now, we know that some adults feel like that. But I think young people are very much onto it, that peer influence of human knowledge is really, maybe a long way ahead of some adults. So, we need to be really very respectful of that. And we do so we say we need to listen to their feelings and validate their feelings. And also encourage them to join with others to do what they can. And maybe also parents can join with their kids and doing things that as Lewis has told me about through parents for climate action, or whatever is available to make some submissions or petitions to, to government, they're or actions that are demonstrate the concern they have.
Thank you so much, Carol. I think we'll go to one of our questions in the Q&A. And there's a few in here from Noni. I should also say that the last question was from Angela in New South Wales. So, thank you for that question, Angela. And we'll go to one from Noni - I apologise if I mispronounce anybody's name, do my best here. So, Noni says that they're so concerned about the effects of actually telling the truth around the effects of climate change, and notes that of course, it doesn't only affect young people. How do we tell the truth? Knowing that Australia is the most vulnerable continent in the world? How do we help young and old work through their despair and move to action? I've been a climate activist for a couple of decades, and I'm losing hope. And I'm gonna go to Susie there because you spoke about how in your earlier answer?
Well, that's a super question, because that's what people always worry about is how much truth to tell about the problem and been much debated in science in social sciences? Well, the problem of how much truth do you tell them what are the impacts that that has on people. So, there is, you know, a literature that shows that if people get frightened, and they don't know what to do about their fears that they risk, then switching off from the problem and distracting themselves endlessly with popular culture, and other things that we can endlessly distract ourselves with, and then aren't engaged with the problem of climate change anymore. So as a general rule of thumb, we crudely say that you can afford to frighten people to the extent that you can give them a lot to do to reduce the threat of the thing that they are frightened about. So, we always need to pair the truth telling about climate change with all of the different ways in which people can get engaged with solutions. So that's sort of a first point. And there's much that psychologists have written about the importance of truth as a galvanising force. And, you know, without being able to face the reality of the enormous threat, we, you know, we can't summons the energy that is necessary. But there's also a big literature on the importance of also working from a starting place of looking at solutions, and that being able to envision a future that is a zero carbon world, it's been transformed greatly through renewable industries, and you know, many other things and being able to imagine the future, what awakens in us then the energy to be able to work out what are the steps to move towards that future. And, and so that's about picturing a future that you desire. So, you might start from a place of being aware of the truth or the reality of the threat. But by imagining the future that we want to work towards, that's critically important. That's part of that meaning focus coping, then then we can start to take the steps towards doing something about it. And that's what the definition of active hope is.
Thanks Susie. And it strikes me that that's also an important message for folks who are communicating the climate emergency to, to balance some of those aspects there and in truth telling, but also combining some of those rather scary truths with opportunities for people to make change or to contribute to activism or other projects that that can help have a positive so social impact and for climate change, too. So, there's a lot to think about there. I think you've partly answered a question from Carmen there. But I might jump off this idea of imagining a better future so Carmen in New South Wales asked, What's the role of imagining better futures in alleviating climate anxiety, and empowering social action? And I might just go to Louise there and see if you have anything to add to Susie's point about these imagined futures?
Yeah, so I think it's a, I think it's a really good question, I come back to this idea that if you can't see it, you can't be it. So, you know, if we want to, it's that working towards something right, like, like Susie's talking about. So, I do think that that's really important. I don't think that, you know, feeling hopeful isn't going to save us, but actively doing things as though you know, like, if we, if we get into a very pessimistic mindset, we might just all sit at home and watch Netflix and drink a hell of a lot and do nothing. And that's going to do none of us any good. And I think it was actually So David Attenborough, I think I heard in a podcast a couple of years ago talking about, you know, almost like the moral obligation we have. So regardless of how we feel; that we are moving towards a positive future that we are doing the things that create the world that we that we want to see. And another one of my favourite books, actually, it's almost at the top of my pile, 'The Future We Choose, by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, and one of my favourite podcasts, 'Outrage and Optimism' that they do. So, I think imagining that positive future is, is really important, our minds naturally go to problems. So, you know, language came about by trying to stay safe, not get eaten by wild animals, and stay in a tribe and so forth. But if we can focus, like actively go out, whether it be a gratitude journal, whether it be that we search for news that is actually more positive, that we read about, you know, places that are doing really amazing things like it Wales, where they have a minister, gosh, what's the title? Basically, they have a minister that had there's a lens where any decision that happens in infrastructure, or transport or whatever has to go through the Minister for Future Generations, I think the title is. So, you know, there are these amazing things happening all around the world that we can look to, and we can be very hopeful for, but it's certainly not going to happen just by wishing for it. Right. So, it's not, it's not blind hope. It's very, very, very much active.
Thank you, Louise. And I think we know where to come everyone to borrow some books. It looks like you've got a great pile on your desk there. And Cheryl, I might come back to you if that's if that's okay. I noticed in your introduction, or we noted in your introduction, you were speaking about some lived experience of recent climate events, extreme weather events like bushfire, excuse me the bushfires and the flooding. And I wondered if you might share a little bit of your perspective on what impact those events have had on youth mental health, and also potentially share some of the positives that have come out of well, not positives of those events, but positives that have come out in discussions or community around young people.
I think that's a really great question. I think for me, I didn't personally experience the bushfires but a lot of my colleagues in the Youth Advisory Board did. And we discussed a lot about how it impacted our community and us and how we could contribute to any changes that made and while we couldn't do anything about the actual bushfires, we did talk about family members of friends, who are able to be part of the recovery effort to volunteer to help fight or bushfires or even raise awareness about and just even know that even though we can't be there physically for each other, we can support each other by discussing this. Because sometimes I feel like not talking about climate change and acting like it doesn't exist, can hurt young people because we're very aware that it exists. And when we see people who pretend it doesn't or nothing's done, it can be really frustrating. So having an avenue to talk about and having actions to protectively take care of the wildlife was really helpful for us. During the Queensland floods, which I experienced I just happened to move to Queensland and the flooding came so it was a rather interesting experience. While these floods were bad for my mental health, it actually made me review my life a bit. Because when you're in lockdown in your house, because of all the flooding, you really realise what's important things in your life, what values you want to carry. And I think that gave me perspective on how I want to go with my life like who don't want to interact with what type of work I want to do. And that's kind of the reason why I am here today. Because I'm like, in my time, I really want to make a difference to the future for young people and everyone who is on this earth today and, you know, help them moment and being part of this and showing my friends and other young people that this opportunity as well. There are other people who's out there fighting with us, that you know, everyone from all generations can view it has been really helpful and has given hope to some of my friends who are looking to find jobs in this area, or volunteering and know that you know, that there are YAB boards, there are programs, there is work we can actually do. Like here, Sam is doing a PhD, you know, to look at carbon emissions and how we can get officers often like this are all real avenues that we can take action for. So, I love. I think that's the impact it has on youth mental health. Like, it can impact us during that moment. And we might not feel the best. But afterwards, it gives us a time to reflect and go, 'Hey, maybe I can be part of the change' and use this not to bring me down but improve my health and make it better, not just for me, but for everyone else.
Thank you so much, Cheryl, what a what a wonderful answer. Sam, I'm going to come to you next with a slightly modified version of a question from Pradeep in New South Wales. So, Pradeep asked, what different strategies could we use to advocate the main climate issues better? And I wondered if you as a scientist could comment on, you know, how well a scientist doing this. So, what could we as scientists do better to try and advocate for climate issues in a more effective way?
I think it goes back to the point that Susie made, which is that focusing on positive action and positive solutions is really motivating. And when you think about the future, that's possible, I think that that makes politicians better understand, you know, why they should take action, you can imagine a future with a more stable climate, healthier ecosystems. But beyond that abundant clean energy, you know, access to clean transportation, and liveable cities. These are all things that would drastically improve everyone's quality of life. And I think focusing on how climate solutions can have impacts on health and quality of life beyond just the climate is a real motivator. And so, I think that translating our solutions, the ones that we're working on in the lab, into how they affect everyone's day to day lives. I think that's a big motivator.
Thanks so much, Sam. I'm going to squeeze one more question in I know where we're getting very close to the to the hour. But we have a question from Amanda in New South Wales. And this one's to Susie, first of all, could you share with us what you think the role of climate activism is a strategy for managing climate anxiety?
Well, it's a good example of problem focused coping, so get to tick in that respect, but also importantly, it's, it's a way of being able to join with big groups of people. And one of the things that we know from the literature is that when people just focus on individual or household level action around climate change, there's, you know, it engages them as somebody who cares about the environment. But the problem with that is that it can often lead to a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness because it's overwhelming and one person can't possibly do something about it. And anywhere somebody once said, and anyhow, narcissistic focus on the self is never a healthy thing to have. And so, the importance with the you know, the sort of the larger scale group actions is that it's, it's more impactful, it helps you feel that there's a community around you so it's got all of those benefits as well plus, it's more likely to get some attention. So that's why the school strike movement that good tipped off in Sweden have been so fabulous for young people. I mean, for many of the young people that was when they first did learn about climate change, but to be with a large number of people all around the world is so heartening and valuable so from the was just from, you know, from those perspectives, I think it's fantastic.
Thank you so much, Susie. And I'm really sad that that's actually all we've got time for today, this hour seems to have really passed so quickly thanks to the generosity of the contributions of our panel and fantastic questions from those of you who've joined today. And really, I think tonight has been in part about community, building community around some of these really challenging issues and discussion. So, thank you for joining this community this evening. And for those of you who are watching this on the Matilda Centre YouTube channel in the future, we say hello to you, too. Apologies to anyone who didn't get their questions answered. Today, we will do our best to answer you if you have chance to get in touch with us via email or the Matilda Centre. And there will be there's also links up on the webpage to and we also would just like to say that we'd like to share those support numbers again, that and links that we shared at the top of today's discussion. For anybody who has been impacted by any of the discussions today, please take care of yourself and do reach out for some help if you if you are experiencing any distress. And with that, I would just like to say thank you so much for participating in tonight's Youth Mental Health Forum. It's been wonderful to have you here. We would love it if you could take a moment to complete a survey that's going to pop up once we've ended this Zoom webinar. But thank you so much for joining us. It's been lovely to be here with you and have a wonderful evening. Thanks so much.
Net Zero Initiative and the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use.