Benefits from understanding the connection between climate and mental health


 [CLIMATIC ROOT TREATMENT]  is a series of blogposts seeking to uncover and understand the deeper roots of society’s problems with taking appropriate action on the climate emergency, and to explore the advantages we could see once the action sets in.

“The [fossil fuel] industry thinks we are all fools, so all I can say is dig deep, find the facts, knowledge is power.”
~ Damian Marchant from Frack Free Moriac

This year, the Australian Mental Health Week runs from the 8-15 October to create awareness about mental health and wellbeing. It would be good to see the organisers of this campaign initiate a thorough discussion about exactly what impact climate change has on our mental health, and how we go about the mental challenges which the current political failure to act on the global warming emergency presents us with.

In this blogpost, I’ll be telling you how I see this. This is my personal call for opening up a community conversation about climate criminals, fossil barons and the catastrophic ‘climate-bulls’ we now need to take by the horns and stare in the eye, but most of all, this should preferably evolve into a positive, mindful and future-oriented conversation about solutions that work and give us purpose, meaning and quality in life – and this includes the influence that an increased community engagement and new common ownership-ideas could have on all of this.

In that spirit, this blogpost is not an essay or a statement – it is an open invitation to brainstorming, discussion and development of new strategies based on critical thinking. If you read this, then I’d love to know what you think. The comments field at the bottom of this page is open for your response and feedback – at least for a little while, until the annoying army of spammers begin to misuse it.

What I am also saying, I guess, is: As these blogposts of mine arrive here straight from the laptop keyboard, fresh, unedited and not proofread by anyone, with English not being my first language, it would be great if you would help me improving these blogposts! We know crowdfunding. Would be fantastic to also see some climate change crowd-writing happening here!

“The cure for despair is not hope. It’s discovering what we want to do about something we care about.”
~ Margaret Wheatley

‘Unprecedented’ on repeat

“Climate change is real, it is affecting us now, and it is having a particularly severe impact on Australia. And yet, right now, we have every resource available to us to meet the challenge of climate change except for one: and that is leadership. Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice the like of which I have never seen in my lifetime before.”
~ Malcolm Turnbull speaking at the Deakins, on the Politics of Climate Change, in 2010

The images of climate change can be depressing. Unprecedented wildfires burning our houses and farms. Unprecedented rain floods destroying our cars, furniture. Farmers going bankrupt because of drought. Die offs of our coral reefs. Species going extinct. None of which are presented in the media or by our leaders as having anything to do with climate change. Which is even more depressing. As Malcolm Turnbull said it himself back in 2010, we are being betrayed by our leaders. How are we to cope with it all?

To be mentally healthy means to be on top of things. Even when you are confronted with various physical problems, you can handle it, because you have this basic feeling that you are on top of things. So you deal with it.

To me that’s, in a nutshell, what mental health is about. Surplus. Feeling strong, resilient, courageous. Sharing generously. Well connected in a network of good friends and a loving family.

I often watch the tv news in the evening, and almost every day there are depressing pictures from near or far showing people in despair over one climate disruption or another. People lose their homes. People are getting killed. You see the fear and the anger in their eyes.

I sense that most people understand that what is so frightening here is that what’s happening is something that is much bigger than us. But not once have I seen these climate victims or the journalists covering the stories relating the catastrophic incidents to the bigger picture of what climate change is all about. Not once have I heard anyone mention that there is a reason for this suffering – a reason which has nothing to do with random freaks of nature, a global crisis, or fate.

The journalists are not eager to inform us that these terrifying and disruptive so-called ‘natural disasters’ ought to be reminding us that our entire civilisation is currently running a race against time, and that we, the people and the voters in our democratic system, collectively hold the key to if not fixing that problem, then at least repairing it the best we can.

The reporters and news editors of our mainstream media seem to think that this is not their responsibility to explain. This will have to be up to somebody else to explain. Like, maybe, our political leaders?

Well. When Greg Hunt was Federal Minister for the Environment, I watched him very explicitly telling media that we mustn’t be too quick to ascribe extreme weather events to a changing climate: “We need to be careful to not see climate change in every single weather event. It’s not in this storm, it’s not in the previous devastating flooding, it’s not in the extended bushfire season, it’s not any of these single events. (…) Instead we should continue to see this as some crazy random event – just like we’ll see the next one and the one after that. Heck, I’ll probably be back in a month telling you this exact same thing,” he explained to the Australians on national tv.

Of course not all politicians are as much in denial with himself as Greg Hunt was and Malcolm Turnbull still is. The American president Barack Obama has spoken up about the impacts of climate change, and as much as he has been able to tried to implement solutions. Here in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews has made a huge turn-around of the state policy on climate change. But at federal level in the Australian parliament, senators and ministors refuse to acknowledge their responsibility. Some just keep quiet, others go as far as denying that climate change is real.

As a result of this situation, we, the public, generally think it is still okay to conveniently keep ignoring the unpopular, existential and scientifically rather complicated truth about the serious trouble we are in. When disaster hits, we continue to blame the “weather gods”, or “bad luck”, or “fate”. We go on pretending this mess has got nothing to do with us.


The dire warnings from our scientific community are clear, and so is the data. It is the rising Australian average temperatures lined up in graphs like these that people prefer to ignore:



When presented to graphs like these, in my world it would be a natural reaction to say, ‘Wow, this looks frightening!’. But apparently not so.

Instead I see people shrugging their shoulders, saying, “Well, so what can we do about that?”
Or more particularly: “What can little I do about that?”

Or they simply discredit the graphs – for instance by claiming that the scientists who created these graphs are mistaken, or corrupt, or both.

In all three cases, these response patterns seem to solve the problem for the Australians so that they can go on with their lives without changing anything. Because why worry about something you can’t change anyway?

Climate suicides
As we see the results of the climate emergency caused by our collective inaction unfold on our tv-screens, not all people are able or willing to ignore the feeling that we are heading towards a gloomy disaster. There is a minority of people who refuse to close their eyes and pretend that the extreme weather events are not connected with what the meteorologists are measuring.

In Victoria, this group of people is now being catered for properly by new government policies and promises of leadership on climate action. In other states, and in other countries, this concerned minority is not being offered any credible solutions, any meaningful tools for action, nor are they presented with any convincing policy plans that could give them at least a bit of hope on the long term. As a result, they feel more and more disconnected from society, or at least from the fossil fuel addicted, climate-ignoring majority.

If you have no one around you who understand or has compassion with your feeling of despair and fear of the future, you enter a path of isolation and helplessness. Psychologists and social workers have a new word for this condition, they call it climate depression. And when, once in a while, that depression drives a person to the point of suicide, this is then called a climate suicide.

Suicide is the leading killer of Australians under the age of 44. It takes seven lives a day. That’s more than cancer and car accidents combined. Someone has calculated that these suicides costs the Australian government $17.2 billion every year.

“Health care professionals are deeply concerned that neither the Coalition nor Labor appear to have any idea of the threat posed by climate change to our physical and mental health.”
Dr Liz Hanna, President of the Climate and Health Alliance

Activists carry the burden for those who can’t bear to feel deeply about the issue, who won’t recognise the urgency of the climate crisis or the scale of action needed. These people can also feel ignored, or abandoned, by their community and their government. They can also feel deep grief about the failure of other citizens to play a role and hold our governments accountable.
With time, that can lead to a mixture of anger, sadness and even despair, especially for young people.
Carol Ride, psychologist

» The Daily Advertiser – 13 November 2016:
Why some people don’t appreciate our dire situation

Climate victims
A friend on Facebook wrote in a comment to a post about the global temperature-rises and the summer Arctic sea ice, which this year has been at its lowest since records began over 125 years ago, that she is depressed about the current political inaction. “All this crap will end up killing us,” she noted.

“Well, most likely it will not kill all of us,” I wrote in my response to her. “But surely, according to the scientists it does look like we are heading for an era where things could get ugly.” Trying to cheer her up turned into a long story, and I guess that story doesn’t begin with trying to paint a rosy picture – it begins with facing the truth, which is that we are now facing unprecedented levels of danger and risk at a global scale.

As we speak, over 65 million people on this planet are displaced from their homes. We are likely soon to be seeing many more millions of “climate victims” and “climate refugees”, in particular in the poorest nations, and conflicts over water and food scarcity. Thousands and thousands of species will go extinct because of the changing environmental conditions. This is happening already and at alarming speed: several hundreds, if not thousands, of species disappear from our planet every year. Disappear for ever. Researchers have warned that by the next century human population on Earth could be reduced to one billion instead of the seven, soon eight, we are now.

The wicked problem with climate change is that it is not the kind of clear-cut catastrophe like if our planet was being hit by a meteor, though. It won’t be happening all at once. The number of annual deaths from extreme weather events, droughts, flooding and forest fires will keep building up gradually, but the worst scenarios are predicted by scientists to happen late in this century and into the next century – which means, quite some time after my generation has been put in the grave anyway.

“What do you call a planet where the temperature sets a new record every month, where the northern ice cap is melting at disastrous pace, where drought and flood have begun to alternate with devastating relentlessness? You call it Earth, in 2016. Australians have had a front row seat to the carnage.”
~ Bill McKibben, American author and climate action thought-leader

Air pollution the world’s single biggest killer
The climate disruptions and extreme weather events we are currently experiencing are the consequence of the air pollution we put into the atmosphere 20-30 years ago. Since then, we have only increased our pollution – and it is keeps rising every year. Some 40 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalents is what we are talking about. We have already locked ourselves in to much worse disruptions in the decades ahead – regardless whether we jump, scream or cry about it, and even if we were to stop polluting the air right now.

But the really bad news, in my opinion, is that we are not even stopping. On the contrary: even with the knowledge we now have about all the climate threats, in 2015, we consumed more fossil fuels than we have ever done before. BP’s Statistical Review reveals this ugly truth about our fossil fuel consumption. It grew 0.6 percent over 2015. Petroleum and natural gas production went up, while global coal production went down one percent. The seemingly small percentage increase is actually a big one when considering it amounts to 127 million tons of fossil fuels. (Source: BP). The World Health Organisation announced earlier this year that globally, our air pollution has gone up eight per cent during the last five years and that it is now the single biggest killer in world.

“You can’t be taken seriously on saving the Great Barrier Reef when you remain committed to opening up new coalmines, which will sign the death warrant of the Great Barrier Reef. You can’t be taken seriously on dangerous global warming and its impact on the Great Barrier Reef when you are committed to taking those huge fossil fuel donations and slashing the renewable energy target.”
~ Richard Di Natale, leader of The Australian Greens

At the moment we witness how the cold regions of the globe are getting warmer, and in a short perspective, for instance the Danes and the Greenlanders are not complaining to be experiencing some warmer weather – newspapers are even reporting that it will be good for the tourism industry in their country. No one seems to be thinking a little further ahead, where sea levels rise are predicted to become a major threat to our livelihood and food production.

Sea levels are rising around the world, and satellite data suggests that one metre or more is already unavoidable in the next 100-200 years, according to NASA’s scientists. Some scientists are talking about the risks of sea levels rising up to three metres already before the end of this century.

No matter how bad it gets, the rich countries will generally have the resources to tackle the changes that are coming. It will primarily be in the poorest areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America that there will be conflicts and many deaths – and this is where refugees pressures will become more and more confrontational.

“According to the World Health Organization, unipolar depressive disorders were ranked as the third leading cause of the global burden of disease in 2004 and will move into the first place by 2030.”
Deborah Wan, president, World Federation for Mental Health


By 2030, depression will outpace cancer, stroke, war and accidents as the world’s leading cause of disability and death, predicts WHO.

“Shifting to renewable energy is essential. But this alone won’t avert climate disaster. Even if we stopped fossil fuel emissions this minute, it would take centuries to bring CO2 down to appropriate levels. Plus, what remains unspoken: We could suck all the CO2 we want out of the atmosphere and still suffer the droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires we now associate with climate change. We’re blind-sided by carbon, as if breaking our fossil fuel addiction were all that’s needed to restore climate dynamics. Climate is too complex to be reduced to a single variable.”
~ Judith Schwartz, 26 August 2016

We are losing
In my opinion, anyone who ends up in a state of ‘climate depression’ is damn right: This doesn’t look good at all. The average temperature graphs globally and locally do not deliver much hope that we are able to change things before they begin to get seriously out of control. Like the American climate activist and author Bill McKibben stated it, “We are losing.”

Even more so, we can’t allow ourselves – or our youth – to enter stages of depression over that. More than ever, this is a time when we need all hands on deck. We need to stop feeling paralysed and get to work. So how do we tackle this?

It appears to me that a cure to climate depression and to the climate crisis in general has something in common: to limit the damage, we need each other. We need to get together, to interact, to learn, to talk, and most importantly, as a result of all that, to change the way we live.

Not just by changing some lightbulbs and start growing some vegetables. We need to change our culture of individualism and consumerism, our blindness to the environmental impact that our lifestyle has.

How is that going to happen?

I think community engagement is the answer. Maybe the only answer. We need to go somewhere, together, where we have never been before as a society. And the good news is that very likely that could become a really positive, enriching and engaging process.

To see the community move from its current state of denial and inaction because of the size of the problem to a new state of confidence and desire to change, taking real steps to reduce our emissions and cultivate a zero carbon society at local level, will require that we learn how to balance the depressing news and future scenarios with the positive news about good, quality-of-life-enhancing elements that The Great Transition holds for us.

“The earth is not dying. It is being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.”
Bruce Duncan ‘Utah’ Phillips (1935–2008), an American folk singer and poet

The climate disruption is a human problem
To counter a climate depression, I would suggest we need to deal with our feeling of guilt as these fossil fuel addicts which we are. It is important that we don’t take the climate change mess onto ourselves with a form of personal guilt. Climate change is happening now because of human irresponsibility, greed, self-interest – and even though we currently more or less all are part of the carbon-polluting problem as fossil fuel consuming car drivers, electricity-users and air plane passengers, it is not your fault that it continues to be this way.

Collectively, we have a responsibility. But first of all, the failure to act stems from a failure of leadership.

The decisions that have allowed air pollution to continue unabashedly, unregulated, although we have been told by science that it will go wrong, are decisions which have been made in oil-gas-coal industry boardrooms, in millionaire villas and behind closed doors in ministries where lobby groups have been making their alliances with our political leaders. This is where we should look for those people who have managed our society with extreme irresponsibility and self-interest, people who for over three decades now has been warned about the consequences of not starting the transition away from fossil fuels, and have chosen to ignore the warnings even so.

I actually think that there will come a day when these leaders will be held accountable for their crimes against humanity. If by that time they are still alive. There is already a tendency that we are moving in that direction, see for instance this article in The Guardian: ICC widens remit to include environmental destruction cases – “In change of focus, Hague court will prosecute government and individuals for environmental crimes…”.

It can all be boiled down to that what we are confronted with now is basically the results of human greed and stupidity. We are not up against some global climate disruption or ‘nature’ going out of control on us, we are up against a small group of our fellow human beings who profit economically from polluting our atmosphere.

We might see a moment of justice one day. We might not. Right now, it doesn’t really matter, because trying to limit greed and stupidity is something we should be doing in any case. And no matter how it turns out, there is no reason why we should go around feeling guilty of causing climate change, because we certainly have had no personal benefit or gains from polluting the atmosphere. On the contrary, thousands of us get sick of the pollution every year. Worldwide, six million people die prematurely because of air pollution every year, according to the World Health Organization.

An example from the United States – which would be laughable if it wasn’t so symptomatic for how this crisis has come about in the first place: Thanks to the fossil fuel industry’s influence over governments, legislators in the state Wyoming has now introduced an entirely new tax based on the assertion that the state owns the wind. Similar absurd anti-renewables regulations can be found all over the world, and the pattern is the same everywhere: Big energy companies are using their influence over government to wage war on the competition from the renewable energy sector.

The devastating bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef due to warmer water is not something that can be dismissed or hidden. Even so, Australia’s politicians keep ticking off on new coal mines.

Australia has its Coalition’s environment committee chairman Craig Kelly saying that he wants wind and solar funding to be redirected to research into ‘technological breakthroughs’ because existing renewables have had so ‘little effect’, in his opinion.

More research into technological breakthroughs within the fields of energy and carbon sequestration is of course desperately needed. But while the Australian government claims it wants to support innovation, it is actually closing down promising research projects in the solar research field, and solar subsidies only make up less than a tenth of the amount currently handed out by the government to the fossil fuel industry.

Redirect these fossil fuel subsidies into research into technological breakthroughs and you would soon see Australia rising on a wave of cleantech revolutions – and strengthened action on climate change as a beneficial result of it. A stroke of a pen could make it all happen. As someone said, it is just a matter of 12 more keystrokes in a computer for the federal government to spend $1,000,000,000,000 rather than just $1 on climate action.

“There is no reason – no political, moral, economic or ethical reason – for this extraordinary abandonment of responsibility by the Government. What we have instead of leadership is cowardice. What we need to become truly a low-emission economy is courage and leadership.”
~ Malcolm Turnbull speaking at the Deakins, on the Politics of Climate Change, in 2010

The climate crime
Pope Francis has been a leader in pointing out our moral duties to protect our common home. With Pope Francis’ words, what we are witnessing in these years is nothing less than a crime against The Creation.

Human greed and mismanagement is not something to be depressed about. It is something to be dealt with. The same way the world dealt with Hitler half a century ago. When we know that the reason we struggle with climate disruptions today is a human crime, we also know exactly what we need to do about it: remove and prosecute the climate criminals.

The fact that climate solutions are being delayed and defunded is not only the most massive and long-standing failure of political leadership, it is a failure to protect. In some cases such failure is a criminal act.

It’s important we understand and that we insist on that the climate mess we’re in now, which threatens both our mood and mental health as well as our physical health, our welfare and our economy, was not created by us, but by our decision-makers.

We have been deceived, manipulated and kept in the dark for decades, while the air pollution has been allowed to continue to rise. We have been passengers on the big ‘climate catastrophe train’ which is running away with us, and until now, each of us have been thinking that we don’t any choice but to take things as they come. “What difference would it make if I’d be jumping of the train and begin to take a bit of personal action on this? That would have no impact on the train’s route or speed whatsoever.” And for that reason, regardless how terrified or frustrated we may be, we just leave it there. Push it away and ignore it. Which is exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants us to.

“Clean energy, important as it is, won’t save us from this nightmare. But rethinking our economic system might. GDP growth has been sold to us as the only way to create a better world. But we now have robust evidence that it doesn’t make us any happier, it doesn’t reduce poverty, and its “externalities” produce all sorts of social ills: debt, overwork, inequality, and climate change. We need to abandon GDP growth as our primary measure of progress, and we need to do this immediately – as part and parcel of the climate agreement that will be ratified in Morocco later this year.”
Jason Hickel, anthropologist at the London School of Economics

» The Guardian – 15 July 2016:
Clean energy won’t save us – only a new economic system can

Growth religion
I guess there is one clear reason why do so few of us take climate change seriously enough to initiate the appropriate behaviour and lifestyle-changes toa become a zero-carbon citizens themselves. We don’t know how we could possibly do this. And our current leaders would be the last ones to tell us, because one thing which they more even obsessed with than protecting the interests of big energy companies is making sure that we keep society’s wheels turning, creating ongoing economic growth.

The global economic system is founded on the illusion that we can continue growth, that we can have infinite growth even though our planet only has a certain limited amount of resources. Despite our increasing knowledge of what causes climate change, and despite the increasingly frequent climate-related so-called ‘natural’ disasters we watch in the tv news every night, we still refuse to make any significant changes in our consumption or our trading patterns. We live the culture of limitlessness. 

Somewhere down the growth-track many of us skipped being religious, or at least it is not something we think too much about, apart from maybe when someone in our family is being baptised, married or dies. In our daily lives we have replaced the role of religion with consumerism and our belief in the Holy Growth. Shopping, expanding. More, bigger.

We have become addicted to a hectic life with increasing demands for speed and growth, which, for example, involves an expectation that flying around the globe is something that one must do at least a couple of times every year, if not more. Spending time overseas is one of the status symbols of our time. At any given moment, more than one million of us are sitting up there above the clouds in an airplane which is spewing out tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Of course, one of us may stop eating red meat on Mondays, another has started cycling back and forth to work, but overall, our sustainability initiatives are modest. Growth has given us a culture we refuse to let go of.

Good part of the story
We need to get down to the root of this, and talk about alternative models. It looks as if the truth about the climate crime is dawning on more and more of us, and this leaves us with new options. It provides opportunities for finding new ways of working together, building new friendships across traditional barriers, and strengthening our local community, while building and developing exciting solutions. It creates new business opportunities and ventures. That’s the really good part of the story.

Even though what awaits us looks like a bloody mess, there are also good things which will come out of a crisis as huge and existential as this one.

Carol Ride from Psychologists for a Safe Climate told me that at their workshops on climate grief they found that participants found it a relief to find other people also felt as they did. “It created a sense of strong connection and a wish to have more connection as many feel quite isolated in their feelings and work. To be able to express how you really feel and have this accepted is key,” Carol Ride said.

There is a beautiful light coming from the end of the dark tunnel we have entered. Once we are through the hardest part of the transition towards zero carbon emissions, which is going to take us the next 20 years or so, then our ability and inclination to innovate is not going to stop there. By the time when our renewable energy sources run by themselves and provide us with endless streams of pollution-free cheap energy from the sky and the waters, we could of course just put our feet up, lean back and enjoy it. But I reckon that is not what is going to happen. Because we still have a major issue with all that carbon we have filled with atmosphere with over a period of more than 150 years. The gigatonnes of greenhouse gases which we have left hanging up there as our legacy.

With the transition properly on track, we will be able to put our collective focus and attention on how we can pull serious amounts of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere again, “repair the broken climate”, so to say – so that we’ll have more peace on Earth as far as the severe weather events are concerned, and the conflicts between us that arise from scarcity of water and food.

It is not a ‘nice-to-do’, it is a ‘need-to-do’ if we don’t want to risk the most dangerous of the global warming temperature feedback loops where the melting tundra releases enormous amounts of methane into the atmosphere that could trigger an even more devastating runaway catastrophe.

At the moment, humanity is responsible for adding around 50 billion tonnes extra CO2-equivalents of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere every year. All that needs to come out again, unless we accept that we have already today committed the planet to as much as 7°C degrees of warming in the next 1,000 years.

We don’t know yet how this CO2-drawdown can be done. Planting some more trees will not be anywhere near sufficient. But the point is: we have to get to work. It will not be an easy or cheap task, but we are forced to find ways to do it. And… Because we simply have to, what our history so far has shown us is, that eventually we will do it. We are humans. One thing about us humans is that the closer we come to death, the more we want to live. The more we are prepared to do what is necessary, by all means.

To avoid getting depressed by all the disaster-talk, a recipe could maybe be to stop spending your free time on various distractions on your own while you ignore those gloomy graphs, videos and the news about what is happening to our world and how impossible it will be to change the course.

Instead, start connecting with others, and together with them focus on the stuff that matters now: the great transition, the change towards sustainable living, circular economy, recycling and cycling, localising and sharing, and how you can not only contribute but become ahead of the game.

You need to take your time to figure out what is going on – read, watch, listen, learn, educate yourself – so that you understand the truth about our messy climate reality and the climate criminals who created it, and at the same time you will discover that the solutions are cropping up everywhere. So many great change-makers are already involved with this movement, projects are blossoming, and there are lots of meaningful reasons to be optimistic, there are new gains and wins to be celebrated and enjoyed.

Connection with our community
Understanding the history of energy, as Richard Heinberg explains it in this 13-minute TEDx presentation, is a reasonable place to start. He says:

“Here is the good news: It is not extracting more and more raw materials and energy from the environment that makes us happy. It is the quality of our relationships. Our sense of continuity between past and future generations. Our connection with our community – the people around us. That is what makes life worthwhile.

We can have more of those things without degrading the planet that we live upon. Every community already has the elements of a new post-carbon economy. Whether it is the farmers’ market. Or community credit unions that invest locally.”
Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute

If there is one thing that the climate crisis teaches us it is that when we get together and do things together we actually can achieve some amazing results. The COP21-film ‘Tomorrow’ is a good eye-opener in relation to that part of the story. It showcases some examples of what is going on at the moment.

The four-minute video that crowdfunded the documentary film ‘Tomorrow’

Mobilisation, not battle
We won’t need some kind of a hero or saviour to come and save us or ‘save the world’. Politics don’t see themselves able to change anything unless they learn from the independent polls that they have the numbers needed to back their actions.

This means we need to step in collectively. We need to get organised, because this will make us – and the elected leaders – realise that already, so many people are beginning to step in, and we are all doing our bit. As the ‘ABC for mental health’ says, we also need to get our workplaces, our business leaders, in on this – we need it all to come together. This is what will make us achieve our goals.

ABC for mental health

A. Do something active
B. Do something together
C. Do something meaningful
and D. Do it during working hours!

We don’t have to be some kind of heroes in a climate battle. We just need to do what we can. Be ordinary human beings. But be organised, and stay organised. Keep adding the numbers of others who are doing the same.

When we perceive this as some kind of a “climate battle”, its an easy road to depression, because we’ve probably already lost at least the first and most important rounds in that battle. The climate emergency is already here, because we were not able to stop the destructive fossil fuel industry in time. We, the people, were too slow to demand our leaders to change their course. We have been unfocused, because we have been made to believe there aren’t any solutions anyway.

This is not a “battle” in the traditional sense – or if it is, it is a battle where there will only be losers. Life as we know it on this planet is the loser. Even those fossil fools who sacrifised the Earth’s climate safety for personal gain are going to lose out eventually, unless we manage to change this course.

“People are great at rising to the occasion in an emergency. If you happen to be there when a fire or flood occurs, chances are you’ll pitch in alongside emergency service workers to do whatever is needed. Neighbours help neighbours, and strangers help strangers.

We are now in the biggest emergency ever – the climate emergency. Already people are dying and ecosystems are being destroyed.

We know what needs to be achieved – right now – and we already have the technology to do it. We must face up to climate facts, go into emergency mode, and throw everything we’ve got at restoring a safe climate.

We know from our experience of full-scale wartime mobilisations that amazing economic transformations can be achieved in just a few years when we face an existential threat. Let’s demand equally strong leadership and action from our peacetime government in order to protect everything we love.

Join us in petitioning the Australian Parliament to declare a climate emergency and mobilise society-wide resources at sufficient scale and speed to protect civilisation, the economy, people, species, and ecosystems.”
The Climate Emergency Mobilisation initiative

This is a mobilisation and a transition, where we can all become winners if we manage to step up that transition at emergency speed and organise our campaign – if we understand that this is the moment where parents must mobilise their own families, show what is possible at home and in the local community, enter the local community stages and spread the word about this, and those who have the skills to speak up must take it one step further and enter the political stage.

If you don’t like the parties available, then start your own party. Not because that will revolutionise politics overnight, but because it is the beginning of creating a new conversation in our society.

Here’s some inspiration to that end, coming from Europe – a UK cross-party initiative which addresses the appetite and mechanics for the cooperation needed to help us live within Earth’s limits:

“A new more plural, progressive politics, capable of supporting the changes needed to prevent climate disaster, itself needs a new economic model, judged not by how quickly it grows, but by how well it allows us all to thrive within planetary environmental boundaries.”
~ Andrew Simms, author and analyst

» The Guardian – 9 September 2016:
A new type of politics could help prevent climate disaster

Questioning the basic competence of our leaders from the audience rows is no longer enough. We need to step in and become community leaders ourselves, to turn our knowledge, conviction and moral values into political action. We must help change the members in our governments, so that we can stop all investment in fossil fuel projects, move subsidies into zero carbon technologies, and generally invest in what helps us kick our fossil fuel addiction.

Take2 in Victoria, the Climate Emergency Mobilisation in Australia, and The Climate Mobilization in the United States are places where we can pledge to mobilise – which is an important first step along the path to pressuring governments to protect us, our children and the generations to come.

What can follow from this, among many other things, is the creation of new alliances and lots of public pressure on our favourite broadcasters and media houses. It is time they begin to think climate solutions and environmental news coverage into all subject areas. They have the platforms which could cultivate an ongoing conversation about how the transition to a sustainable society can take place. They don’t need Climate War Rooms, they need Climate Solutions Rooms, and their leaders need to prioritise and allocate resources accordingly.

I would claim that being worried and getting depressed over our climate situation is nothing but a healthy reaction to the troubled times we live in. We are experiencing unprecedented threats and disruption. But that worry should push us to act on the worrying issues, not fall back in apathy.

Medication and treatment in the health system will not ‘cure’ a climate depression. Creating connectedness with an active community working on solutions will. Socialising and creating mobilisation based on humility, empathy, courage, generosity and humour will – in particular when we are able to establish a deep and rich sense of shared planetary, intergenerational and intercultural responsibility, where we make sure that everyone, and every generation, is being seen, heard and valued.

This is the great thing we can appreciate about the climate emergency: While it brings us to work together on reducing our carbon emissions and our environmental footprint, both at personal and local level, we are at the same time creating a safer, more inclusive and more resilient community around us and our families. We are connecting with what it means to be human.

We are building relationships. Financial wealth created with pollution and shortcuts didn’t make us happy. Science tells us that happiness stems from the quality of our relationships, not from economic growth and a new phone every year, and a new car every fourth year.

What we need from our leaders – from our health system, from the Mental Health Week, and from all authorities – is to give us qualified advice on how we best start this journey towards carbon-freedom.

When we move from feeling helpless to becoming a helper ourselves, we realise our potential. We thrive from a sense of togetherness, sharing, giving. Mental health and wellbeing are two very potent change-makers.

“Whether it’s through sport (GO DOGS!) or work or music or gardening or just fucking saying ‘Hello, how are you?’ to your neighbour or shopkeeper or the homeless person in front of you, it doesn’t matter – we need to find, and re-find, and foster ways to craft a better ‘we’ (well said Tim).
It’s going to take the serious work of finding and re-finding ways of sharing and negotiating this world so that each of us have enough, and it needs practical and tangible ways to demonstrate and enact this. It’ll take compassion and patience and love and openness and solidarity.”
~ Dan Musil

8–15 October 2016 is Mental Health Week in Australia

The theme for 2016 is Act–Belong–Commit, with a focus on suicide prevention. Here is a list of ideas of activities/events that you can do in your school, workplace, club, community group or friendship network. 
Get your organisation involved in Mental Health Week 2016. It’s an opportunity to promote awareness about mental health and wellbeing, and equip people with the right information.

Barwon Mental Health Week in Geelong
This year’s objective for Barwon Mental Health Week is to encourage connectedness on all levels: between our mental and physical health, with our community, between organisations and groups and with mental health drugs and alcohol services.

Report: ‘Sustainable Happiness’

Click on image to download reportWe hear more and more about that we need to think about the environment and that it is a good idea to sort our waste. But did you know that your waste – and sorting it – could possibly make you happier?

This is what new research from Denmark suggests.

The Happiness Research Institute is a Danish think tank that studies well-being and quality of life. Together with researchers in other countries are trying to find explanations as to why some countries and some people are more satisfied with their lives – happier – than others.

In collaboration with the Danish Ministry for the Environment the institute last week published a 54-page report entitled ‘Sustainable Happiness – Why waste prevention can lead to an increase in quality of life’.

It is in English language, because it is particularly written in the hope that it might be read in the UN system, which has called for gaining better understanding of the relationship between well-being and sustainability.

Chapter by chapter, the Danish happiness researchers show that there is a connection between what you do with your waste, and how happy you are. Those who sort their waste appear to be happier than those who do not.

Meik Wiking

Meik Wiking is director of the The Happiness Research Institute. In this skype interview he explains what it is that they have concluded in the report, and what it was that led them to produce it in the first place.

» Right-click here to download the audio file

» Download the 54-page report (PDF):

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Giving. Relating. Awareness. Exercising. Trying out. Resilience. Direction. Acceptance. Meaning. Emotions…

The British Mental Health First Aid created this poster based on the Australian Action for HappinessTen Keys, which show some of the practical things we all can do to look after our mental wellbeing:


       Do things for others

       Connect with people

       Take care of your body

       Live life mindfully

       Keep learning new things


       Have goals to look forward to

       Find ways to bounce back

       Look for what’s good

       Be comfortable with who you are

       Be part of something bigger


These ‘Ten Keys to Happier Living’ are based on a review of the latest research from psychology and related fields – not on what we need to do to be able to deal with and tackle the climate emergency. However, as this blogpost has hopefully hinted, the list will not have to be modified at all to fit perfectly for this purpose just as well.

Except maybe that under ‘Acceptance’ it could also be mentioned to be if not comfortable then at least at some sort of peace with the fact that our world now is in a deep crisis. It is not something which will go away by us denying or ignoring it, we need to look the monster in the eye. So even though we’ve all been part of the fossil fuel scheme, where we are now is certainly not your fault. The responsibility lies on our political leaders, and they must be held accountable for this crime they have committed in alliance with the fossil fuel industry – but that is another story. As long as you are doing your bit, you can’t take the misery of the entire world on your shoulders. We will all be in need of a fair bit of acceptance in order to stay afloat and cope with the challenges of this man-made climate crisis.

» Learn more on

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Climate calamity: suicide rates will rise

“We are familiar, perhaps too much so, with the adverse effects of climate change upon our natural environment. Most every day we learn of increased erosion, acidification, and some unfortunate kind of caterpillar that will not survive the impending endless summer. But that’s not even the half of it.

Crime will rise – and so will violence. We will develop new moral and psychological problems. Suicide rates will rise…”

» TED – 2 May 2014:
12 things you didn’t know are about to change forever


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Climate change: Chronic problem for society

“Maintaining temperatures below the 1.5°C guardrail requires significant and very rapid cuts in carbon dioxide emissions or co-ordinated geo-engineering. That is very unlikely. We are not even yet making emissions cuts commensurate with keeping warming below 2°C. This is a chronic problem for society for the next 100 years.”
~ Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies

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Climate Grief workshops

Psychology for a Safe Climate has arranged two follow up workshops to the Climate Grief workshop. This is in response to the requests for more opportunity for people to have time together with like-minded folk, where feelings can be openly expressed, and where time can be given to care for oneself as a climate activist.

So we have come up with two workshops this year:

Care, Connection and Compassion:
Place: Kathleen Syme Centre, in Carlton, corner of Cardigan and Faraday Streets, Melbourne.

Workshop 1: Sat October 15th, 3.30 pm to 6pm – RSVP HERE

Workshop 2: Sat November 26th, 3.00pm to 5.30pm – RSVP HERE
Psychology for a Safe Climate ask for a donation of $3 to $5 to help cover rent expenses.

These workshops are open to those who participated in the Climate Grief workshop at Ceres on 13 August 2016, and to any other members of the climate movement who would like to attend.

Max 30 participants, so it is important to make sure you book a place.

There will be a waiting list once the events fill up. If you want to be on the waiting list please email.

The two workshops will be different from each other (and from the Climate Grief workshop) so you can attend both or one.

Psychology for a Safe Climate plans to run another Climate Grief workshop in the new year, as there have been a number of requests. Let us know if you want to be included.

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» ThinkProgress – 21 November 2016:
How to stay sane in the face of climate change
“Physical consequences aren’t the only danger of the climate crisis.”

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Highlighting our local change-makers

New Geelong enterprise to cultivate values of creativity, empathy, connectedness and engagement

The Humans in Geelong Facebook page – ‘Connecting People within our Community’ – was set up by Jacqui Bennett, a Geelong teacher who was inspired by similar pages such as Humans of Melbourne and Humans of New York.

The stories report on everyday people in Geelong who are taking action in a variety of ways, giving back and making a difference. This includes shedding light on causes, however small or obscure, that may not be covered in the mainstream media.

Listen here to Humans in Geelong founder and voluntary coordinator Jacqui Bennett being interviewed by Robert Hamilton-Jones. » Download mp3 file

Jacqui and a few friends comprise a small team of ‘Not-for-Profit’ volunteers who aim to inspire by reporting on these ‘good news’ stories in our home town Geelong and the Greater Geelong area. They plan to launch a website soon to make the stories easily accessible to all.


Circulate the news to others who would share the values of Creativity, Empathy, Connectedness and Engagement.

» Like and Share the Facebook page:

» Email story ideas to


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The place to start connecting is right here – at your computer screen

Setting up a digital ‘community hub’ can be a great way to get started with increasing the connectivity and local engagement in your own community, With the rise of technological communications the use of a local email list to share news sell and swap things, support local campaigns, organise dinner rosters, advertise events and run food co-ops benefits all who are part of it.

Newlands Community News is an example of such an initiative. It started as a mailinglist and today runs as a website used by around 190 families living in and around North Coburg sharing all sorts of news from the Newlands and surroundings, joining people together regularly in communication about local events.

Every few months a clothes swap is organised to raise funds for local needs, the clothes swap is advertised via the list and people get together and get rid of unwanted things and collect whatever they like the look of. “It’s wonderful, all of our children are continually sharing their clothes! The leftover clothes are donated to a not-for-profit organisations that send the clothes to the Phillipines – this was suggested by yet another local!,” writes Mel Alexander who runs the Newlands Community News.

The community email list started with six email addresses in 2007. What began as an email list for keeping in contact with people in our newly formed fruit and vegetable co-op, grew into an email list of large proportions that provides a wonderful service to a lot of people in the community. Today it runs as a daily blog where the relevant community information is shared in a highly accesible, easily scaleable way, which can be tailored to the specific local context.

“This week I bought locally made bread and honey, both beautifully delicious. I picked each up from a front veranda and in one case met someone on the list that I had never met face to face. People come to the list in different ways and the list has thus changed into something I could not have imagined some five years ago. I have made many new friends and I have marvelled at watching the list grow and evolve.”

» Newlands Community News:

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Insurance report on resilience

IAG is the leading general insurer in Australia and New Zealand. They have a long history of working with communities to understand and prevent risks, accidents and loss. Recently they toured eight of Australia’s urban, regional and rural areas asking community and resilience experts what resilience means and what it takes to create more of it in a community. The results of the tour and a survey were published in a report in November 2016. In summary, they found that trust and connection in the community is key:

What is resilience?
A resilient community has the collective capacity to successfully adapt, and potentially become stronger, in response to adversity or change.

What creates resilience?
Belonging and connection. The ability to welcome, and create trust between people of different ages, backgrounds and abilities.

What gets in the way?
Disharmony. A community loses resilience when it lacks the sense of ‘togetherness’ and shared values that allow it to celebrate diversity while working together for a common purpose.

» See the full report

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What the next generation really needs

Kirrilie Smout, Director and Founder of Developing Minds, talks about how to reconnect kids with nature and what are the skills children needed to learn to be ready to tackle global challenges.

Podcast: ‘Learning from Trees: Life Lessons for Future Generations’
Guest: Kirrilie Smout
Presenter: Henry Acosta

Children become more disconnected with nature in such a way we’ve never seen before. Gadgets, technology, and busy schedule of parents contribute to this disconnect. In line with the celebration of the National Tree Day this 30 July 2017, Planet Ark is releasing ‘Learning from Trees: Life Lessons for Future Generations’, a report that examines how prepared our next generation is to tackle major global challenges, such as climate change.

» Ecovoice – 14 July 2017:
The three skills kids need most in the age of climate change

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Description of the mobilisation

In the United States, The Climate Mobilization has publised a ‘Victory Plan’ which demonstrates how the U.S. could eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, contribute to a global effort to restore a safe climate and reverse ecological overshoot. It would require a mobilisation of a scale like what the U.S. went through during the Second World War, as well as a comprehensive, economy-wide ‘Apollo Program’ policy initiative.

According to The Climate Mobilization, the mobilisation called for in the ‘Victory Plan’ is firmly based in the most advanced climate science and offers an extensive overview of the policies necessary to be implemented in every sector.

“It may not have every measure right and it will further evolve as society researches and develops the plan, but it provides a clear and practical sense of what such an approach would really look and feel like. It shows us how we can win the war to save civilization,” writes The Climate Mobilization.

Paul Gilding, author and former head of Greenpeace International, has contributed to the paper with an introduction.


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» CAHA discussion paper on climate and health

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Sources and recommended reading:

» The Guardian – 12 October 2016:
Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That’s what’s wrenching society apart
“Epidemics of mental illness are crushing the minds and bodies of millions. It’s time to ask where we are heading and why.” Opinion piece by George Monbiot

» Scientific American – 16 August 2016:
Are We Feeling Collective Grief Over Climate Change?
“The idea is highly controversial, but at least one psychiatrist is convinced that we are, whether we know it or not.”

» New Matilda – 24 August 2016:
Climate War: The Best Of Days, The Worst Of Days, But Hopefully Not The End Of Days

» The Guardian – 22 August 2016:
Historical documents reveal Arctic sea ice is disappearing at record speed

» The New York Times – 20 August 2016:
Think It’s Hot Now? Just Wait

» The Guardian – 15 July 2016:
Clean energy won’t save us – only a new economic system can
“Infinite growth is a dangerous illusion”

» The Guardian – 7 June 2016:
The Great Barrier Reef: a catastrophe laid bare

» State of the Transition – May 2016:
Talk of twilight

– unofficial Facebook page about Bill McKibben’s article ‘A World at War’, where he wrote: “We’re under attack from climate change – and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in World War II”.

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The encyclical – one year after

In 2015, Pope Francis – the spiritual leader to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics – issued an encyclical called ‘Laudato Si’ – On Care of our Common Home. Although rooted in the long and deep tradition of Catholic social teaching, this encyclical is addressed not only to Catholics, but to all people of the world. In blunt terms, it draws attention to the nature of the grave ecological crisis that humanity has created, and it issues a moral clarion call for urgent action to protect the earth and its inhabitants from ruin.
No encyclical has ever captured the imagination of the world like this one. Part of the reason for this lies in its timing — issued in the months leading up to adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the last-ditch climate negotiations in Paris. In many ways, ‘Laudato Si’ can be read as a moral charter for sustainable development. It provides a firm ethical foundation for actions that need to be taken urgently at all levels — global, national, local, and personal too. This is what makes it so important.

» Read more about The Encyclical

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Air pollution: the billion dollar industry

The World Bank has released a new report, ‘The Cost of Air Pollution : Strengthening the Economic Case for Action’, highlighting the fact that air pollution costs world governments billions upon billions every year and ranks among the leading causes of death worldwide. Why do we put up with it?


Death in the Air: Air pollution costs money and lives

“Air pollution has emerged as the fourth-leading risk factor for deaths worldwide. While pollution-related deaths mainly strike young children and the elderly, these deaths also result in lost labor income for working-age men and women. The loss of life is tragic. The cost to the economy is substantial.” | via The World Bank #AirPollution #Health #Economy

» Read more at:

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Other blogposts in this series


» 29 September 2016:
Climate inaction linked to culture of cutting corners

» 29 August 2016:
Let’s meet and greet our local climate sceptics with confidence – and a smile

» 29 August 2016:
What’s Geelong’s future? Here’s inspiration from Denmark

» 29 June 2015:
The Tonystralian paradox

» More…