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Environment, Mental Health

Monash’s “What Happens Next?” podcast series explores the urgent issue of climate anxiety

Monash University 3 mins read

The global climate change crisis isn’t just an environmental issue – it's also a growing mental health concern. In a thought-provoking new series, Monash University's “What Happens Next?” podcast, hosted by Dr Susan Carland, delves deep into the topic of climate anxiety and its profound implications for individuals and society.

This three-part series kicks off by addressing climate anxiety head-on. Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie defines climate anxiety as a rational concern about our future – or the lack thereof.

Dr Rhonda Garad, of Monash’s Centre for Health Research and Implementation, discusses the impact of climate anxiety on young people, noting that we’ve never seen a mental health condition quite like it and that climate change-based anxiety is influencing young adults to make major life decisions very early.

Ecologist Dr Susie Ho, a regular United Nations Conference of the Parties attendee and Monash’s UN focal point, discusses the anger and powerlessness felt by young activists due to ineffective action and a dearth of avenues available to them in the halls of power.

Professor Alan Reid, of Monash’s Faculty of Education, highlights how climate anxiety differs from previous global threats such as the nuclear menace of the Cold War, emphasising its long-term nature and insufficient government and corporate responses. And Kelly O'Shanassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, underscores how these entities have fallen short in addressing climate change.

In part two of the series, Susan and her expert guests are able to offer listeners some hope and empowerment in the face of this shared existential threat.

Rhonda and Alan focus on overcoming science literacy barriers and making climate engagement more accessible. Dr Rebecca Huntley, author of How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference, emphasises the importance of choosing hope over despair.

Amanda McKenzie provides practical steps for individuals to contribute to meaningful change, including using their voice, supporting ethical investments and volunteering. Kelly encourages connecting with like-minded individuals and shares a few of the moments that have brought her hope and shown her that the needle is indeed moving in the right direction.

Finally, part three of this series explores the intersection of climate anxiety and art, uncovering how creative expression can be a powerful outlet for emotions and a source of community.

Doctors Anna McMichael and Louise Devenish from Monash University's Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music and Performing Arts discuss “Climate Notes,” a project combining letters from climate scientists and ordinary people with original musical compositions. These “musical letters” provide a moving outlet for expressing the emotional and psychological impacts of climate change.

Literary scholar Professor Adeline Johns-Putra discusses the role of climate fiction, or “cli-fi,” in fostering empathy and awareness by exploring diverse perspectives on climate change.

Ultimately, audiences are left feeling validated – climate anxiety’s a natural response to the climate crisis – but empowered. The future’s not set in stone. It's shaped by the actions we take today.

  • “The scale of anxiety is big. It's particularly pronounced in young people and it's only escalating.” - Dr Rhonda Garad
  • “Climate change isn't just a science issue or a technology issue. It's about, how do we want to live together well? And once we start asking those questions, then climate will naturally come up. We don't have to focus on a crisis. We can focus on, what kind of society do we want to live in?” - Professor Alan Reid
  • “Climate anxiety is important because it can, I think, be galvanised. You have to be worried about something to act on it.” – Professor Adeline Johns-Putra

Please feel free to repost, embed, or refer to the podcast where it can support your stories:

What Happens Next? explores some of the biggest challenges of the day. Academic and commentator Dr Susan Carland steps through the sliding doors with global experts and thought leaders to find out what could happen if we don’t change, and what the world could look like if we do. 

In January 2023, it was recognised with a Gold Award for Documentary under the Branded Shows and Advertising category of the inaugural global Signal Awards, alongside other high-profile podcast creators including Apple, HBO, Netflix and media powerhouses like the New York Times, Bloomberg and the ABC.
What Happens Next? is available on all major podcast platforms. Explore the podcast’s back catalogue.


- ENDS -

RESEARCHERS

Dr Susan Carland, Lecturer of Language, Literature, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University
Dr Rhonda Garad, head of education and research translation, Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation
Associate Professor Susie Ho, Director of the Monash Innovation Guarantee
Dr Alan Reid, Professor, School of Curriculum Teaching & Inclusive Education, Monash University
Dr Anna McMichael, Lecturer of Performance Classical, Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music, Monash University
Dr Louise Devenish, Senior Lecturer of Performance Classical, Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music, Monash University
Dr Adeline Johns-Putra, Professor and Head of School, School of Arts & Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia

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T: +61 (0) 3 9903 4840
E: media@monash.edu

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