Connecting Climate Minds: Climate change and mental health

Yesterday I was invited to attend a virtual dialogue and the start of a community of practice looking at climate change and mental health. The dialogue was part of a year-long Wellcome Trust-funded global project – Connecting Climate Minds – which aims to catalyse research and action at the nexus of climate change and mental health. The project is hosting dialogues in different regions all over the world to draw from as wide a range of experiences as possible.

The event I took part in included over 50 people from all around Australia and the Pacific with a goal to start developing a research and action agenda addressing key gaps in understanding the links between climate change and mental health. The next dialogue in October will start looking at actionable ways forward which will feed into global spaces such as COP28 and the World Health Assembly.

It was so interesting to hear from others about their experiences and knowledge from working and being personally impacted from climate change. It’s clear that climate change impacts are only gathering pace as are the impacts on people’s wellbeing – and there are some big research gaps. I think the global co-learning approach of this project is a positive way forward. If you’re interested in keeping up with this project, please fill in the contact form or send an email to the project manager (Suhailah Ali at suhailah.ali@uq.net.au). 

One topic that came up was positive adaptions to climate change, empowering people and the messaging associated with that. We are seeing this approach to some extent in agricultural projects that focus on providing the tools and promoting strategies for producers to take control and proactively make on-farm decisions around future climate impacts such as drought.

These practice focused projects and programs are important however, I’m wondering if there might be an opportunity to more overtly include social and wellbeing outcomes? For example, as part of my PhD research, Australian farming women indicated that they experienced a positive impact on their wellbeing as a result of taking action to change farming practices to better deal with climate extremes – particularly drought. How can links between taking action in relation climate impacts and improving mental health be better made in the rural and agricultural space? If this could be done, would it encourage more on farm climate adaptations? I’d be interested to hear what you think (amy@couttsjr.com.au).

Australian Government Drought Plan

The Australian Government has posted the feedback it’s received from its first round of consultation on how to improve the next drought plan to support farmers and farming communities across the drought cycle . The 18 recommendations made in response to stakeholder feedback can be seen here with the next consultation round in 2024.

These findings are interesting for us as we work across a range of regional, state and national programs focused on drought resilience and climate change adaptations – particularly in the agricultural context. How the Australian Government approaches its drought planning impacts on the funding available and the types of projects that get run.

Recommendation 17 talks about including mechanisms on how information can be better shared in relation to drought impacts and responses across government and non-government players. We’ve seen the importance of this, particularly as people on the ground dealing with the impacts of drought day in and day out, can find the multitudes of projects and programs confusing in terms of what is being offered and how to access these offerings. Finding and developing synergies between programs and projects can only improve outcomes for those who are dealing with stressful drought situations and increase the effectiveness of funding.

FDF 2021-2022 Annual Report published

The Future Drought Fund (FDF) has published its second annual report. It shows how progress is being made across all the FDF programs and outlines learnings that will contribute to the direction of its funding cycle. It’s good to see recognition of the foundations being set by the programs and the establishment of networking and collaborations which are necessary for their growth and success. Through our work with a number of the FDF programs, we’ve seen that these first couple of years have really been establishment phases, with groundwork being undertaken to facilitate growing momentum over the coming years. Most of these programs are playing the long game, and we’re looking forward to seeing their hard work pay off.

Call for abstracts for the 26th European Seminar on Extension Education (ESEE)

ESEE is a biennial conference about agricultural advice and education and aims to support discussions between science and practice. The 2023 conference is being held in Toulouse, France July 10-13, and is now calling for abstracts. The theme of the 2023 conference is “Sustainability transitions of agriculture and the transformation of education and advisory services: convergence or divergence?” The deadline for submission is 17 February 2023.

To find out more visit the conference website.

Toulouse, France (image from: https://www.toulouse-visit.com/)