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 

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 (

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.

2022 was a big year!

It’s been a really busy year at Coutts J&R and probably one of the main reasons I didn’t meet my goal of writing at least one blog post a month. So to make up for it (in a very small way) I thought I’d share some of our highlights over the last year.

Growing our work in the agricultural climate change space, particularly with our projects in the Future Drought Fund (FDF) including Climate Services for Agriculture (CSA), Regional Drought Resilience Planning (RDRP), Farm Business Resilience Planning (FBRP) and the Southern NSW Drought Hub.

Setting up and embedding data collection and management systems into a range of projects to ensure the right data can be collected for reporting against objectives. A shout out to the SNSW Drought Hub, FBRP, and CSA projects in particular for their hard work with us on this. MEL reporting will be that much easier as a result!

Presenting at the Australasian Evaluation Society conference in August/September was a highlight for me. I was able to use some emerging findings from my PhD and apply these to evaluation. My presentation was called: Social media as an evaluation, listening and monitoring tool case study: Instagram, Australian farming women, social media and climate change.

Our ongoing work with the Queensland Drought and Climate Adaptation Program. This has independently been recognised as a standout program and through a robust MEL approach it has been shown to be achieving a high level of impact in northern Australia.

As part of our work with the Resilient EP (soil moisture) project in South Australia, Jeff and Ben attended the March 2022 Regional Innovator Group workshop in Port Lincoln. The project was entering its final year and attending in person provided valuable insights into the project and its progress, as well as an opportunity to interact with the project team. Jeff facilitated a session focused on reviewing the M&E framework targets and key project outcomes, while Ben presented the findings of the most recent M&E report – both receiving positive feedback by those attending.

We were very pleased attend the 2022 Australian Pacific Extension Network (APEN) conference and sponsor the Amabel Fulton award for Excellence in Extension by a Young Professional. The two very worthy joint winners were Sarah Thompson (Dairy Australia) and Jodie Ward (Dept Agriculture and Fisheries, Qld).

And that just about wraps it up for 2022. Hope you have a restful and rejuvenating holiday season and we wish you all the best for 2023!

Looking for the good

I’ve been a little overwhelmed over the year, as I’m sure many have, with the sheer amount of news (mostly negative) that is avalanching over us all the time. I think we are constantly in fight or flight mode and it’s exhausting!

In the latest edition of the very good Galah magazine, editor Annabelle Hickson talks about her husband listening to positive podcasts while planting on his tractor, and the feeling of being buoyed by hope. She’s planting flowers that aren’t drought tolerant, but doesn’t care, because it’s enough to enjoy them now. Even though times change, and we don’t all experience good things at the same time, it’s not bad to look for things in the world to be hopeful about.

This inspired me (thanks Annabelle) and at the end of the year I’m tired of the dire news and have been actively looking for more positive stories and things to be hopeful about – and there is some good inspiration out there.

I’ve made a short list of what I’ve found today and I hope they provide some bright spots for you.

Can I finish with this quote which was shared by @extraordinary_routines on Instagram. It is most excellent.

Who doesn’t love a good cartoon?

Cartoon from:

Every week I receive an email newsletter from Chris Lysy who authors a blog called freshspectrum. He’s focused on evaluation and demystifying the data analysis and presentation process. A key way he communicates ideas is through cartoons and sometimes the insights he shares are very close to the mark of what I’ve experienced and I have to laugh!

Chris also shares some good basic ‘how to’ resources on the blog such as:

So I thought I would share a couple of my favourites as we all need more reasons to have a chuckle these days. And check out the blog if you have a few spare minutes.