Episode 1: Facing Down Climate Grief
The age of climate crisis is upon us, and grief and anxiety are on the rise. Our pilot episode introduces the emotional burden of climate change, and why despair leaves so many people unable to respond to this existential threat. Overcoming that paralysis is the first step in moving to action, and yet official climate strategies rarely address this emotional toll. Meanwhile, frontline communities — particularly people of color, indigenous communities, and other historically-marginalized groups — are experiencing the heaviest mental health impacts of climate disruption and displacement.
"To be numb to the world is another form of suicide."
-Terry Tempest Williams
Written and narrated by Jennifer Atkinson
Music by Roberto David Rusconi
Produced by Intrasonus UK
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England
Dr. Jennifer Atkinson is a professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, where she leads seminars that help students cope with the despair, anger, and anxiety that arise from environmental loss and mass extinction. Her teaching and research have helped activists, scientists, and students build resilience to stay engaged in climate solutions and avoid burnout. She has also spoken to audiences across the U.S. about the global mental health crisis arising from climate disruption, and advocated for addressing emotional impacts in the fight for environmental justice. This episode introduces some of the experiences and insights behind that work, and explores how we can move the public to action by addressing the psychological roots of our unprecedented ecological loss.
References and Further Reading:
American Psychological Association, Climate Change's Toll On Mental Health. 2017
Making the Connection: Climate Changes Mental Health. Mollie Marti, PhD, JD, Susan Clayton, PhD, MS, and Lise Van Susteren, MD. American Public Health Association. 2019
The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program. GlobalChange.Gov, 2016
Susan Clayton. Mental health risk and resilience among climate scientists. Nature Climate Change 8, 260–261 (2018).
Susan Saulny. A Legacy of the Storm: Depression and Suicide. New York Times. June 21, 2006
Alison C. McLeish and Kevin S. Del Ben. Symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder in an outpatient population before and after Hurricane Katrina. October 29, 2007
Ashlee Cunsolo and N. Ellis. Hope and Mourning in the Anthropocene: Understanding Ecological Grief. The Conversation. 2018
Ashlee Cunsolo and N. Ellis. Ecological Grief as a Mental Health Response to Climate Change-related Loss. Nature Climate Change, 8:275–281. 2018
Kristina Dahl. Feeling Blue About Climate Change? You’re Not Alone. Union of Concerned Scientists. EcoWatch. 2018
Clayton Aldern. How climate change is messing with your mind. Crosscut. August 28, 2018.
Livia Albeck-Ripka. Why Lost Ice Means Lost Hope for an Inuit Village. New York Times, Nov. 25, 2017.
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’ 2019.
Glenn Albrecht. "The age of solastalgia." The Conversation. Aug 2012.
Ciara O'Rourke. Climate Change’s Hidden Victim: Your Mental Health. Medium, Jan 2019.
Heather Hansman. The 4 Stages of Climate Grief. Outside, Nov 8, 2019.