Dr Susan Clayton - SUU APEX - March 26, 2024

Dr. Susan Clayton

March 26, 2024
The Great Hall

Susan Clayton is Whitmore-Williams Professor of Psychology and chair of Environmental Studies at the College of Wooster. Her PhD, in social psychology, is from Yale University. She has authored or edited five books, including the Oxford Handbook of Environmental and Conservation Psychology (2012), Conservation Psychology (with Gene Myers; 2nd edition in press), and Identity and the Natural Environment (2003, with Susan Opotow). She co-authored the American Psychological Association (APA) reports on “Psychology and Global Climate Change” and “Psychological Impacts of Climate Change.” Clayton is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, of which she is also president-elect.


Psychology in Climate Change
By: Christina Schweiss

The final Ask. Ponder. Educate. [X]. event of the semester occurred on March 26. It featured Susan Clayton, Whitmore-Williams Professor of Psychology and chair of Environmental Studies at the College of Wooster.

Clayton was this year's Festival of Excellence keynote speaker and her presentation was called "Psychology and Climate Change: Understanding Impacts and Responses."

Clayton began her presentation and explained that “Climate change is such a significant thing that everybody should be involved in addressing it – everybody should be thinking about it and how it relates to them.”

Everyone hears about climate change happening around the world but it never seems like the impacts will affect us, until it does. Clayton said, “Climate change is affecting us right here at home. Climate change includes the gradual changes we see overtime.”

When the climate changes, people’s mental health and wellbeing also changes. Clayton explained that we are currently in a huge mental health crisis as well as being in a huge climate crisis.

After extreme weather events, like wildfires or hurricanes, mental health issues impact many of the victims. Clayton said, “Climate change can feel like something very far away but when you’re observing these effects it seems closer – people become more distressed and concerned.”

Clayton explained that “People now use the term extreme weather event rather than natural disaster because of this blurring of the line between what’s natural and what’s not natural.”

While discussing mental health struggles and how the climate plays a role, Clayton explained that “the World Health Organization's definition of what it means to be healthy is optimal functioning.” Optimal functioning cannot occur while extreme weather events are happening.

Clayton concluded her presentation by stating, “To address the climate crisis we need to address the mental health crisis. If everyone works together we can solve these problems.”

The fall 2024 A.P.E.X. schedule will be announced shortly. For more information go to the APEX series homepage.