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NZ Unspoken: What are you scared of?

Editor Written by Editor · 1 min read >


In the heart of downtown Auckland, we set out to uncover the fears that dwell within the minds of its residents. What keeps them awake at night? The answers we received were as diverse as the city’s population and revealed a sense of deeper thinking than the typical “fear” responses we were expecting.

”We won’t live up to our potential of what we want to achieve…” one man professed,not becoming a sustainable city where we’re looking after the environment and people are happy.”

Another young man feared his parents passing away. An older gentleman spoke of geopolitical unease.

Not every answer held such gravity – one young woman expressed a fear of beavers – but for every cute quip, there were more who were prepared to open up about the long-term concerns they had for their lives and the world around them.

The housing crisis, escalating rents and mounting bills were all topics of concern, but the issue that resurfaced time and time again and seemed to be causing the most stress was climate change.

Members of the public say what scares them. New Zealand 
Herald photograph by Jason Dorday 25 April 2024
Members of the public say what scares them. New Zealand
Herald photograph by Jason Dorday 25 April 2024

A note on the NZ Unspoken method – our vox-pop approach, where we engage people in public spaces – is designed as a way of capturing “the voice of the people” with raw authenticity, but it’s far from neutral. For every willing participant, there are many others who would rather swim with sharks than face a camera. Still, the unscripted nature of these interactions goes some way to providing a glimpse (albeit with a narrow depth of field) into the minds of the inhabitants of our fair city at this moment in time.

We also spoke to Waikato University Psychology PhD candidate Tomás Gago about what happens when reasonable concerns for the climate turn into “climate anxiety.”

“People feel concerned, they feel worried, they feel anxious,” said Gago. “They can have some symptoms like you would see in anxiety, like pain in their stomach, headaches, stuff like that.”

Yet, he stressed that such worries don’t necessarily indicate mental illness. Rather, they can evolve and impact daily life.

Waikato University Psychology PhD candidate Tomás Gago.
Waikato University Psychology PhD candidate Tomás Gago.

“It’s about the proportionality of your fears,” Tomás emphasised. While fearing climate change isn’t irrational, seeking professional help is crucial if it disrupts daily functioning.

Maybe our initial query was flawed. Instead of those typical phobias – spiders, heights, clowns etc – Aucklanders spoke of deeper future worries. Or perhaps it’s a sign of the times, that today’s population have no time for frivolous phobias, instead echoing only authentic concerns – money, survival, our potential, and the planet.



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