For many decades I have thought of myself as an environmentalist. I’ve participated in protests against environmental destruction, I am a member of various groups and organisations that advocate protection of our environment and I engage in a lot of ‘armchair activism’. Last year I was humbled when I went to see a talk given by an amazing, seemingly indefatigable woman in her 80s, one of my favourite environmentalists, Dr Jane Goodall.
Jane Goodall being interviewed, Perth 2017
I first came across her name when studying psychology in the late 70s, and then again while doing my Masters some years later when I undertook a study of language in apes. I’d also lived for many years in Tanzania, her adopted country where she has spent many years of her life studying the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, although now she is travelling for almost 300 days a year in her advocacy work. She started her travels in a quest to save chimpanzees from extinction and this developed into a much broader conservation platform. As I listened that evening, it was not only the fact that she had given her whole life to conservation, often in the face of grim opposition, but it was her hope for the future that inspired.
So when I thought about my growth as a person over the last few years and how I hope I will grow in the future, it is my activism that I am most passionate about. Whether it be standing in the freezing cold of a North Yorkshire winter to stop fracking vehicles passing, speaking out against multinationals and their greed, stopping a pointless road going through important wetlands in Western Australia, or protesting about the abuse of human rights in Australia’s refugee policy, I know I will not sit quietly this year.
Protesting a road to nowhere – Roe 8 in Beeliar Wetlands, 2017
As Jane Goodall says, ‘It’s amazing what happens when people see the difference they can make.’
In the middle of August, the North Yorkshire Moors transform into a sea of purple. The subtle perfume of the tiny purple flowers drifts in the wind heralding autumn.
The other side of the world, a month later, on a dusty hot roadside in the Goldfields, Western Australia, spring flowers burst into bloom.
On the road up through Daintree Rainforest in far north Queensland there is an area where cassowaries may be found crossing the road. They are large, shy, solitary birds that have long blueish-purple, featherless necks and in some ways resemble an emu. There are endangered, and fastly approaching extinction, with only around 1200 left in the wild.
Of course when we travelled that road, even though we kept our eyes peeled, we weren’t lucky enough to spot any.
This road sign, warning of an approaching speed bump, had been masterfully changed! Unfortunately not only motorists are a problem to their survival. Habitat loss due to human settlement and attacks by dogs are a major problem.
Just below the surface lies a small part of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia.
I took this photo in November last year just before jumping off the tourist boat to go snorkelling. An hour later I was in shock. In the twenty or so years since I’d last dived here how could this have happened?
The Great Barrier Reef, in far North Queensland, is the largest living structure on Earth, and it’s visible from space. Most of us know of its outstanding beauty and biodiversity and many of us now know of the coral bleaching that has been so devastating over the past years.
Sir David Attenborough says, “It is one of the greatest, and most splendid natural treasures that the world possesses.”
So why are we doing nothing to protect it?
Why are we so complacent about climate change that we have ignored the science that could have prevented coral bleaching and the increase in extreme weather events?
Why does our government not only approve the biggest coal mine in Australia’s history to a foreign company, Adani, when pollution is killing our reef and fossil fuels are quickly becoming a thing of the past, but also offers Adani a billion dollars in incentives?
Do those of us who are educated and living in the developed world really believe that by ignoring climate change it will no longer be a problem?
One day our children will say, “What on earth were they thinking?”
Oh yes. And Happy Earth Day 2017 …
We had flights booked from Cairns to Sydney having briefly visited North Queensland.We realised too late that we’d be in the air when the supermoon rose. Still we’d been able to spend a day in the Daintree rainforest and another out snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, both amazing places despite the massive coral bleaching of the reef that I had known about but still shocked me. Last time I was at the reef was 30 years ago and it was a myriad of colour. How man has changed our world in such a short time. Last time that there was a supermoon the Great Barrier Reef was truly Great. What will be left when the next supermoon appears?
We would have liked to have sat on one of the endless, empty beaches and watched the moon rise, but we were unable to change our plans so reluctantly we left our tropical haven and headed for Cairns to catch the flight. We had managed to change our seats to the left of the plane, but as we approached Cairns tropical storm clouds filled the sky. Even though we took off surrounded by dense clouds, soon patches of blue replaced the white and the sky cleared as if by magic …