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.’
I don’t think I’ll ever lose my wanderlust. It ebbs and flows like the tides on my doorstep here in Western Australia. Sometimes the pull to stay ‘home’ is strong: when the beach beckons, and the outdoor lifestyle is easy, with good food, wines and friendships.
Then there are times when the lure of new shores overwhelms, the draw of old haunts tempt, and the need to leave this remote city to return to the familiar people and places of my formative years is stronger than the urge to stay.
I’m not sure what era this was from, but the telephone number only has three digits so it must have been in the early days of phones. I imagine the delivery ‘boy’ cycling around the small market town in North Yorkshire with a basket full of fruit and vegetables, perhaps measured on the scales in W Scales fruiterer shop.
I remember having a similar fixed-wheel bike in the mid eighties when I lived in Zanzibar. I cycled for many miles on that bike both around town and out in the shamba (countryside), where the roads were so bad it was often quicker to go to places on your bike rather than motorised transport.
In Beck Isle Museum in Pickering, North Yorkshire.
As 2016 draws to a close I reflect on the past year and wonder what the future holds for us. What path are we on, have we chosen the right path, and if we go the wrong way will we be able to navigate through or turn back to a better course?
Sometimes it isn’t obvious which is the right path, but normally we do know when we have gone off course and are going the wrong way. I fear that at the moment the world is certainly following a path to a very uncertain future.
The Yorkshire Dales