Those of you who’ve been asking ‘what’s next’ after the book and documentary will have heard me talking about my vision of a road trip with AYCC volunteers traveling to communities all around Australia talking (and listening) about climate science, impacts and solutions. Well, it’s actually happening! It’s hard to believe that only seven days ago we were wrapping up the first day of the training weekend for the tour, which we’ve called the ‘We’re Worth It’ tour. As in, young people’s futures are worth caring about and protecting. Sure, the transition to a low-carbon economy won’t be easy – but it’s worth it, if you care about young people (and all people, really).
So, here are my quick reflections on the past ten or so days. Eight days ago today, I’d woken up early (and I mean EARLY – they sky was still dark) on Ellen’s fold-out couch in Melbourne after my first two Melbourne book events.
The Sydney book launch had gone really well a few days earlier, and the two Melbourne events were just as successful – a packed talk at the Wheeler Centre and a smaller event with the team at the Foundation for Young Australians, followed by a few radio interviews.
That morning, I’d taken a cab to Melbourne’s RRR radio station and done another interview, before meeting Joel (one of the 6 team members) and making our way to the airport. Our flight had been delayed over an hour (thanks Jetstar!) but Joel and I had plenty of work to do at the airport.
When we finally arrived at the AYCC office in Sydney, the rest of the group was already in the middle of a mind-blowing training on relational organising. Our trainer, David Barrow from the Sydney Alliance, was an old friend of mine from student activism. It was an excellent, well-prepared training, and a solid start to the three days.
The rest of the weekend went by in a blur of training, working, planning and getting to know each other. Highlights included a taste-bud tingling dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant next to Jacqui’s place, taking a photo on 5/5 for 350.org’s Connect the Dots global day of action, and almost getting a complete stranger run over when she took a photo of us from the road, crowded around a GoGet car.
It soon became clear that we had assembled a team of some of the absolute best young climate change organisers in the country. Isaac (SA), India and Joel (Vic), Fred (Qld) and Kat and Jacqui (NSW) are all extremely talented and passionate. And they all had that spark that made me confident they had what it takes to be part of such a challenging and intense project.
Monday and Tuesday saw Isaac and I travel to Pennant Hills in Western Sydney for the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) conference. We got to meet up with other AYCCers – including Tim from AYCC Western Australia and Lily and Jem from AYCC’s national team in Melbourne. We sold every single book that we brought along and connected with lots of local climate groups in areas that we’ll be visiting. Isaac and I also hit the phones calling schools in Canberra and the South Coast to organise school talks and forums.
On Tuesday night I did a media interview with Radio Adelaide, chatting about the book and the tour. Wednesday we had no events, but a lot of preparation work, and an early night before one the most epic Thursdays I’ve probably ever experienced.
In the early dawn light, Isaac and I loaded a box of books and a bunch of bags into a taxi. We dropped him at the bus station, before continuing on to the Four Seasons hotel in the city for my first of three speeches for the day. Except – halfway between the bus stop and the hotel I realised I’d given Isaac the box of books that I needed to take with me! A quick turnaround from the taxi driver as I realised my mistake saw us get back to the bus stop in the nick of time – just before the bus took off to Canberra with Isaac and my books on it. Fifteen minutes later, I arrived at my destination, the box of books tucked under one arm. Jacqui was there to help sell books, along with Thornton, an old friend from high school who’d also volunteered to help.
The event had been kindly organised by my old University, Sydney Uni, as an alumni breakfast. And to my delight, I found out that one of my favourite lecturers, Dr Tim Stephens, was going to be the MC! After I delivered my speech, we had a really interesting Q&A session, followed by people purchasing books both for themselves, and for politicians who I’d be visiting later that day in Parliament House. Thorton and Jacqui sold almost all the books I’d brought along, and I met some wonderful people as I signed the title pages.
I caught the train to the airport – making it there just in time to check in to my flight to Canberra. I was on a tight schedule – I had to make it in time for a 12pm meeting with Rob Oakeshott before a book event at Parliament House with AYCCers and friends. An hour later, I was still waiting for the plane and realising that not only was I definitely going to miss the meeting with Rob, I was going to be late for my own Parliament House event! Luckily, I’d already organised for Amanda McKenzie (AYCC co-founder, former Co-Director, and who now works at the Climate Commission) and Simon to each give ten minute speeches on the best ways to communicate climate change to the public. By the time I arrived, Amanda was just wrapping up and giving brilliant advice, as usual. I spoke about the messages put out there by the climate denial industry, how to counter them, and some tips for cutting through the confusion and misinformation in the community.
HUGE thanks to Josh Creaser and Josh Wyndham-Kidd for pulling together the event, and to Simon and Amanda for their excellent speeches which meant that me being late wasn’t an issue!
The rest of the afternoon was a blur of dropping books off to politicians and chatting with them and their staffers about climate science, impacts, solutions and the best way to communicate it all. Some of the politicians I spoke with included: Senators Christine Milne & Penny Wright (from the Greens), Senators Penny Wong and MPs Bill Shorten and Tony Bourke (from the Government), Rob Oakeshott MP (I did get to see him after all!) and Senator Nick Xenophon (who also came to my book launch).
Isaac and I also dropped books off at a number of other politicians‘ offices who weren’t available to meet in person – but whose staffers promised me they’d pass the books on. Thank you to everyone who donated to get the books to the pollies! There are still a few more to drop off but most of them have been delivered.
The highlight of the day was running up to the Prime Minister when I saw her in the corridor (OK, maybe I was waiting outside the Parliamentary Chamber for her…) to thank her for the carbon price, and give her a copy of my book.
After the crazy busy afternoon at Parliament House, we drove down the road to Paperchain bookstore in Manuka for my Canberra book launch. Richard Denniss from The Australia Institute and I did an “in conversation” event which basically meant that Simon moderated a discussion between Richard, the audience and me. It was a great turnout – lots of people standing at the back of the seats – and the bookstore sold an impressive number of books.
The following day – today – was a fantastic end to a wonderful week. Isaac and I went to the CSIRO to meet some of Australia’s best scientists. We were accompanied by the lovely Noemi, a Year 10 student and organiser for AYCC Canberra. Isaac and I will write more about the CSIRO visit, and post some video interviews with scientists, later.
After a few hours at the CSIRO, we went to the Telopea School for a talk to all the Year 10 students, followed by another school talk to several classes at Dickson College. Both speeches went really well, especially when Isaac told the story of how he got involved in caring about climate change and volunteering with the AYCC (it’s pretty amazing).
Huge thanks to everyone who pulled all the events together, especially Josh, Noemi and the AYCC Canberra team. That’s week one (and a half) of the tour over! Next stop… Milton and Ulludulla.