From Canberra, Isaac and I headed to the coast.
Our destination: the small town of Milton and it’s larger neighbour, Ulladulla. We’d been pointed there by several NSW AYCC volunteers who had mentioned a particularly enthusiastic and talented young organiser by the name of Matt Robertson.
Matt, 16, lives in Milton and is a high school student at Ulladulla High. He recently set up an AYCC group and recruited a large number of students to join, so Isaac and I were keen to meet him and see how we could help.
On Sunday afternoon a group of students – just as enthusiastic and talented as we’d hoped they would be – gathered in a room at Milton primary school overlooking the stunning coastal sunset. Sitting in a circle on tiny primary-school sized chairs, we talked about their plans to engage their community in climate change action, starting with switching a local business to clean energy as part of AYCC’s Repower Australia campaign.
After a few hours of campaign strategy training we headed into the streets to promote a public forum we were planning for the following evening. We split into groups and leafletted almost every letterbox in Milton. Over the next few hours, after talking to people at the IGA, the pub, and placing flyers under car windscreen wipers, I’d be surprised if there was anyone left in the community who hadn’t been notified about the event.
After an hour flyering in the dark, we were all freezing. I was relieved to learn that our next event, a dinner with parents and local community leaders, would be held in the Chinese restaurant at the back of the local pub. About 15 people had been invited, including a local councillor. We had a great discussion about climate change, the book, climate deniers, and what the community could do to support local young leaders like Matt and his team.
The highlight of the dinner – apart from the delicious spring rolls – was the moment when one of the parents stood up and announced my presence to the entire Chinese resturant (which was packed!). She talked about my book, the public forum, and the AYCC – and the people took a few moments out from their dinner to listen and clap! The local AYCCers then took the opportunity to run around to each table and distribute climate science information from the Climate Commission, and flyers about the forum.
That evening, staying in the motel owned by Matt’s mum, I drifted to sleep with the sound of waves crashing a few blocks away. So far, I was liking the Shoalhaven region!
The next morning Isaac and I had to be up bright and early for a school talk at Ulladulla High. Matt had organised the entire Year 10 geography class, plus the student environment committee and other interested kids, to get out of their first class of the day to come to a talk and workshop on climate change. They were a great group of kids – really engaged and keen to get started on doing something! There were a lot of questions and we finished off the talk and workshop with one of the students calling his federal Liberal MP in support of the carbon price.
After the school talk, and a chat with teachers in the staff common room, we did an interview with the Milton-Ulladulla Times, and buckled down to prepare for the public forum. With my new presentation on climate science, impacts and solutions finished with seconds to spare, we picked up Matt and drove to the Dunn Lewis community centre to set up books, food, chairs and the projector.
I should point out that at this stage Matt, Isaac and I were all a little nervous about whether anyone would turn up. After all, we’d done most of our publicity in the past 24 hours through flyering the local community, asking teachers and students to announce it in classes, and talking about the event at the Chinese restaurant!
But contrary to our fears, the room was packed to capacity and the forum was a huge success. Matt gave an inspiring speech about how the community could support the local AYCC group; my new presentation went down really well; and there were some insightful questions. And we sold lots of books! Huge congratulations to Matt and the team for their promotion work – you’re amazing.
Tuesday morning was the last leg of the Shoalhaven – Illawarra part of the tour. We got up at 5.30am and drove to Wollongong for an in-studio interview with the local ABC radio.
Then came a school talk to the students at Smith’s Hill High, and then high-tailed it to the University of Wollongong (via Officeworks to pick up a projector).
At a Uni cafe, I had a great meeting with a young member of Wollongong Council while Isaac did some last-minute event promotion, and then before we knew it I was standing in front of a large group of students and staff doing my climate science/ impacts/ solutions presentation again.
After the talk, we sold the last of the books we’d brought with us (there was so much demand we even had to sell Isaac’s already-read book at a discount!) and I had a great meeting with Professor Colin Woodroofe, a UOW scientist specialising in coastlines who had worked on the previous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
The last Wollongong meeting of the day was an interview with Claire from the environment collective and student magazine, who was interested in discussing the early days of the AYCC and what it will take to solve climate change given the current growth and consumer-driven economic system. We talked about the failings of neoliberal economics, whether it’s possible to have capitalism without growth… and many more things!
After our massive day, we drove back to Sydney for the Climate Commission Forum in Parramatta. Despite a few climate deniers out the front in penguin suits (not sure what that’s about…) huddled next to an inflatable snowman, the forum went well. I was particularly impressed with Professor Will Steffen from ANU and Professor Lesley Hughes from Macquarie University, who are such clear and calm communicators on the science and impacts of climate change. AYCC’s Repower campaign got a mention at the end from the lovely Kat (AYCC’s NSW Director and also a member of the road trip team).
That night, I was supposed to be at the opening night party for the Sydney Writer’s Festival – but being in Parramatta with my friends listening to climate scientists was just as fun. Stay tuned for the next leg…