Early mornings are ripe with mixed emotions for the reflective climate campaigner, especially today since my husband Simon’s decision to move on from GetUp after four years in the role is making headlines.
Mornings are always the time when I reflect and re-calibrate. Are my actions matching my values? Is what I have planned for today the most useful thing I could be doing? Am I treating the people around me with compassion and love?
Mornings are also strategy time. It’s when I read the day’s climate news, inevitably leading to flashes of despair as I wade through reports of the climate changing more quickly than scientists’ worse-case scenarios. A few days ago it was news of Greenland’s rapid ice-melt, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw.
And then I read the political news, which is often just as depressing as the science. I read more reports about Tony Abbott’s latest attempt to scare the pants off the public about the carbon price and Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart’s attempts to get even richer by exporting coal and causing more climate change.
But the reason I love mornings so much at the moment is because they’re the time when I plan and prepare for another day of climate action on the road tour I’m on. I write down my thoughts, respond to emails and figure out how I can be most effective in whatever town we happen to be in.
And the good news is that every morning on this very long (almost 4 months on the road) book and speaking tour I re-affirm there is nothing I’d rather be doing with my life than tackling climate change. It’s our generation’s greatest challenge, and a huge responsibility – but it’s also an opportunity to create a more sustainable and just world. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the movement that gets to help make that happen?
Today I’m so privileged to watch the sun rise over a beautiful day in Cooroy on the sunshine coast. I’m here for the second-last leg of the climate change road tour I’ve been on since the last week of April. This weekend I’m speaking at the Reality Bites nonfiction literary festival, followed by nonstop school talks and presentation to Sunshine Coast council on Monday and by a public lecture and Q&A Monday night in Nambour.
It’s hard work, but I am incredibly lucky to be doing this tour. I’ve visited places I never thought I’d go in this stunning country of ours. So far we’ve held events in Townsville, Mackay, Toowoomba, Cairns, Brisbane, Ipswich, Hobart, Launceston, Ulverston, Canberra, Milton, Wollongong, Newcastle, Singleton, Muswellbrook, Tamworth, Melbourne, Moolroolbark, Wantirna, Geelong, Bacchus Marsh, Ballarat, Castlemaine, Bendigo, Albury-Wodonga and lots of Sydney suburbs too: Penrith, Parramatta, Mona Vale, Narrabeen, Blacktown, Liverpool and Rooty Hill to name just a few.
It’s not just the places themselves that are special to me, of course. The team and I have met so many interesting people – from some of CSIRO’s best scientists in Canberra, researchers at the Antarctic centre in Hobart, climate campaigners with amazing stories to tell, and farmers all over the country grappling with the impacts of climate change and coal expansion on their land.
I’ve re-connected with old friends, like Ellie Smith who is campaigning against coal in Mackay, and Miranda Gibson who is protesting against native forest logging with a 7 month long tree-sit in southern Tasmania.
Being on the road could be lonely, but not for me. I’ve been able to do all of it with a wonderful team of young people from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition who make up the Madlands Tour Team. My prodigious and talented tour manager is 19-year old Isaac Astill from South Australia. He has devoted a large chunk of his life to making this tour a success, joined by the rest of the team: Katherine Tu and Jacqui Mumford (NSW), Fred Stark (Qld) and India Prior and Joel Dignam (Vic).
I really can’t speak highly enough of these young climate campaigners. I’ve been so impressed with their organising skills, passion, determination, work ethic, and sense of fun.
It’s been them doing most of the hard work for this tour – calling schools to organise assembly talks and workshops, booking venues for our public forums, contacting local media, working with people on the ground in each location to promote our events. They’re also the ones making sure the people we meet who want to get involved in climate activism have excellent follow-up from AYCC or other groups.
Seeing them work together and having so much fun on the road with them reminds me of Simon and I five and a half years ago when we were setting up the AYCC. There were a small group of us elected to the first steering committee after AYCC’s founding summit – including Amanda (now at the Climate Commission), Nick (who went on to co-found Make Believe) Ben (now working at Avaaz in New York), Tom (who went on to found Start Some Good), Richie (now at the Department of Climate Change) and other super smart and switched on young people.
I remember lot of laughing, random jokes, dancing and crazy antics combined with a very high workload. I’ll never forget Richie and Ben sleeping in AYCC’s first office in and under the polar bear costumes and placards. Or all of us rounding up a team of friends to do an action and live TV cross to Channel 7 Sunrise at Bondi beach followed by a swim in the ocean.
I don’t know yet what I’ll do after this tour finishes. There are a few job offers and many interesting projects and campaigns that I’d love to help with. But right now I’m so busy living in the moment with this tour that I haven’t had the chance to reflect on how I can best contribute to solving climate change after the tour ends.
Every day on the road is different and intense. It’s been taking all of my energy to stay on top of it and make sure I’m giving my best in all of the speeches, workshops and trainings that we run. It’s exhausting but I know this for sure: it is making an impact. I am making a difference to Australians’ views on climate change. And there’s no better feeling in the world than knowing that. It’s what makes me think, every morning, that more climate activists should get out of the office and hit the road – especially to spend time in rural and regional Australia.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, today Simon announced that he’s stepping down as National Director of GetUp. It’s been four years of giving everything he has to the job and he decided months ago that it was time to move on. Sam McLean, the new National Director, is going to do a wonderful job replacing him. He’s one of the brightest and strategic campaigners in Australia, if not the world. GetUp members are very lucky to have him on their team!
After the tour ends in late August, Simon and I are heading out on a road trip to see more of Australia. We think we’ll start with a drive through the desert from my uncle’s farm in Moree to Uluru and central Australia, and then head north to Kakadu. We both love this country so much and want to see more of it before we decide how we can best contribute to solving climate change with our next steps. It’s a belated honeymoon – on our first attempt in Byron Bay over summer, I had to write my book! This time we’ll leave the laptops at home.
Thanks to everyone who has been following the tour so far through our Facebook page and Twitter. There are still three weeks left, so if you’re not already part of the adventures it’s not too late to see what we’re up to!