The Tragic Loss of a Beautiful Mind

Aaron (front right) last week, with Simon and some of the best online organisers in the world.

Two years ago, in June 2011, I reached out to my friend Ben Margetts to find out who I should connect with in Boston when I was there for my Churchill fellowship studying social movements. He introduced me to his friend Aaron Swartz and we arranged to meet for a coffee at Cafe Pamplona in Harvard Square.

I still remember the afternoon as vividly as yesterday. It was a hot – really hot – summer’s day. And windy. Tornados were ripping through nearby towns in Massachusetts and New England. My hair was completely messed up from the wind when I finally found the café, after getting lost and asking a bunch of people for directions.

When I got to the café on the corner I saw a shaggy-haired guy on a laptop. He looked up and smiled at me, and I knew it must be Aaron. He had a really sweet smile; so gentle, so cheeky. Continue reading

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Into the Great Unknown…

cute-baby-penguin5“Antarctica left a restless longing in my heart beckoning towards an incomprehensible perfection, forever beyond the reach of mortal man. Its overwhelming beauty touches one so deeply that it is like a wound.” – Edwin Mickleburgh, Beyond the Frozen Sea

In one week, I leave Australia to do something I’ve been waiting my whole life to do: see Antarctica.

A few months ago, I received the best job offer in the world: to be a paid lecturer on a cruise ship taking 100 guests on a two-and a half week boat journey to the sub-Antarctic islands, to Mawson’s hut, and to Commonwealth Bay.
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“I believe in people power” – Introducing Amelia Telford

I first knew I had to meet Amelia Telford when I walked into a tea shop in the northern rivers of NSW last year during a holiday with my husband. I was soon chatting with the shop owner about the relative merits of various jasmine teas. Soon the conversation turned to the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the youth climate organisation I co-founded five years ago, and the shop owner’s eyes lit up.

“AYCC?!” she exclaimed.

“You must know Millie Telford!” she continued. ‘That girl’s gonna be the first Aboriginal Prime Minister of Australia.’  Continue reading

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Troll Alert: Standing Strong Through Online Abuse

It’s Monday and I’m on a supposedly laptop-free holiday. But I can’t stop thinking about what happened on Wednesday night.

As Jamila Rizvi from MamaMia put it, a line was crossed that night when celebrity Charlotte Dawson was hospitalized after a torrent of abuse on Twitter, including a hashtag urging her to take her own life.

No one should ever be subject to that kind of abuse. It’s disgusting. And sadly, it’s not a one-off case. What happened to Charlotte reflects a broader ugliness that has infected the tone of our public debate – from Parliament house down. As my very smart friend Sarah Maddison wrote so eloquently in the Herald a few days ago:

“Today we find ourselves at the lowest ebb of political debate I can remember. Australian politics seems never to have been quite this turgid; quality debate never quite so drowned out by shouting, a carping competition for … what?”

She’s right. And we’ve all noticed it. Australian political debate has become angrier and uglier. It’s spilling into other areas of conversation too: sport, celebrity culture and even completely unexpected topics.

The unchecked aggression, sexism and racism so common on talkback radio and in columns like Andrew Bolt’s debases us all. And I fear it sets an example to ordinary people that it’s OK to say vile things online. After all, Alan Jones and Mike Smith get paid to do essentially the same thing on the airwaves – and get barely a slap on the wrist even when they go so far as to call for the Prime Minister to be thrown out to sea in a chaff bag (a.k.a. drowned).

But given the anonymity of the internet, it’s unlikely the trolls will start reining themselves in anytime soon. So if you’re a target (or potential future target) of online or offline abuse, how can you build resilience to help cope when these kind of attacks happen?

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A Big Morning and a Chance to Reflect

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.
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A Visit to Miranda

It’s amazing the perspective you get from up high.

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Photo of Miranda in the Observer Tree by Alan Lesheim

Today the Madlands tour team joined up with some AYCC Hobart volunteers and trekked into the Florentine forest in southern Tasmania to visit my friend Miranda Gibson.

But this wasn’t your normal kind of house visit. Miranda has spent the last seven months living in a tree, 60 metres above ground. It’s an incredibly brave and committed thing to do, and it’s part of a campaign against logging Tasmania’s high conservation value native forests.

Isaac, Fred and I had spent the past two weeks kicking goals and holding events on the Queensland leg of the tour (Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Brisbane). So after a lot of driving on Queensland roads, I was looking forward to getting into some lush forest. I was also excited about reuniting with Kat and Jacqui, who along with Isaac and I had comprised the NSW arm of the tour.
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What Came Out of Rio: Some Specifics

Image“We are not here this week just to talk to each other,” was Prime Minister Gillard’s closing statement to her plenary speech. “We’re here to decide, to agree – and then to act.” 

But the watered-down and non-binding nature of the final agreement signed by Heads of State meant that real actions coming out of Rio were few and far between. 

Instead, Governments and civil society alike used the summit as a platform to announce and build support for new and ongoing sustainability initiatives – often outside of the U.N. framework. 

Korea was there to garner funding for its Global Green Growth Institute, a think tank designed to support developing countries with access to expert decision-making on sustainable development. The organisation was established two years ago in Korea to support domestic development of renewable energy and other green technologies and industries. 

It proved successful enough for Korean President Lee Myung-bak to elevate its status into an international organisation with the capacity to to provide green-focused technical and economic expertise to countries in the Asian region and around the world. The Australian Government thinks the project is promising enough to support it to the tune of $15 million. 

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