sustainability coordinator, city of onkaparinga
This photo finds me up a creek but with a paddle! We get out camping as much as we can and we particularly love to do multi-day kayak trips or bushwalks. There is something so satisfying about arriving somewhere under your own steam, especially when you can escape the crowds. We have had all kinds of adventures over the years, but paddling a rapid with a platypus was definitely up there.
My lightbulb moment was in the early 80s when visiting Tasmania. I flew over the wilderness area in the south-west and then landed by chance in the middle of the Franklin River protests. I was fascinated by this bunch of ordinary folk, as well as the not so ordinary Bob Brown, who had hit pause in their lives to fight for something bigger. For me it was an ‘about turn’ moment.
My job as Sustainability Coordinator at the City of Onkaparinga is to improve the environmental performance of everything that we do. Councils do such diverse work and we can really shape the places where people live. I write policy, plans and targets and translate the agenda of other levels of government to the local level. My work is in climate change, emissions reduction, renewable energy, water and biodiversity. I have to know a little bit about a lot of things. More recently I have had a focus on urban greening and reducing the urban heat island effect.
I have been lucky that for most of working life I have been in roles that are consistent with what I believe in. There is a certain irony that so many environment roles require you to sit at a desk under flouros! To compensate I get my hands dirty on weekends.
I live in the Aldinga Arts Eco Village and have been heavily involved in its establishment and evolution. I devoted many of my weekends for over a decade to turning what was an old horse paddock plugged with couch into an edible and biodiverse landscape filled with people. When I sat on my porch one day and saw a flock of yellow-tailed black cockatoos land in a tree that I had planted I knew I could start to relax a little more. I am proud to be one of the many people that have increased the biodiversity of this region.
I am becoming more impatient as I get older (isn’t it supposed to be the opposite?). Big social changes seem to take 20 years or more and we need to break this cycle for a more radical change.
Being aware of what we face is a hard gig at times and I think that those of us who are working towards positive change need to support each other.
It is hard to fight despair at times but I think my outlook is best reflected by Paul Hawkens - “If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and you aren’t optimistic then you haven’t got a pulse.”