Blog | 26th Nov, 2013

Why I became a climate campaigner

This isn’t where I expected to end up. It hadn’t been part of my plan to become a campaigner for climate action. Back when I was a young undergraduate uni student, I had figured my future lay in wearing a fancy suit in big shiny office building, doing something corporate-y. I was never particularly taken by this future, but it seemed a natural progression from my Law/Science degree.

So I did a PhD in organic chemistry instead, followed by three years at Yale University where I was literally trying to cure HIV. Turns out I didn’t, but I gave it a shot, and there’s a great feeling you get when you tell people that you’re spending your time trying to make the world a better place. But I just wasn’t passionate about chemistry, and as the early effects of climate change were starting to appear, and as I watched the debacle that was the Copenhagen climate summit, I couldn’t help but think that curing diseases wasn’t going to be worth much if our whole civilisation faced an existential threat.

It sounds dramatic, and it’s the kind of language that gets climate deniers and shock jocks into a tizz, but it’s hard to escape the fact that this is what our most respected scientists are telling us is on the cards. Part of me wants to believe that it is all some science experiment and, come 2050 or 2100 when things have well and truly hit the fan, that we can simply press the reset button and get it right the second time. But there is no second time. There is no Planet B.

I came back to Melbourne keen to get involved in being part of the solution. (There’s a chemistry nerd joke here, that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate… yeah, I went there. Sorry. You can take the boy out of the lab, but you can’t take the lab out of the boy. Explanation here).

I kicked off the Environmental Film Festival Melbourne, because I had seen how effective films could be at motivating people where facts could not.

I also landed a position as a policy analyst at the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability – the Victorian Government’s independent advisor on environmental trends and policy – where I spent three years working on Victoria’s State of the Environment report, a five-yearly review of where we’re at, where we’re going, and perhaps where we need to be going.

One day, while drafting a section on energy policy, I plotted a graph to see how quickly Victoria would need to stop burning brown coal to play its part in the necessary global emissions reductions. The answer: very quickly. Like, within ten years. When I saw that graph, I knew I needed to get involved at the coal face (see what I did there??).

I realised that, in an age where some of our leaders think it fit to dismiss overwhelming scientific evidence, there was only one way forward: people power. Governments choose what to do, but we choose the governments. They work for us, remember? We need to make sure they’re doing what we need them to do for a safe climate future for all of us.

So I jumped at the opportunity to join Environment Victoria as the Safe Climate Campaigner. I’m just two weeks in. Already I can feel the energy and enthusiasm in the office. This is an amazing group of people working to help Victorians strengthen their voice to ensure we get the climate action we need.

I never imagined I’d be a climate campaigner, but now that I’m here, I can’t think of a more important way to spend my time. Feel free to get in touch, or to see what I’m saying on Twitter. I’m looking forward to working with all of you. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?