You started a high school environment group when you were 14. What was the catalyst that sparked your passion for environmental justice?
I come from a farming family on my Mum’s side, and the Millennium Drought had a huge impact on me as a teenager. In Year 8 I was learning about climate science - how more greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere and affect the water cycle. This was happening at the same time as towns across rural NSW were running out of water. Learning this basic science made me realise that climate change wasn’t just something that affected polar bears on the other side of the world - it was already starting to affect our food and water security. As I learnt more in science and geography about the damage humans were causing to our environment and climate, I was also learning in history class about the power that social movements had throughout history - from women fighting for the right to vote, to ending slavery and apartheid. One day a speaker came to my school from a local environment group, and I realised I could get involved and do my part.
How can we turn our concern over what’s happening to our planet and its ecosystems into practical measures?
Scientists tell us we have around a decade to turn things around on climate change - this means systemic change to transition from coal and gas to renewable energy, reduce carbon pollution from other sources and capture the existing carbon pollution in our atmosphere in soils and vegetation.
I recently co-founded a giving circle called Groundswell with my friends Clare and Arielle; we have a list on our website of our top 10 effective things you can do to take action. Everyone has a voice and the power to be part of pressuring Governments and business to act, and we can also act personally.
What are your top tips for us lay people about how we can individually contribute to acting on climate change?
If we’re going to solve the climate crisis, we are going to need to act collectively - individuals coming together to make change together. Get involved in a climate advocacy group, ask your workplace to sign up to RE100 (a network of businesses joining together to switching to 100% renewable energy, meet with your State and Federal Members of Parliament to let them know you care about climate change and want to see them do more.
As writer Rebecca Solnit says: “We can do it. And we is the key word here. The world is not going to be saved by individual acts of virtue; it’s going to be saved, if it is to be saved, by collective acts of social and political change. Mass movements work. Unarmed citizens have changed the course of history countless times in the modern era. When we come together as civil society, we have the capacity to transform policies, change old ways of doing things, and sometimes even topple regimes. And it is about governments. Like it or not, the global treaties, compacts, and agreements we need can only be made by governments, and governments will make those agreements when the pressure to do so is greater than the pressure not to. We can and must be that pressure.”
How do you stay hopeful and determined in the current climate crisis?
Because I’m involved in the climate movement and have been for over twenty years, I can see the progress we’ve made and how many more people, companies and political leaders and now championing climate action. Social change is non-linear, and we’ve seen from history how quickly things can change when there’s a strong enough social movement pushing for it. Plus, all the solutions to solve the climate crisis already exist - the only thing lacking is political will.
Here’s one of my favourite quotes, from the Indian activist Vandana Shiva:
“[How do I do it?] Well, it's always a mystery, because you don't know why you get depleted or recharged. But this much I know. I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness, no matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities, just that itself creates new potential. And I've learned … to detach myself from the results of what I do, because those are not in my hands. The context is not in your control, but your commitment is yours to make, and you can make the deepest commitment with a total detachment about where it will take you. You want it to lead to a better world, and you shape your actions and take full responsibility for them, but then you have detachment. And that combination of deep passion and deep detachment allows me to take on the next challenge, because I don't cripple myself, I don't tie myself in knots. I function like a free being.... I think what we owe each other is a celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.”
From an environmental perspective, what is your wish for your son’s future on planet earth?
Like all parents, I want my son to grow up in a world where he’s safe - in the broadest sense of the word. I want him to enjoy the healthy environment, clean air, and access to fresh water and nutritious food that I had as a child. I’m a member of the group Parents for Climate Action (you can join too on Facebook) which is such a powerful community of parents taking action together on climate change.
What is your view on sustainability in the fashion industry?
Fashion is a powerful industry. It’s great to see more people involved in it come to realise that they can play a leadership role in tackling the climate crisis - by speaking out to the people they influence and by making their own supply chains more sustainable and ethical.
Are you mindful of buying fashion brands that subscribe to a sustainable ethos?
Yes! I rarely go shopping, I keep my clothes for a long time (some I’ve had since high school that I still wear), I usually buy second hand and 100% of my son’s clothes are hand-me-downs from his cousins. If I have a fancy event to go to, I hire or borrow rather than buy a dress. And as a last resort, if I have to buy something new, I make sure I research whether the brand and it’s supply chain is as sustainable (carbon neutral, organic and natural fibres) and ethical (slavery free) as possible.
ANNA ROSE WEARS THE BOURGEOIS GOWN | Shop here...