It's the summer of 2015. A Saturday morning. For the first time in a while I'm going for a morning walk in my home town of Bendigo without a feeling I have to be anywhere or do anything. The kids are on a holiday with the grandparents, my husband is working happily on his latest exciting house project.
As I walk along the streets listening in one ear to the beautiful music of John Lingard, the other ear tuning into the sounds of the birds and the wind whistling through the trees, I start to reflect on my concerns for where our world is going, particularly in relation to the environment and climate change, an area I'm particularly passionate about.
I read an article during the week which really disturbed me. I couldn't stop thinking about it for the week and I was thinking about it as I walked. The article published in The Guardian, was titled "Rate of environmental degradation puts life on Earth at risk, say scientists”.
The environmental impacts caused by humans stated in the article is not news to me, but something about the way this article was written hit home. Maybe it was the opening paragraph:
"Humans are eating away at our own life support systems at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years by degrading land and freshwater systems, emitting greenhouse gases and releasing vast amounts of agricultural chemicals into the environment, new research has found."
As I read the article I couldn't help but think about the urgency of which we need to completely transform our society if we want any future for our children.
Then as I continued to walk I started to think of all of the other negative news I'd read during that week including many more articles about climate change and other sobering topics such as asylum seekers, terrorists and fatal road accidents. I just got more and more worried about the future. I wondered whether we would ever be able to transform our society for future generations. There is so much change needed, globally, nationally and locally, it's just overwhelming to think about.
Not one to stay on the negative for too long, I then started to think about all of the positive things I've tuned into lately around the issue of climate change that have given me a great sense of hope locally and globally.
On a global scale, I was heartened to find out this week about Drawdown, an initiative led by renowned environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken. Drawdown is such a positive uplifting approach that shows we already have the answers, we can do this, it is possible. It's a coalition of well respected organisations and technical experts who have come together from around the world to develop a way we can drawdown the carbon required to address climate change using existing technology.
There are a lot of organisations doing great things in Australia. The national advocacy groups and campaigns are great, but the growing "Kitchen Table Conversation" movement is just as, if not even more, exciting. Just this week I had a thought provoking conversation with Australian Conservation Foundation Councillor Richard Sanders about the positive change that could be made to our demographic system (and hence our response to climate change currently influenced heavily by the fossil fuel industry) through the grassroots movement of kitchen table conversations.
At a State level
Well it didn't happen this week but the results of the Victorian State Election in November, with a change of government and the rise of the Greens vote, indicates to me the growing number of people who want to see more action on climate change and the environment. Whilst I'm not a member of any political party, it's particularly inspiring to see Ellen Sandell elected as the MP for the Seat of Melbourne. To me she is a young person willing to stand for what she believes in and she is not swayed by vested interests. There were also a record number of people volunteering to get her elected and that in itself is inspiring. More and more people standing for the environment are getting involved in the election process. This is a good thing.
There are many positive initiatives happening at a local level. As an example The Bendigo Sustainability Group and the City of Greater Bendigo have recently created an innovative way to fund and install solar power on the Bendigo Library. But this is just one example. There are hundreds, probably thousands of great initiatives happening at a local level in communities all over Australia (and globally) providing practical solutions to address climate change. This will continue to grow.
My husband and I have been having some great conversations lately about the role we can play in all of this. It's definitely brought us closer together and helped shape what we do in our work, our voluntary roles and in our lifestyle choices.
So as I thought about all of this, I got to the top of the hill and looked up at the clear blue sky. The sun's rays were glistening through the trees and I started to think how grateful I am for everything I have. For the earth, the trees, the air and the beauty of our surrounding environment. For my kids, my husband, my family, my education, the work my husband and I have had that has enabled us to set ourselves up comfortably with our house, our holidays and the fun adventures we have. How grateful I am for the training I've had over the past few years and the journey I've had to get to where I am today.
As I walked over the hill a beautiful view of the park emerged that took my breath away. And then the tears started to flow. I felt a mixture of sadness and gratefulness.
What I was feeling, I recognised as the feeling of “blessed unrest" that Paul Hawkins describes in his internationally renowned book Blessed Unrest. In this book Paul articulates what it feels like to be a changemaker. Mixed emotions of despair and hope.
Both feelings are important for changemakers. We need to be present to the despair to work out what's needed. We need to be present to the hope and the possibilities to work out solutions and get into action and be motivated to keep going.
Being a changemaker in 2015 to me means constantly being present to both of these feelings. It's ok to cry and feel overwhelmed, just as it is ok to celebrate and feel hopeful about the future. I think that the more we open up and the more we talk about these mixed feelings of despair and hope the more we can continue to go on our journey of changemaking and also inspire others to go on the journey with us.
In 2015 I'm planning to share more openly my feelings as a changemaker, through my writing and my conversations with others. Perhaps by doing this I can connect more with the people around me.
What about you, what does being a changemaker in 2015 mean to you? Would love to hear your own heartfelt thoughts on this.