On commencing work with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority my hypocrisy regarding actions to stop climate change came to light. Like many other well-intentioned people, I felt overwhelm. While I had changed the way I do many things, I observed myself doing things I shouldn’t. Some behaviours and habits seemed too hard to change.
As a child, I was gung-ho about helping the planet. Captain Planet was one of my favourite cartoons. I listened to reduce, reuse, recycle campaigns and the tune of a song “Please don’t be a litter bug…” is still with me. From primary school age onwards I accepted a sense of responsibility for the earth.
As an undergraduate student of art history I admired artists who upcycled, challenged consumerism and championed the readymade – where items already produced became reworked (e.g. Duchamp’s famous urinal turned upside into a work called Fountain, 1964). As part of my postgraduate studies I created a community education strategy for the reduction of fabrics in landfill. Then that became my first dip into business.
As a creative arts lecturer, encouraging students to take their skills into the marketplace, I incorporated many examples of social enterprises that tackled the world’s plastics problem or ways to reduce landfill. In my workplaces I’d be the office Sustainability Champion. You know my type, right?
Over that time I did many things that would be considered earth friendly.
Somewhere along the line, despite my best intentions, something came undone. In a few house moves, a relationship breaking down, and with my routine changing around a bit, I didn’t settle back into some habits that had been working. I became lazy with my commitments to looking after my own environment. And it was all in the little things.
I’d get to the supermarket and slap my forehead for forgetting the twenty long-use shopping bags still sitting in my kitchen or car.
I would order my much-loved coffee only to discover my Keep Cup was not on me. Baulking at the price of a new reusable cup, I would get a disposable with the plastic lid – guiltily throwing it into the bin.
I’d absent mindedly reach for a straw when out having a gin and tonic.
The little things slipped.
But recently I was charged with writing materials for International Year of the Reef on behalf of Australia. It’s my task to write words to inspire you to make small changes in your routines to reduce carbon emissions, reduce plastics and landfill.
But I struggled and couldn’t find an angle. No message or words felt strong enough to rise above the doomsayers or were fresh enough to cut through. So much has already been said for so long. What is the ‘Do the Right Thing’ for the twenty first century?
I woke daily to the weight of this responsibility on my shoulders. Then
I’d walk out my door, pass my bicycle with flat tyres, turn the key in my petrol guzzling ute and drive 2.4 kilometres to work. I’d cruise into the car park for the Marine Park Authority staff and walk to my desk with a sense of confusion and remorse.
I told myself people were too busy to make climate change action. Then I told myself they were too lazy.
Then I looked in the mirror.
Anyone in copy writing and communications knows that if you speak to one you speak to many. It was time to give myself a good talking to.
I took time to examine my own actions and behaviours. I got honest about how I’d slipped up and slowed down. I called out my pseudo busy-ness and laziness.
I stopped writing copy for other people who were too busy or lazy. I wrote for one person: myself. I turned my writing for the Great Barrier Reef on its head. I removed from my shoulders the burden of enticing 25 million people to make small actions for the environment. I passionately wrote for myself and the words flowed.
You may or may not eventually see the words, videos, speeches, and campaigns I’ve written or developed. I hope you do – they’ll likely be besides a cute picture of a turtle. If you hear a politician or scientist say something about the Great Barrier Reef and Climate Change that stays with you, you might think of the moment I had where I pointed a finger at myself. And when you do, know this, as the words began to flow, my small daily actions began to return.
You might see me in the morning commute. Walking or I’m on a white bicycle with the basket, my Keep Cup firmly in position next to my backpack, where I’ve got durable shopping bags stuffed into every spare spot – just in case.