After living through a ten-year drought on her family’s farm, Dr Anika Molesworth knows all too well the hardships and struggles that stem directly from climate change.
Anika is a farmer, scientist and a tirelessly optimistic advocate for placing urgent attention on the climate change crisis. With a PhD in agriculture and environmental management, she is committed to exploring farming systems of the future, and designing a world where everyone is food secure.
Following the release of the latest IPCC report, which revealed just how severe the climate crisis is, and Australia’s urgent need to act, Molesworth’s passion and advocacy for sustainable food systems is absolutely critical.
“The main message of that report, for me, was that time is no longer on our side. We have to dig deep and act swiftly. We don’t have the luxury of time to put this issue off to a later date or a more convenient time,” she tells Women’s Agenda.
But she says we need to avoid being so overwhelmed by the science of climate change that we fail to see the possibilities in the solutions.
“Reading the science of climate change can feel overwhelming because it is big and complex. But when one realises that we have the solutions at hand, right now, it doesn’t feel that impossible.
“It actually starts to feel quite exciting. Because we are alive at the most critical time in human history, in which we determine the fate of the planet forever and for everyone. By recognising that responsibility, we can use of our time and efforts wisely, and get those solutions implemented.”
Molesworth is the latest woman in agriculture to be profiled on Women’s Agenda, in line with our weekly newsletter for women in the sector, The Ag Wrap.
Her book ‘Our Sunburnt Country’ is out August 31st.
In a couple of sentences, can you describe the day to day work that you do?
I am so passionate about the work I get to do – that it is more of a vocation than ‘work’. I have an intense, unwavering desire to undertake this activity. Each morning I wake at daybreak and go for a long walk across my farm. My dogs trot along at my feet and I watch flocks of galahs fly overhead.
The sunrise silhouettes the windmill slowly turning in the breeze. I begin my days looking over the land that I so desperately want to protect. I spend a lot of time at the computer – like most people these days – I am attending to emails, participating in or facilitating webinars, and talking with my colleagues around the globe.
The farming community is such a fantastic community to be involved with, of committed, hard-working individuals who are using the latest information and platforms to look after their environments and to ensure they can produce food long into the future. Every day I have conversations with farmers around the globe, and their desire to change our course and farm in the best way possible for our planet is absolutely inspiring.
Was there a turning point that put you on the path to being so passionate about climate change and dedicating your career and work to it?
When you spend time on a farm, you can’t help but fall in love with the natural world. The surroundings captivate you.
From the galahs swaying the high branches of the mighty River Red Gum trees, to the clear outback nights with a billion stars twinkling high above. You feel a deep sense of belonging to it, and from that you feel a real sense of responsibility to look after it. So, it was from spending time on the farm that I developed my respect for the land and urge to look after it.
I was always an ‘outdoors kid’ growing up, but it was when my parents purchased our farm as a 12 year old that I really connected to a piece of land. Witnessing the decade-long Millennium drought ravage that land and seeing the toll it took on my rural community opened my eyes to extreme weather events, and made me aware of the impacts of climate change. From that awareness and understanding I was fuelled with an energy to learn as much as I could to do what was needed to protect this land, my loved ones, and my future.
What is it like being an advocate in the climate space, particularly as a woman and in the farming community? What kind of support – and resistance – do you come up against?
I love being a member of the farming community. I meet the most amazing people – grounded, honest, hard-working people – who talk about the land as though it is a member of their family, and who strive to look after it in that way too. I have always felt supported. I have had so much encouragement – both from people I know personally, and from people I don’t who send me messages saying ‘Keep up the great work, and thank you for all that you do!’ I think there are so many people out there who are concerned and stressed about climate change, and I harness their energy and support to do what I do every day.
I have never felt held back by being a woman – perhaps because I’ve never paid any attention to those who have tried to hold me back! Haha!
In fact, I think because I am not the traditional farmer stereotype I have gained more traction and attention, and that has been great for raising awareness of climate change. There are so many incredible, smart, driven women in rural Australia, and I am proud to work alongside them, and the fellas, every day.
You talk of the ‘how’ behind growing the courage we need to take action in your book, without giving too much away, is there any key tips you can offer here to women on how they can build this courage?
I think we find courage when we realise there is something we cannot walk by, something we cannot turn a blind eye to, or ignore. When something touches our core values then we decide we have no option but to respond. That’s when we find courage. And it comes from a deep and personal place. And that place may be of frustration, grief or hope.
I find my courage by spending time with the landscape that I love so much, and understanding how fragile it is and that it is my responsibility to look after it. I also draw my courage from my family, from my friends, and for all the people out there campaigning for greater climate action and a better future for our planet.
The IPCC report makes for difficult reading and it can be overwhelming to make sense of it all. What is one key thing that you’d pull from it that you really want Australian women to be more aware of?
The main message of that report, for me, was that time is no longer on our side. We have to dig deep and act swiftly. We don’t have the luxury of time to put this issue off to a later date or a more convenient time.
Reading the science of climate change can feel overwhelming, because it is big and complex. But when one realises that we have the solutions at hand, right now, it doesn’t feel that impossible. It actually starts to feel quite exciting. Because we are alive at the most critical time in human history, in which we determine the fate of the planet for ever and for everyone. By recognising that responsibility, we can use of our time and efforts wisely, and get those solutions implemented.
What do you do to retain hope on climate change, especially following what’s been revealed in the IPCC report, as well as what we’ve been personally witnessing?
There are SO MANY reasons for hope. And actually, when I think about tackling climate change I am buoyed by the possibility and solutions. I think it’s an incredibly exciting space to be working in.
Climate change is a people problem, and people problems can be fixed. And incredibly quickly if we want them to be. With the right form of leadership, with the right narrative, we can change our mindsets and behaviours to fix our problems.
Yes the challenges are real, but they are not insurmountable. We have the tools to fix them. We just need to find our courage and get our act together.