I became an environmental advocate three years ago because as a doctor I was concerned about the future for my children and the health consequences of climate change.
I had spent years reducing my carbon footprint at home and living sustainably, and I became acutely aware that there were few other environmentalists within my electorate.
The 2016 survey by the Climate institute showed that 77% of Australians believe that climate change is occurring. I suspected that the other 23% lived in my electorate.
I discovered that my family and friends were a microcosm of the Climate Institute survey. People I have known and loved for years did not accept the science of climate change.
It would have been easier for me to carry on with my environmental advocacy and ignore what was happening on my home ground. It would have been easier only to see family and friends with my worldview.
I decided to embrace everyone regardless of their political views.
There were several things that were clear to me
- Everyone cares about the future of their children,
- Everyone wants air and water that is not contaminated.
- No one wants to have endless days of heat.
- Everybody wants reliable cheap and secure energy.
- Very few people, including politicians were aware of the health implications of climate change.
I started my political advocacy by sending invitations for afternoon tea at my house to the 12 local council members. Only the current mayor of our council replied. A very impressive woman with a PhD in oncology research and now a family lawyer on the conservative side of the council, I discussed all the bullet points above with her at an informal chat in my garden in front of my chicken house.
When I received my power bill of $64 dollars for my summer quarter, I rang the Councillor and asked her whether this was newsworthy, and whether she had any contacts.
The senior writer for the local News Limited newspaper lived on my street. I was interviewed a week later and appeared in various Rupert Murdoch newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph and its digital networks. This then led to my appearance on Channel 7’s Sunrise.
It was fortuitous also that all the conservatives at all levels of government know and socialise with each other. My councillor suggested that I see my state and federal members as they were interested in renewable energy, whose advice I followed up.
For political advocacy to be effective is must be persistent. Persistently polite, respectful and appreciative.
I recently attended the town hall meeting of my federal member. His staff know me, and his senior adviser even gave me a hug.
The attendees were mainly complaining about local and state issues. I spoke about my last power bill which was $42 for the quarter. This provoked a gasp in the audience and the attention of all present. I detailed my home renewable energy system then about sustainability in the energy sector. People were interested.
I queued up after afterwards to speak to him about car emissions and renewable energy at home.
I do not know if I have shifted the opinion of the politicians in my electorate. I have continued fostering the relationships so that they are happy to see me again, so I can keep trying.
I have been to Canberra on three occasions to lobby federal politicians
I continue to love my family and friends who are on the other side of the political divide. They are very slowly shifting.
There needs to be a cultural and societal change to reduce our impact on this earth. There needs to be effective government policies for mitigation of climate change and adaptation to make our communities more resilient with rising heat and extreme weather to come.
We need to use every strategy that we can.
Why not love and respect?