I am one of the lucky ones. As a little girl my head was filled with knowing. About the importance of love. About the way everything is so much better when you notice the small things. About how the sunlight through the trees, or the gentle sounds of the waves, or the ducks waddling along the creek, can bring such joy. I was filled up by my parents with the importance of valuing all people and all living things. I was given the gift of understanding that age is a good thing. That growing older means you are living, that old things have many stories to tell and that surrounding yourself with stories enriches your life. I was given the knowledge that our planet is precious and life is remarkable.
I am one of the lucky ones. My heart was filled with passion. About making a difference in the world. About how your time here is so fleeting and you should soak up every experience you can even when it is scary. About how you can do anything and, you should always do something. That you can love a person, animal or plant, deeply and with wild abandon. That the arts – music, literature, dance, all the stories of the world, are the centre of everything – that they define us, guide us, support us, heal us and connect us.
I am just an ordinary girl who wants to leave the world in the best state possible for my children and grandchildren. My love affair with planet, people and home started as a very small girl. My parents ignited this with their love of the natural world, equality and human rights, books and arts, and second- hand furniture and collectibles. I have memories of lazy Sundays wandering antique stores and being allowed to buy a little trinket. My preference was for green glass and the stories of each piece held me transfixed in the possibilities of where each item had come from. When I was very small, between 2 – 4 years of age, my great aunt and uncle would give me a small china animal from their cabinet each time we visited them, building a connection to the importance of history, and respect for things from the past. The idea of buying and using secondhand pieces in your home was set in stone for me at this point, and I still gather little china animals today.
My parents took me camping in the Flinders Ranges and introduced me to the beauty of the natural world as a tiny girl. Television shows were restricted but when we did watch, there was a good peppering of people like Harry Butler and David Attenborough, soewing the seeds of environmentalism in my young head. There were strong messages about conservation and regular discussions about how to ensure we preserved the beauty of our planet. When I was about 7 years old, the council turned our dead-end dirt street into national highway Australia’s Highway 1. They wanted to chop down every tree in the street. My father refused to give in, and would have tied himself to the trees if he had to. In the end, this was not necessary and he won the battle. Ours was the only home on the highway with trees in the front yard to protect us from the road noise and the harsh Port Augusta sun. I was so very proud and took away the fact that you can —and must —stand up for what you believe is right.
When I was 9 years old, my parents bought a large property in a small rural town in South Australia surrounded by beaches, so they could bring my sister and I up in a country community, grow vegetables and keep chooks. It was an idyllic childhood, full of summers at the beach, community events, days full of books, and those chickens. We had a big block at the back of the property and one Easter, our entire extended family, including my great grandmother from England, came to stay. Other than the septic tank getting full (thank god for the public toilets down the street!), and me playing swings on the Hills Hoist, which my grandfather was not too happy about, it was a magical weekend. Everyone planted a tree and this became a living symbol of our family connections and our connection to the natural world. Today, trees are one of my favourite things and my mental health is always soothed by a walk among the trees—looking up at their branches reaching to the sky, the patterns of their bark, and the beauty of their leaves and flowers.
When I was 12 years old my world changed, splintered into a million pieces, became uncertain, shaky, frightening. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and told my life would be filled with needles and broken parts of my body, kidney disease, blindness, leg amputation, heart attack, no babies and early death. It pulled a dark cloud across my world, one that seemed to suffocate me. It took many years of struggle, but eventually all of those good things, the ones that filled me up with knowing, helped me to climb up and see the wonderful again. I was able to build resilience and understanding that life is so very precious. Funnily, living with a chronic condition that is a daily challenge, a daily stress, a background anxiety in my everything, only served to enhance that knowing about the beauty of our world. It only made my determination to eat life up and do something with my time, stronger.
I started writing about these things, because I wanted to share these important messages. I wanted to make sure people like you know we can change the world, and that you are not alone. I wanted to make sure I do everything I can for my beautiful 3 sons – because despite being told at the age of 12 I was told I would never have childen and if I dared, they would be born deformed, or worse, dead….I proved them wrong with my 3 spectacular children, and I would do anything to ensure they can enjoy this wonderful planet in all of her glory. We are seeing climate change moving fast towards the point of no return. We are seeing habitat destruction and loss of species. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Sustainability is everyone’s business…..we have to act and we have to do all we can together.
Leaving it to someone else is not an option. We must all make as many changes as we can, to ensure we leave the planet in a fit state for future generations and to ensure our own quality of life is not affected any further. If you are reading this, you probably have a desire to make a shift in your life, to do something that makes a difference in your own backyard — and make no mistake, the small changes you make can and will contribute to reducing the damage to our planet.
It can feel hopeless when you read all of the facts and figures, but take heart, what I want you to remember, is that this is why we are changing the way we live. We are not just growing tomatoes because it is fun, or shifting back to locally- grown food because we are wannabe hipsters. We are not buying furniture from local makers and fair trade groups just because it is beautiful or on trend. We are not upcycling and making our own cushion covers just because it is satisfying to do something yourself. All of those things may be true, – but these changes in the ways we live are ultimately contributing to reducing the damage to our planet and improving the quality of all of our lives, and most importantly, our children’s futures. And it is knowing these things, that makes all the difference.