Author, speaker, activist and television host Tanya Ha has been described as the people’s environmentalist. As the Eco Coach in the SBS television series Eco House Challenge, Tanya had the task of reforming the un-eco habits of two Australian families in a few short weeks. Tanya has written many books, including Greeniology, the Australian Green Consumer Guide and eco-encyclopaedia Green Stuff for Kids.
Eco-architect Peter Ho aims to create zero waste in his practice. He pushes the concept of recycling to its limits, with business cards made out of old Metro tickets and a chandelier in a hairdressing salon fashioned out of laminated hair trimmings. Peter is well known as a panellist on ABC TV’s New Inventors.
Dr Brendan Wintle is an academic whose interests are in decisions, policy, uncertainty, cute furry animals and the role that decision theory can play in all of the above. He is currently an arc Fellow and Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Environment Research Facility. Brendan is involved in numerous environmental committees to do with biodiversity conservation and environmental management.
Arron Wood initiated and now runs the highly successful International River Health Conference, which brings hundreds of school children to Mildura every other year to study ways of saving the environment. Arron is Director of environmental communication and education consultancy, Firestarter, and has won numerous awards for his work, including a Churchill Fellowship and Young Australian of the Year.
Olivia Davis is a freelance writer and the editor of Sprinkla magazine.
Olivia Davis: Let’s start with introductions. Olivia Davis
Tania Ha*: I joke that I should have a business card that says “Freelance Mad Greenie”. My interest has been not so much the science of sustainability, but that human end of it, what happens after we’ve discovered something. I try to mainstream sustainability and to reach those people who wouldn’t describe themselves as green.
Brendan Wintle: I run a small research group in the Faculty of Science, which is basically the integration of ecology, economics and the mathematics of decision theory. So it’s a funny blend of disciplines. But in practical terms we run projects relating to endangered species conservation. What should we do to get the best outcome for a limited budget in managing endangered species?
Arron Wood: I started out in the scientific area as an environmental scientist, and then realised fairly early on that it was more about people for me. My focus particularly has been on young people, how to grab student attention. Our company runs a program called Kids Teaching Kids and we’ve had 13,000 kids through the program in every state and territory.
Peter Ho: Our primary interest as an architectural practice is how we engage in the idea of a cultural identity of a sustainable future, as well as how we aim to create zero waste. We’re also interested in how we can develop a level of resilience in that future.
(L-R) Brendan Wintle, Tanya Ha
Olivia Davis: I’m a freelance writer, and the editor of a sustainable living magazine called Sprinkla which aims is to inspire people to make more sustainable choices where they can. We come from the layperson’s perspective.
TH: One thing I find that resonates when I talk to people is the idea “think like an athlete and aim for a personal best.” Sportspeople don’t try just one exercise to achieve their overall aim, they do a range of different training programs. Once they reach certain goals they don’t hang up their sports shoes, they set new goals and aim to continually improve. It’s changing to that mindset, from the idea of sustainability as a destination to sustainability as a journey.
AW: The problem with climate change is it’s sold as a singular issue and people are looking for an emissions trading scheme or something to come in and solve it for them, when the fundamental question is ‘how do we live more sustainably within our means?’ There’s a real shift needed from seeing ourselves as managers of a system where climate change is yet another thing for us to solve, to seeing ourselves as living within that living system. Environmentalism as something that’s not ‘being green’ but just who we are. We should be examining the true benefits and costs of each product we buy. Do we need it? What is the service that this product is providing?
*Tanya Ha was also closely involved with the establishment of the Graham Treloar Fellowship, an endowment fund established to provide financial support to an early career researcher from the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning to develop their research career in their chosen specialty. The fund is named after Associate Professor Graham Treloar , who was an internationally renowned researcher in the field of embodied energy. The Fellowship acknowledges his outstanding academic contribution and his passion and support for early career researchers. To help endow it in perpetuity, the University invites donations.
The University now offers an innovative postgraduate study option via the Graduate Environmental Program, allowing you to obtain a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma, of a Master of Environment. You can design your own course or pursue a specialist field of study such as conservation, catchment management, or energy studies. Go to www.environment.unimelb.edu.au for more information.
If you want to learn more about the University’s commitment to sustainability, go to the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at www.sustainable.unimelb.edu.au/. The MSSI is a hub for sustainability at the University, and it fosters sustainability research on large public issues, by integrating research expertise from a range of disciplinary perspectives, taking a particular focus on Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
You can also learn more about what the University Property and Campus Services’ long term commitment and goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. Go to www.sustainablecampus.unimelb.edu.au/ to understand the University’s policies on best practice management of waste, energy, water, buildings and more.
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