I still remember the day I found out about Climate Change, I was 11 years old, watching ‘Behind the News’ in primary school. I remember walking out of that classroom feeling completely changed and from that day on, I was preoccupied with how to help others understand climate change.
I spoke passionately to whomever would listen. But their reactions were not what I expected. Instead of being convinced by what I told them, they accused me of caring more about plants and animals than people; of being be a puritan, self-righteous; irresponsibly naïve – perhaps even a socialist or a radical. At that age, I didn’t understand what most of these things meant, but I quickly learnt to distance myself from them and to focus on things more acceptable, even aspirational such as sustainable living.
For many years I focused on sustainable living, eventually running my own green living business. But in 2008, I read Climate Code Red. By then I had a son and was pregnant with another. Four degrees of warming by 2060 would be in my children’s lifetimes! What would it mean for them? What would I say to them when they are teenagers and old enough to understand climate change? By this time, we might well know whether we’ve done what it will take to keep temperatures at “safe” levels. If we haven’t, how would I acknowledge their future to them? What would I say that is honest, but meaningful? How should I bring up children knowing that day could come?
I didn’t know the answer to these questions, but I did know if that day were to come, I wanted to be able to look them in the eye and say, “I did everything I possibly could.”
But what could I do?
Again, I didn’t know, but I knew that behaviour change wasn’t enough. If we are to prevent catastrophic levels of warming, then we need radical systemic change and for that to happen we need the people who have the power to change those systems to act – our politicians and leaders of business and industry.
Over the next six years, I closed by business and spent more time with campaign organisations, eventually working for Environment Victoria – in their Sustainable Living Team, but with an interest in how that type of community engagement can be harnessed to effect larger, systemic change. All the while, however, an idea was growing in my mind.
I knew from years of behaviour change work that people are most influenced to change their opinion and to act through conversations with people they trust. I knew those conversations take time; they need a safe space; they need to appeal to emotion and values. I’d also seen, as a mum at home with kids, how powerful Tupperware parties could be! What if we used the Tupperware party model to engage people with climate change through their friends; to create a safe space and the time to have those persuasive conversations, in a way that would grow exponentially?
In June last year I attended the TCRP training in Melbourne. It was a while since I’d taken time from my busy work and parenting schedule to engage properly with climate change. On day one, my passion was rekindled, on day two as I listened (teary eyed) to Al Gore speak, I had a creeping feeling and on day three I knew, that as much as I loved Environment Victoria, I wasn’t going back to work. The next week, I gave notice and in September I left my paid position at Environment Victoria to work full time with the support of four friends, to realise that “Tupperware Party” idea.
In the past seven months, we’ve established a registered charity Climate for Change, recruited a Board and 19 volunteers and started work on the content of our gatherings and supporting resources. By August this year we aim to be ready to start our first gatherings. This month we are excited to be having our ‘Launch Party’ at which we will launch our crowdfunder to raise the money we need to support those gatherings. We’d love to see you there.
This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm