“In high school, one of the students two years above me raved about his experience at the National Youth Science Forum. I had to see what all the fuss was about. At that time, I wanted to discover engineering so that one day I could design the most environmentally friendly buildings possible.
In the hot summer of January 2011, I marvelled at the nuclear research conducted by The Australian National University, I absorbed the research going into the Cotter Dam expansion and I sang until I could sing no longer. I was also really moved by how my peers accepted climate change and that it was caused by human influence. Coming from conservative regional area it wasn’t really on the agenda. I did know about it, we had watched the Inconvenient Truth and studied the greenhouse effect.
I was selected to also attend the APEC Youth Science Festival in 2011. The APEC Youth Science Festival (YSF) is a science fair run by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC. It is for 15–18-year-olds with an interest in science–technology, and seeks to break down cultural barriers for learning.
At the APEC YSF I was in the Nuclear Energy stream and Origami Stream. So, how does origami relate to science? We were told it is used to model solar panels on spacecrafts. It needs to be able to fold down and minimise area during solar flares and maximise area for power generation.
There was something about the dissonance of the situation: If climate change could cause such devastation why weren’t governments or other leaders doing more?
This led me to question my own plans. If global environmental change was a major problem, what could I do to help? Building energy efficient buildings would only get me so far. Also, how likely was it that I was going to get a job creating these great buildings when most of the population are primarily concerned about the upfront cost?
Rather than take a path looking at improving the efficiency of things, I decided to focus on what leverage points are available to shape the cultural climate around climate change, climate justice and sustainability. This led me to the ANU, where I am studying for a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies of Sustainability.
Burgmann College was my first preference in terms of accommodation. Through the Green group at Burgmann, I was able to get involved in activities such as tree planting. The student group was also able to implement under-desk recycling bins and replacing disposable cups with keep cups.
During my time at university I’ve not just been studying; I have been involved in a number of environmental initiatives at Burgmann College, been a Peer Assisted Learning Mentor facilitating activities to help students learn content and develop skills vital for university, and I was appointed to the role of First Year Co-ordinator where it has been my joy to assist first year students in settling into university. Last semester, I organised ‘Climate Week’ to draw attention to Paris COP 21 – the United Nations conference on climate change - and the intersection of how climate change affects other social issues such as indigenous rights, refugees and food security. I also participated in the Australian National Internship Program interning at Parliament House, exploring the barriers to aquaculture expansion in Northern Australia.
2016 sees me beginning an Honours year looking at health and wellbeing in regional areas through the influence of built environment. Coming from Albury-Wodonga it will be awesome to work on a project so close to home. It’s also a concern because we already know mental health issues increase with drought, and drought is likely to increase with climate change. Regional areas also suffer from higher obesity rates than the major cities.
One day, I hope to run my own consultancy company focused on developing innovative cultures in workplaces that create public value beyond their core business. My favourite quote at the moment comes from a farmer featured in Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, ‘The only thing sustainable is how we treat each other.” We have to do our best to make our world better for everyone.