Vicki recently helped establish Outdoors People for Climate Action, which aims to engage people who work in or love the outdoors with the Climate Movement. This will help to mobilise a group of people with strong connections to wild and natural places, and connect them with the movement which is working to protect these areas from the long term damage of climate change.
tell me a bit about yourself and what you do
Usually I work in the Outdoor Education and Outdoor Tourism industries. Most recently I was guiding on the Larapinta Trail for World Expeditions. Before that I worked at Outward Bound Australia first as an instructor and then as the coordinator for the WA operational area. I’ve temporarily stepped out of the outdoor industries, following a new awareness of the need for urgent action on climate change and the severity of the climate crisis. As a result, I decided to devote my 2020 to climate action.
I’ve assisted in recently setting up a group called Outdoors People for Climate Action which aims to engage people who work in or love the outdoors with the Climate Movement. It can’t be overstated how much climate change will impact outdoor educators, guides, enthusiasts and businesses in the coming years and decades. I hope the outdoor community will become more engaged and empowered in tackling the climate crisis.
why did you move where you live – what drew you to the place?
I just moved to Kiama, NSW a couple of weeks ago. Until now, I have always lived wherever I worked. Kiama appealed because it has a great, friendly, relaxed community; nature and beaches and because it’s accessible to Wollongong and Sydney by train, it felt like a good fit for climate activism.
do you have a favourite place?
The Walpole Wilderness. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere of the wild places in South West WA. It’s got such a quiet and old, wild and remote, contemplative feel to it. When I think of the Walpole area, I see the fierce Southern Ocean, serene inlets, tannin coloured rivers, a huge diversity of plants including spectacular and prolific wildflowers, iconic animals, giant Karri and Tingle Trees, kilometres of vegetated sand dunes, plains of grasstrees and huge granite slabs. I think our favourite places are greatly influenced by our experience in them. I’ve spent many months really, walking off track with outdoor education groups though those national parks and the nature of the topography meant there was a huge flexibility in route finding. It was wonderful discovering nooks and crannies throughout those national parks and gaining a web like picture of the landscape.
what do you see as your life’s work
I always thought my life’s work was to bring people into nature and help foster connections between people and nature. I grew up in the urban sprawl around Toronto, Canada and only gained a good relationship with nature in my young adulthood and it’s certainly been the most profound aspect of my life.
My focus shifted though, when I became aware of the looming, existential threat to earth’s nature as we know it, through climate change (and other environmental issues). Some people say nature will go on, and of course it will, but what’s here is so precious and it’s so important to protect the existing health, quality, vibrancy and diversity. Just in inspiration alone I’ve gained enough from nature to now owe it one so to speak – so protecting nature has taken an urgent precedence. I also hope people in the future will be able to experience what we’ve been able to enjoy.
what influences have had the greatest impact on you as a person
Specifically, my time training, instructing and coordinating at Outward Bound Australia. Outward Bound Australia is quite a formative experience for participants and staff alike. It was a rollercoaster of empowerment really. The Outward Bound value of human potential is well represented in the organisation.
Secondly, walking the Australian Alpine Walking Track was in technical terms, something else, with 47 uninterrupted days in awe-inspiring Australian high country and the sustained gruelling terrain and routine of it was also a great experience.
what gives you most joy?
Native plants, birds, good walks and people with similar values.
who are the people you most admire
Growing up in Canada, David Suzuki was the prominent, inspiring environmentalist for me.
I’ve met several young climate activists (14-18 years old). Hearing what they have to say about the issue and about all they’re doing to pursue a better future, makes me feel in awe of their maturity, responsibility and focus at such a young age.
what gives you hope
The environmental wins – for example when Telstra said they’ll use 100% renewable energy by 2025 and when Equinor pulled their drilling plans out of the Great Australian Bight. As well as when more and more people start caring more and more about the environment. And birds.
whereabouts on the optimist – pessimist spectrum do you put yourself when it comes to the future of our society and planet?
My outlook is aiming to understand and accept the whole truth and to be solutions focused – it’s a bit like managing risk in the outdoors. I want to live firmly in reality and understand all the risks that we’re facing. But I also want to understand all the actions we can take to mitigate those risks. I think pessimism can be quite dangerous for environmentalism/the climate movement. I’ve found it quite alarming to see how people can have a nihilistic view of the future which helps excuse complacent behaviours. I think certain types of pessimism can reduce the sense of control and empowerment we have, which can in turn reduce our ability to positively influence the future that we are collaboratively creating. Ideally, everyone should be informed about the risks we are facing, the solutions to the problems and feel empowered to make a meaningful difference.