Our once and future home

Journeying with the climate pilgrims

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  • Published 20210504
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-59-7
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

IT’S A HOT Australian twilight, some years ago now, and I’m among a couple of hundred people who have gathered in the forgettable, sanitised space of a function centre conference room to talk about the future of life on Earth. The formalities have concluded and everyone has risen from their chairs. As the furniture scrapes and most of those who’ve attended begin their patient procession towards the exit, some members of the audience make their way forward to approach one or other of the speakers. You probably know the drill. I’ve done this often enough myself when there’s someone I want to meet personally, to ask a follow-up private question, or in some cases just to let a corporate or government decision-maker know – given my role – that Greenpeace is watching. On this occasion though, I’ve been one of the panellists, and as I remove the lapel mic and pick up my steel water bottle, a modest gaggle forms for a chat. I have a quick and friendly exchange with one or two of those waiting for a word before a youngish teenager takes his turn.

I guess he’s fourteen. He has pale skin and nervous brown eyes behind glasses. The stubborn russet hair and rangy physique give open expression to the not-yet-quite-fitting-together parts of mid-adolescence. It is still years before Greta Thunberg and the dynamism of the global school-strike movement will fundamentally change the demography of international climate activism, so the kid stands out. He speaks hesitantly, with an instinctive sideways glance, as if wishing there were no others present to overhear what he is about to say. I have the sense that he is straining not to show too much emotion. There is a kind of cauterised look about his face, perhaps just shyness, maybe more. An uneasy beginning verging on a stutter before he asks me bluntly:

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