The long and winding Climate Project road

The Climate Project: a 12-month commitment for four Tasmanians that has turned into years, without any end in sight. [24 February 2009 | Peter Boyer]

At the time it seemed like a good idea – a program that provided a framework for me and 80-odd other Australians to express concern about our planet’s state of health to anyone willing to listen.

That was Al Gore’s Climate Project, and the year was 2006, when Gore’s documentary film An Inconvenient Truth was beginning to make its mark around the world. We’d been selected to join this US-based movement to raise awareness of how humans are changing the world’s climate.

After a weekend of training with the man himself, we committed to a 12-month effort to get across the need to try to turn around the climate juggernaut and build a better future for the planet. The months have turned into years, and the task only seems to get bigger.

Among the current Australian Climate Project team, now numbering about 250, are four Tasmanians. Besides me, these are Nick Towle, based on the North-West Coast, Lesley Nicklason (North-East) and Liila Hass (Hobart).

This is not a paid occupation. We’re occasionally compensated for out-of-pocket expenses but receive no fee for our work, either from the Climate Project or from the groups we present to. This allows low-income and volunteer organisations to employ our services, and gives us more freedom to speak candidly about the risks and opportunities confronting us.

Of course we admire Al Gore for his outstanding effort to enlighten people around the world about this gigantic problem and to galvanise action to mitigate it. But we are also our own people with our own Tasmanian perspectives on climate change.

Nick Towle, who is a doctor, and nutritionist Liila Hass have a special interest in community health and well-being. Lesley Nicklason is a conservationist who promotes our magnificent natural heritage. For my part, I learned in a past public service career about the science of climate change as well as what we can and can’t expect from government in our battle to transform ourselves.

Government remains a key, but for all of us, as we gather our resources and take our messages to people around Tasmania, the great strength of this campaign is in its grass-roots qualities – opportunities to get into unlikely places and talk with people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Now well into our second or third year of Climate Project work, we’ve got to know many others of like mind, such as the admirable people of Sustainable Living Tasmania. We’ve presented to many thousands of Tasmanians all over the state, in town and country, and heard their thoughts about us and the world we live in. It’s been a pretty full-on experience.

This past week, each of us has taken time to reflect on where we’re at. In hearing from the others, I’ve been impressed by their continuing optimism, energy and commitment. I’ve also been struck by their sobering reminders of how much remains to be done.

In coming weeks I’ll pick up on a number of the themes that came out of this reflection.

If you would like Nick Towle, Lesley Nicklason, Liila Hass or Peter Boyer to talk to a group that you’re part of, contact Sustainable Living Tasmania on telephone 62345566, or email <>.

• It’s been suggested in Letters to the Editor (The Mercury, 19 February) that I contradict myself in asserting that we humans are causing our climate to change while also saying that ultimately we can’t control nature. But the two statements aren’t mutually exclusive. We can and do influence nature, but control is quite another matter. In the end nature will call the tune, and we’d better believe it.

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