the future is now: meet the australian environmentalists fighting for the planet
With the election of Donald Trump last week, many young Australians are re-examining their own activism and asking how they can make a real difference. i-D spoke to some of the county’s most creative young environmentalists about how they’re fighting...
Ella Saurus, 25, Creator of Psyklz Club Sport
How do you advocate for environmental issues through Psyklz Club Sport? PSYKLZ ClubSport aims to start the conversation about the origins of clothing. I want to prove that being a conscious shopper doesn't mean you have to wear hemp patchwork (even though that's awesome) to be helping the environment. By sourcing everything from op-shops, markets, and the odd donation I'm able to create one-offs that have personality and integrity without the environmental or humanitarian price tag. Why is it important to use fashion as a point of advocacy? Fashion has a massive voice. It can convey a mood, an emotion, a way of life, or a political movement. By wearing locally-made recycled clothing, consumers themselves spread awareness. The excitement of wearing something amazing made from someone else's trash, that was made in the same city that you reside in is huge! And if we can make being environmentally conscious about your fashion choices cool, then we are in turn creating that exact conversation about where it comes from and what it's made from. How do you suggest people tailor their environmental activism during a Trump presidency? Trump is just another puppet, another negative distraction from a positive movement. My advice is ignore him and continue living your life. What's your worst fear for our environment's future? My fear is that we may be either too late or too slow in making this monumental shift into conscious environmentalism on every level. The powers of the globe are stuck in old habits and old habits die hard. We may feel helpless when we look at the destruction of the planet but doing something is better than doing nothing at all. This place is worth saving.
Jack Kong, 21, Environments Student at Melbourne University
Why are you passionate about the environment? Humans and the environment are part of the same entity, so we are obligated to provide environmental management in the same way we manage our social and political systems. What inspires you? Being at uni is important for starting conversations or hatching ideas, but it's not the end result. I'm most inspired when I'm at street level thinking about all the different lives of others and where they live, who they are, and what they think about. What are you afraid of? Nearly every piece of plastic you've ever used still exists somewhere — that's scary. We rely on cars way too much. The Great Barrier Reef is potentially dying right now. The scariest thing is that in most cases there are solutions to these problems. But we're so inhibited by the political systems we live under that acting on these issues is often more challenging than finding answers to them. How do you think Donald Trump will impact our environment's future? Trump is capitalism in a human form. He's obviously already voiced his opinion pretty loudly about climate change being a hoax. For him the environment's worth is determined by profit it can generate — I don't see this kind of thought changing anytime soon.
Kristian Laemmle-Ruff, 28, Visual Artist
How can art raise awareness? Visual art doesn't have to advocate for the environment, yet I do believe that good art, relevant art, is honest with the times. There are such huge challenges before us all. As an artist I feel a responsibility to make work that challenges capitalist notions of "business as usual" and opens up opportunities towards a more peaceful and sustainable future. Tell us about your most recent work, Mind The Gap, which explores the environmental impacts of mining in Australia. Mind The Gap aims to highlight colonial impacts and differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ways of understanding and valuing land. Mining is one of these colonial impacts. The BHP Billiton-owned mine, Olympic Damn, is one of the largest exporters of uranium in the world which is sold to many countries including Japan. It was Australian uranium in the nuclear reactors in Fukushima when they melted on March 11, 2011. I visualized this connection by having containers filled with sand from the mine. With permission from local elders this earth was juxtaposed with large photographic portraits of nuclear refugees from Fukushima. I wanted to connect the dots between Kokatha land, corporate power, culture, and public health disasters worldwide.
Alex McQuire, 21, RMIT Design student
Your family is pretty remarkable. Tell us about their history with renewable energy? My family home was the first house in Victoria to have grid connected solar electricity. It's been generating surplus electricity since it was installed in 1996. So as well as benefiting the environment, my family hasn't paid an electricity bill in 20 years! How do you address the environment through your designs? One of my aims when designing is making a garment emotionally durable as well as physically durable. A lot of the time when people throw away clothes it's not because they're actually worn out but because they no longer feel attached to them. Where does fashion sit within the larger environmental discourse? The main issue is fashion is predominantly trend-driven and happens so fast. It encourages people to buy and dispose of things very quickly, especially when the value of a garment is measured purely by price point and relevancy to current trends. A sustainable approach is not only about energy and water consumption but also about shifting the way we think about fashion. How do you think Donald Trump will impact the environment's future? Trump made it pretty clear in his election campaign that he aims to undo all of the progress Obama has made in environmental policy. Having a climate change denier as president is likely to be pretty detrimental. Trump's presidency has already changed a lot: the election revealed a mass of people who share Trump's radically conservative views. This is not a time to be complacent, but a time to talk openly and think about ways we can be active in fighting against racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, and climate change — all issues which affect the experience of our everyday environment.
Mary Grigoris, 25, Executive Producer OFF THE GRID
What in particular do you advocate for through OFF THE GRID? We want to create a platform that will empower our community to transform their city. Why is it important to advocate for the environment through music? Advocating for the environment can feel intimidating, it can be easy to feel like you're not qualified enough to make a difference. Music is accessible no matter where you come from and can create a commonality between even the most diverse group of people. When people feel connected, they feel empowered. Festivals can be really destructive events, tell us about OFF THE GRID's practices on the day of the event? The event is powered using the solar panels that are on our stage. Our waste management team has also created a strategy that will help OFF THE GRID achieve zero-waste. What's your advice for other young activists who are feeling disillusioned by Trump's election? I feel like it's important to remain optimistic. This is the time more than ever to show how the power of community can take on one individual at the top.
Ross Harding, 32, Owner of renewable energies creative agency Finding Infinity
What in particular do you advocate for through Finding Infinity? Finding Infinity is all about solutions, not problems. We are actively trying to speed up the transition to self-sufficiency through a mix of engineering consulting and bespoke creativity. We work with the three sectors: people, private, and public. We try to keep things as unusual as we can. Why is it important for the world to transition to renewable energies? Resources are running out. It's inevitable that we'll move onto 100 percent renewable energy in less than two life times. The International Energy Agency's latest estimates indicate that fossil fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $493 billion in 2014. So why are we investing in the past when we can invest in the future? Renewables are basically a flawless argument. The good news is that we are the only barrier and that's something we all know we can change. What's your worst fear for our environment's future? I'm completely optimistic about the future. I believe humans are smart enough to turn this thing around; when we are work together on something, we can change major things overnight.
Text Alex Manatakis
Photography James Robinson