First inspiring Kiwi on my journey of discovery: #Science as Activism #350 #10/10/10 #climate #education

“The arc of history is long but bends toward justice” – Martin Luther King Junior

This is Aaron Packard’s favourite quote and he’s a true bender. Apart from doing a bit of break-dancing and circus performance in his spare time, Aaron is the Pacific coordinator for 350.org. He’s a passionate environmental enthusiast with a big heart and a seriously silly streak.

Aaron is also my flatmate and the first rebellious optimist on my voyage of discovery. On a rare and beautiful Wellington afternoon we rolled down to the beach on our bikes and sat on the same rocks where 10/10/10 was launched a couple of days before.

I was intending to podcast our fascinating conversation. But, unfortunately my trusty recorder (which has never failed me before) went doolaly and corrupted the file. So no podcast! Only my memory. And this little bad quality video we made at the end:

Ok now… Go memory!

Aaron – positive vision, enthusiasm, love, action – having huge goals and showing you mean business by doing solid practical stuff and getting people involved – the power of people – the power of positive persuasion; of laugher; of being silly; being human; being bold and optimistic.

Putting our humanness before our political alignment, our opinions – making sure that people know they won’t be judged, they are free to be themselves. Engagement through inspiration, understanding and respect – not guilt or fear.

Aaron has a particular talent for getting people engaged and excited. He has gathered together a huge network of friends and contacts around NZ and the world. Over the last few months he has been hard at work co-ordinating the Pacific region’s actions for the 10/10/10 Global Working Bee (see blog Oct 10th). He’d often bounce into the kitchen from his bedroom office and announce things like: “Federated States of Micronesia just registered an action! Woohoo!” He’d snort like a horse, do some crazy dance and return to his room. His enthusiasm is obviously infectious as he persuaded people in every Pacific country to get together on 10/10/10 for working bees – from planting trees to building sculptures out of rubbish (350.org). He also persuaded myself and the other flatmates to get up at 6am on Sunday morning to do a solar panel dance to the rising sun (http://bit.ly/b6i5NY).>

In a way it doesn’t matter so much what people actually did on 10/10/10. What’s more important, I think, is that there is now a network of millions of people out there connected, listening and ready for action. I’m inspired by Aaron’s ability to co-ordinate and inspire such a diverse and dispersed network of people. As a science communicator I’m learning a huge amount from his example.

As Aaron was telling me, 350 treads a fine line between focussing on the emotional appeal of climate change and the hard science. But it’s the emotional connection, he thinks, that really gets people engaged and enthused. Young people are passionate about climate change because it gives their lives meaning and purpose. It gives them something to fight for, a community to belong to and something bigger than themselves to serve. 

I believe this is the spirit the science community needs to tap into to get young people engaged with science. While fewer and fewer young people are enrolling in science courses at school and university, more and more are getting passionate about climate change. We need to connect with young people where their passions already are. We need to tell the story of how science can help them achieve their dreams. After all, without science we wouldn’t even understand climate change and we’d have no idea how to tackle it.

I’d like to see enthusiastic young environmental enthusiasts choosing careers in science as their way of contributing to the wellbeing of the planet and their community. By science I don’t just mean Ecology and Environmental Studies. Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Biology and Technology offer young people the ability to redesign and rebuild the way the world works – so it’s sustainable but inspiring and beautiful too. These sciences allow us to learn from the building techniques of nature; to design materials and processes that nourish rather than pollute the environment; to harness energy from the sun, wind and waves and to turn waste into gold.  

This is creative inspiring work.

It’s like magic – alchemy – but it’s not. It’s science.

Science As Activism!

It’s a way to make a difference.

As Aaron pointed out science gives environmental activists the tools to understand and work with complexity; it enables groups like 350.org to develop evidence-based arguments to present to the public, government and policy-makers and it offers a neutral ground for dialogue.

I see a huge amount of possibility in the network that Aaron has helped to create around NZ and the world. I’d like to engage with this network and tell the story of how science can help us create a positive future. 

I’m not sure how this will take shape yet. I’m looking forward to seeing how this journey unfolds.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions…

 

 

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