News - 03 May 2019

Close to home: why nature matters to me

Charlotte’s love of nature began on the shores of the Northern Beaches, NSW, and it wasn’t long before she was joining her mum at environmental rallies. Now, with the support of the Wilderness Society, she’s mobilising her community to protect her childhood home.

By Charlotte

Caring about the environment has always been close to home for me. My earliest memories are being surrounded by nature. We were always surfing, fishing on the lake or walking the dogs on the beach.

I grew up on the Northern Beaches, right across the road from Narrabeen Lake, which is a beautiful spot in New South Wales. The lake has a path that goes all the way around it, and most people will use it as part of their daily routines—joggers, fishers. It has crystal-clear blue water and there’s a flock of black swans and pelicans there.

But it wasn’t long before I began to notice that the area around my home was changing, and I started seeing rubbish wherever I’d go. It triggered an early realisation of: “Oh, I love this place and I don’t want to see it being polluted.”

Photo: Charlotte in the great outdoors

My environmental values and activism all come from my mum. Since I was young, we’ve regularly attended nature rallies and protests together, making sure our voices and opinions are heard. She’s been the biggest influence on my life.

My mum’s always been environmentally conscious. Growing up, I remember hearing her yell out while I was in the shower: “hurry up, don't waste water!” or “turn the lights out when you leave the room!” The rest of my family would make fun of my mum for constantly writing to politicians, expressing her dislike for how they dealt with issues of the environment and climate change—telling her it was a waste of time. These things she would say and the letters she wrote… I never realised how important they were until I was older. Small actions do matter and doing what we can for the environment is what matters most.

Photo: Charlotte (right) and her mum (centre) regularly attend environmental rallies

My high school agricultural teacher was also a big influence on me. He looked like a typical Australian farmer—very tanned, always wearing dirty beige shorts and steel-cap boots. He was so passionate about the environment and sustainability. One time, a group of us students got to stay at his farm for a week, and he also took us to his friends’ farms where they had native bees and practised aquaponics—all sorts of alternative farming options.

That’s what led me to study environmental management at university—I want to figure out how to manage the earth correctly, in a way that we can sustain. Because my greatest fear is that Australia will be a world leader for biodiversity loss and deforestation.

And that’s why I signed up to join my local community group—I was ready to take proper action for the environment and learn how to advocate for the bigger issues at play.

Community groups are also where I knew I’d be able to find like-minded people with similar values to me. Because even though there are hundreds of people that care about the environment and the Northern beaches, it can still be hard to find and connect with those people. So getting to be part of a group, but a group within my local area, was super appealing.

My volunteering journey has been a whirlwind. Days after I signed up to volunteer on the Wilderness Society website, I was contacted and invited to a two-day ‘Fundamentals of Organising’ training, where I made friends with members of my community—people from the Northern beaches who care about our local area as well. Now, I’m part of a large national network of community groups who have banded together for the environment. It's just taking it to the next level. The whole thing has been amazing. It’s made me feel so happy and full of hope, as though I’m not just one random person in Narrabeen that cares about what’s happening to our environment. It’s thrilling to know there are people that want the exact same things you do, and are willing to work with you to achieve them. The power of people is incredible.

Photo: Charlotte (centre) at a training event

Through my local community group, I hope to spread awareness of the environmental devastation that’s occurring nationally, and continue the Wilderness Society’s push to ‘change the laws of nature’. New nature laws are necessary and just make sense in terms of stopping deforestation, stopping habitat loss and loss of biodiversity.

I also want to bring hope to other like-minded people out there—that there are people, groups, organisations that exist and are willing to fight for our environment. My generation often talks about eco-anxiety and depression, and these big problems ahead of us. I think it’s important to send a message to them that “the rest of us are here, we want to help, and here's how you can help by coming and joining us and working together on these things.” There’s been such a rise in Australia of environmentalism—soon, the people that don't care about the environment are going to be the odd ones out.

I also hope to use my training to protect the places that are close to my heart, working alongside other members of my community. I’d like to see more sustainable living start to be implemented in my local area, so that people can still live there and enjoy it, but also preserve the natural surroundings.

Since getting involved with The Wilderness Society, I’ve been sending emails to politicians all the time, and find myself telling others to turn off the lights or remember to bring their KeepCup. It was my mum that brought me to be where I am today, and I couldn't be prouder that I'm becoming just like her.

Photo: Charlotte and her mum admiring a waterfall in the Blue Mountains

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