News - 25 October 2019

Stronger together: joining your community to fight for nature

Diana on the left with Wilderness Society Community Organiser Nat Rowed and her husband John.

Joining her local group has enabled Diana Pryde to channel her passion for nature. And one of the best ways to make a real impact is to express your concerns to an MP, she tells us as her team prepares to give a series of workshops on how to do just that.

Having retired two years ago following a career in teaching, Diana Pryde hasn’t simply put her feet up and deservedly focused on herself a little more. If anything, she’s busier than ever, “with the Wilderness Society, basically,” she laughs.

By volunteering with the Wilderness Society, Diana discovered group of like-minded individuals within her community in the northern suburbs of Sydney, keen to do all they can to improve the local environment and affect change on a grander scale. “It's reaffirming, because instead of just feeling depressed about things like climate change, you can join others and actually do something; it’s empowering,” she says.

For Diana, who’s had a deep passion for the natural world since childhood, it was a specific moment that compelled her to take the next step and join the Wilderness Society’s grassroots movement. “In 2012 I spent a week in Menindee on a school trip. Flying back from Broken Hill to Sydney, it was shocking to see New South Wales from the air and the number of gas wells criss-crossing the country,” she recalls. “I’d always thought that the state had lots of bushland and trees; I was appalled to see that we actually had so little. That was in the back of my mind when I retired and got involved with the Wilderness Society.”

Her volunteering is a natural extension of her teaching days. The Sydney North group she leads with her husband John, is set to give a series of workshops that will show people the best way to approach their MPs and express concerns. “Broadly, [the work] is a case of education, engaging with the community and really focussing on what a person knows, what they’re interested in, and starting a conversation around that,” Diana says. “People want to talk and that's fine because you're just helping to grow that awareness.”

Diana gives a workshop on how to talk to your MP

The work she is doing with her local group has such strong echoes with the lessons she once gave to her pupils on environmental protection, that Diana could be forgiven for questioning whether she’s actually a retiree at all. “I taught English to primary school students and remember doing an information report on frogs. We became very interested in the corroboree frog,” she says. “Around that time, John Howard was refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol and the children saw the connection between global warming and the decline of the corroboree frog due to fungus. They were outraged and wanted to write a letter to the Prime Minister, which we did, urging him to sign the Kyoto Protocol.”

While Howard didn’t ratify Kyoto, public pressure like that applied by Diana and her plucky class of corroboree frog defenders meant that Kevin Rudd signed the treaty as soon as he assumed office in 2007.

Other members of Diana’s local team are similarly engaged with government, long-time volunteer and trainer Garth Newton having recently met with the state premier's office to address recycling in New South Wales and the need for a circular economy.

More than ever, there’s a need to put our politicians to work for the people that elected them to ensure a safe and healthy environment, thinks Diana: “I've got two granddaughters and I don't want to leave the world in a worse state than when I was born. And I’m doing everything I can to make sure that we don’t have animals going extinct, that we don’t have rampant climate change out of control.

“And that’s one of the reasons that we’re putting on these workshops, because our politicians are accountable to us, and we need to know what they’re doing in our name,” she says. “So I'm all for meeting with your MP and making submissions.”

Diana (centre) pushing for a plastic bag ban at Circular Quay, Sydney

The Wilderness Society has been pushing for a strong new set of nature laws that will protect biodiversity in Australia, which has one of the highest extinction rates in the world. With a government review of our failed environmental laws, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (the EPBC), coming up at the end of October, there’s never been a better time to master the art of writing a letter to, and addressing, an elected official. “What’s exciting is that people who attend the training could have a golden opportunity to flex their newly honed skills on a major issue, with the EPBC review starting this month,” says Diana. “We will encourage whoever attends to make a submission.”

Like Diana felt compelled to do all those years ago, flying over New South Wales, it’s time to join others and make your voice heard.

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