The climate marches on March 15thshowed the world what young people think we should be paying attention to.
On our Homeward Bound voyage Christiana Figueres talked about being stubbornly optimistic that the world’s people would take action on climate change in time. She also said that rather than engendering despair, the recent IPCC 1.5 ˚C report had given her hope that, if we take action now, it will not be too late. This was a very powerful message for all of us on board.
I was reminded of her wise and timely words on Friday. As a scientist who works in this area, I must admit to being tired of being told that, we as scientists, are not doing enough to make people understand the seriousness of the situation. It’s heartening therefore to see that so many school children from around the world get that climate change is happening and we need to do something about it - at all levels (individuals, communities, towns, cities and nation states).
Many of their signs on the climate march show that young people don’t understand why adults generally, and politicians in particular, seem to have such a hard time understanding the seriousness of the threat. But the student strikes for climate really do give me hope. It’s heartening to see that one person’s actions can trigger so much, from Greta Thunberg’s solo action in August 2018 to more than 200o protests over 125 counties in March 2019. Our lab was well represented with Dr Johanna Turnbull, Alison Haynes and Rafaela joining in the Wollongong March. Johanna’s kids were very excited to be on their first ‘strike’ and the march was well attended by primary and secondary children and their family and friends. So, here’s to global optimism, young people and fearless women!
On International Women’s Day it’s important to remember the women who came before and celebrate how they have paved the way for us. On a personal level I am intensely grateful to my mother and both my grandmothers who all believed in me, encouraged my curiosity and always made me feel I could do anything I wanted, even if their life options were not always as straightforward. On our recent Homeward Bound voyage Christiana Figueres introduced us to both global optimismand the term stubbornly optimistic. I think I get my stubbornness from a strong line of women on both sides of the family!
My maternal grandmother, Isobel Robinson was an extremely talented artist, she could look at the clothes at the London and Paris Fashion shows, draw them and then make patterns for others to recreate the clothes at home. Her work was published in newspapers at a time when hardly anyone could afford to buy clothes and everyone knew how to sew. Women would copy the patterns and make their own versions. My mum and grandmother both being talented dressmakers was a great boon for me as a teenager, wanting to look fashionable.
Isobel was also a rock climber, made terrain models for the war rooms and drove trucks during World War II. Here is an example of her work for the Air ministry "Communictions must be maintained".
After the war she had to give up driving but she retained a love of rock climbing, and also walking in the Lake District, which mum and I both share.
My paternal grandmother, Edith Ward, worked in the Post Office in London during the war. This was an essential job which meant she got to stay in London throughout the war while my dad and his brother were evacuated to safety in the countryside. Edith was a lawn bowls supremo and an amazing knitter and crocheter. She crocheted dresses for me and I still have those and the quilts she made for me.
My mum, Annie Robinson, was a teacher of english and history at Falmouth School in Cornwall, UK. She took an Open University Course in Science when I was 16 and then taught music and science in primary schools in North Cornwall. She is a talented musician and writer, a wonderful gardener and an excellent caller of country dances.
She took me on Ban the Bomb and anti-apartheid marches from an early age, inspired me to care about injustice and the planet and to stand up for what I believed in. Mum is a hard act to follow but it’s important to try and keep up. She can still teach me a lot about caring for the environment, she hasn't flown anywhere in years in an attempt to keep her carbon footprint low.
So, on this international women’s day take a moment to think about and thank those women who came before, both personally and professionally. They helped to get us where we are today and to realise that we are Stronger Together.