I was led to believe by following your passion and getting a good education, success at changing the world would just happen. I remember picking up a handful of pamphlets at a university open day, which ignited an imagination of becoming a park ranger and saving endangered species from extinction. An environmental science degree was the pathway to protect the environment.
However, a few years after graduation, my position as a coastal professional positioned within the machine of coastal management led me to become consistently conflicted with the system. I would often express my frustrations regarding the lack of action for climate change or the approval of development in vulnerable coastal zones. Given the political climate at the time, I couldn’t even say climate change! This was of much disappointment given this was only a few years after the height of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, and the explosion of climate change discourse throughout my undergraduate degree.
Over the years I acquired a nickname as being a “disruptor”. However, what I had really become was an inconvenience. I was “that” or “one of those” coastal professionals asking questions and demanding accountability of the machine. I was an emerging product of this particular machine — was is an intentional past construction here.
This frustration was in fact disenchantment. What I saw with a critical self-reflexivity was what I could not deny. There are implications of maintaining the status quo and being a disenchanted cog in the machine, however, I was yet to know what they were. What I did know, was that I had become conflicted with this idea that the nature of my participation in coastal management was more than my job description, and it deserved a critical interrogation into the implications of toeing the line for the sake of status, career or financial gain.
Whether it has been out of stubbornness, a lack of fear or an inherent quality to strive for equality, I have become to realise that disenchantment can be a driver for change. It is in those (these) moments of disenchantment where we should question our own participation and reflect on our values, ethics and morals. I know that there can be another way, other ways of managing Australia’s coastal zone. This question has consumed my life since leaving the machine and starting a PhD about this disenchantment of the coastal zone.
If I could share some advice to my younger self (I am 32 years old), I would advise to understand and value the power of questioning, and with a critical self-reflexivity of pre-conditioned realities, we can also shift ideals to see another or other ways. This may not be written in the language for a younger self to understand, however, young people are incredibly intelligent and they will work out what I mean. The way the machine compromises the health, sustainability and ecology of the coastal zone needs bright, passionate young minds to continually question. ‘If we maintain the status quo, we will not realise the change we need for the environment and humanity’, words by Associate Professor Kerrie Foxwell-Norton, who continually reminds me as I navigate my own PhD. And I agree with her.
This Friday presents a chance to challenge the machine, whatever side of politics you are from or whatever your age category. I will be joining the School’s Climate Strike to demonstrate my support for young minds to question and demand real action for climate change.