The impact of not being ‘here’

I spent the entire last semester of my environmental science degree reading up about everything to do with Borneo. I had dial-up internet so it was a slow process however in between waiting for the various webpages to load I was reading books, field guides and planning the best itinerary (geez, I sound old but I’m only an ’86 baby). I was even training for Mt Kinabalu and dreaming about seeing the Orangutans. It was as if everything in life was lining up the way it was suppose to be with finishing university and going on a lifetime adventure to discover how I could save the world.

In the meantime, for a couple of years I had been volunteering in my community planting native dune plants and watering them to keep them alive. It was a crazy fun volunteer gig, dragging huge hoses up and down sand dunes, connecting pumps and supporting the field ranger. I was committed to making a difference – I still am – but I was guilty of the ‘grass is always greener’ mentality with wanting to make a difference elsewhere. Maybe a volunteer adventure in Borneo to save the Orangutans?

Proof. I saw an Orangutan.

Proof. I saw an Orangutan.


On top of Mt Kinabalu. Saw the sunrise at 4095m.

Back to Borneo, there I was flying over Sabah and as I was peering out the plane’s window photographing the vast Palm Oil plantations I was smacked in the face! There I was, a privileged white girl from Australia traveling across the world to save the Orangutans (or I thought so) along with 100s of other Australians and caucasians wanting to make the same difference too. Meanwhile back home, Australia still held (still does) the infamous fastest extinction rate and it’s no wonder as wherever you fly in Australia you will see vast development and farmland. And there I was saying no to Palm Oil (don’t get me wrong, I believe no plants or animals should be lost or suffer pain). For me it’s always been about the Bilbies as their population used to cover 70% of the country and are now on the brink of extinction and they need your help!  Actually all of Australia’s native plants and animals need your help! How many endangered plants can you actually list?

But travelling overseas and saving the world elsewhere is way more adventurous, right? It is way more cool, right? It has a way bigger impact, right? Well, the truth is it’s not and for some very good reasons too.

Saving the world isn’t a FIFO way of living life. It’s a full time cultural-shift where you live a life that is more meaningful in every way. How? Well, that’s for another tangent to answer but my point is to save the world you need to start in your own backyard. Whether it is regularly attending a local tree planting activity, taking 3 for the sea, refusing to use single-use plastics, eating locally, riding a bike, connecting with your neighbour or holding a street party, it’s about committing to making a full time difference in your community.

I really couldn’t stress enough about the impact of not being ‘here’. It’s quite a timely tangent to share when this week I have had many people cancel their involvement in various things for a number of reasons, sometimes there were no reasons! Which for me is pretty low. I get that other things in life come up here and there and you are probably thinking, geez, I should probably go get a life. It’s almost 7pm on a Saturday night… but I did have plans and they were canceled for no real, life threatening reason.

And here’s the thing this tangent was inspired by such people on top of a column I read today in Blank GC about how young Australians don’t travel or explore their own backyard, outback and ocean. No wonder the young volunteer force is elsewhere.  As instead of making a difference in Australia they fly across the world to drink foreign beer, buy a singlet and share their cultural experiences when they come back or hashtag in between.

I hope you can gather the impact of not being ‘here’ is huge because if you’re not ‘here’, well who is?

If not you, who? If not now, when?

PS – if you do commit there is nothing worse then cancelling with a half arse or no excuse and if you do cancel why not find an alternative or someone to replace you to ensure the show still goes on.