a change in time

musings on behavioural change – the small stuff and the big stuff.


Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?

Do you remember this game? The call-and-answer goes like this:

Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? Ruth stole the cookie from the cookie jar. Who me? Yes you! Not me! Then who?

It seems appropriate to choose the title of a children’s singalong game for this blog. I feel compelled to write about the current groundswell of young people protesting against the lack of action being taken on climate change by governments and corporations around the world.

This caricature of Donald Trump and his cronies is along the lines of where I’m going with this analogy, however as the above rhyme reveals, I have also had my hand in the cookie jar.

On the 10th of February we attended an event at the National Sustainable Living Festival entitled ‘Schooled: Students striking out for the climate’. We wanted to listen to what younger people had to say about the state of the environment and whether they felt there were any cookies left.

The four speakers were: Marco Bellemo
Northcote High School, VIC, Yr 12
Jean Hinchliffe
Fort St High School, NSW, Yr 10
Harriet O’Shea-Carre
Castlemaine Steiner School, VIC, Yr 9
Jagveer Singh
Hoppers Crossing Secondary College, VIC, Yr 12 graduate

We were interested to notice that there was a greater proportion of adults in the audience than students. This was particularly apparent in the Q&A at the end, where it seemed like those asking questions, mainly adults, were more intent on getting across their agendas. The MC pointed out that we were there to listen to what the students had to say on this topic.

The ‘issue’ that stood out most for me is kind of obvious, and yet it hadn’t really hit me until I was sitting under this dome on Birrarung Marr. The students are not eligible to vote and yet it is their future that we are currently messing with. A member of the audience wanted to know how we can help support them. All students agreed that the first thing we can do is to show up to the next student strike on March the 15th.

Taken in Melbourne at the school strike on November 30th last year. (Photo credit, Julian Meehan) The article in which this photograph appeared is worth a read: https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/unions-back-next-school-strike-in-australia-ahead-of-2019-federal-election/news-story/50dcdc9aae668636129232bdc0518841

Jean Hinchliffe, the representative from NSW, cited Greta Thunberg, a 15 year old Swedish student, as her inspiration for organizing the march in Sydney. There is definitely something about Greta that causes one to feel inspired, and I’m saying that just from following her on Instagram. Interestingly, Greta’s first few posts attracted an average of 600 ‘likes’. After being interviewed by the Australian edition of the Guardian, that jumped to 10,000. Following on from her TED Talk and being interviewed by a range of different media outlets, her posts now attract up to 90,000 responses and hundreds of comments.

Australian readers will appreciate this post! The students commented on how pleased they were that the Prime Minister had responded, firstly because it meant he was taking notice, and secondly, that being told to stay in school just made them want to go on strike even more. Jean also mentioned that after seeing how committed the Australian students were to getting their voices heard, Greta was re-inspired to keep going.

On Tuesday night we joined a full house at Cinema Nova in Carlton to see Youth Unstoppable, one of the films being shown at the Transitions Film Festival. The film was directed by Slater Jewell-Kemker. Shot over eight years, starting when she was just 15 years old, Jewell-Kemker documents the highs and lows of the Youth Climate Movement. We were left with much to think about. One thing that struck me was the involvement of young people from many countries around the world. Jewell-Kemker noted how difficult it was to keep the faith, and that many of the friends she had met along the way had dropped out of the movement, although a handful have remained committed throughout those years. It’s hard enough for adults to keep up the energy and determination required for this level of activism.

Jewell-Kemker photographed with Mike Moore at the Traverse City Film Festival. Other well known Americans have put up their hands to support Jewell-Kemker. One is Adrian Grenier, the lead actor from Entourage, who came on board as an executive producer, declaring, “Young people these days aren’t waiting. They have access to the facts on climate change, the intelligence to understand our negligence as adults, and the platform to stand up and speak out.”

The three person panel assembled for the Q&A after the screening consisted of a representative from United Nations Association of Australia, Graham Hunter, the climate change program manager, as well as a representative from the Youth Climate Movement, and a young woman who had attended many of the UN Climate Change conferences but was now working for an environmental group. This time the audience was mainly populated with younger people. It was interesting to see Marco Bellemo in the audience. We had been impressed by his views and his ability to share them eloquently when we saw him speak at the ‘Schooled!’ panel earlier in the month. His question cut through the ‘feel good’ mood that was in the air.

Marco Bellemo poses with his sign at last year’s school strike. It states clearly what he stands for. On Tuesday night he wanted to know why many environmental groups shied away from declaring that what we are facing is a climate emergency. All members of the panel agreed that it was an emergency but felt that to use such a word in the public arena would panic people, which would make it harder to create change.

George Monbiot, in an article about the student strikes, published in the Guardian on the 20th of February 2019, asserts, “Drawing on the successes and failures of the past, we must help young climate strikers to win their existential struggle. This one has to succeed. It is not just that the youth climate strike, now building worldwide with tremendous speed, is our best (and possibly our last) hope of avoiding catastrophe. It is also that the impacts on the young people themselves, if their mobilisation and hopes collapse so early in their lives, could be devastating.

Many of the issues that people feel passionate about have resulted in street marches and other forms of protest. These marches are a dramatic way of showing that ‘the people united will never be defeated’. And while the excitement and media coverage of a march is likely to fade out sooner than the organisers might hope, the challenge is to refuse to give up. Such complex matters will require many more marches and greater levels of action. It’s not alright for my generation to consider passing on the baton. Everyone is needed for this chapter of our history.

We were all young once and many of us were passionate about a range of causes. The first march I attended was in 1979 in Melbourne, it was to ‘Reclaim the Night’. I took along my camera, taking photos of the streets filled with protesters holding their banners high. The night felt reclaimed, at least for a short time.


Plastic is the hard evidence

When you have one of those nice little chats about ‘the fate of the planet’, you most likely focus on the fossil fuels vs. alternative energy debate. You might even discuss the high percentage of methane in the atmosphere caused by livestock and landfill. Today I’d like to have a go at investigating the role that plastic plays in such discussions.

While Peter and I have managed to break a few plastic habits over the years – forgoing plastic shopping bags and water in plastic bottles – there is still a way to go. (Please contact the author personally if you want to know the ugly details.)

My plastic awareness metre went off the scale just a few weeks ago when I joined a local group in picking up litter from the banks of Darebin Creek.


This packaging has escaped from the yard of a business that backs onto the creek. Guess where it is heading.

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned how the sustainability class I attended at Swinburne University was introduced to the fact that when we throw something ‘away’, it actually goes somewhere, and while this sounds annoyingly obvious, it is a concept that has only wired into my brain since having to pick up stuff that has been thrown away.

Other than plastic bottles and syringes, the third most common item I found while creek sweeping was plastic straws, a seemingly innocent item that Peter and I have been using in our morning smoothies for some time now.

With this new found awareness of straws, I went searching on the internet to see what other people are saying. I soon discovered that I am not the only one acknowledging our over reliance on single-use plastic items. Celebrities like Adrian Grenier  and Jeff Bridges have recently added their voices to the call for us to refuse single-use plastic items.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 10.57.26 am

It seems that Americans use 500 million straws per day, this “could fill over 127 school buses each day, or more than 46,400 school buses every year!http://www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree/faqs 


You don’t need to join a group, celebrity-led or not, as this refusal to use single-use plastic items is something we can do on our own accord. If you need some inspiration however, you could check out The Last Straw, a group based in Perth that ask us to ‘Sip. Don’t suck’.

Besides, sometimes groups with good intentions end up creating a whole lot more ‘rubbish’ that we don’t really need.


Sorry to focus on SIDS fund-raising, but they are a perfect example. 


Finally, I’d like to tell you about a little girl who had high hopes for the future. That little girl was me. I remember as a child thinking that, while children could be unkind and thoughtless, adults were wise; they knew what to do when a problem arose.

hopeful ruth

Here I am sitting in Auntie Myra’s backyard in Bendigo. I’m wondering if mum was taking a photo of the garden and then decided my red jumper would bring out the red in the flowers in the background. 

It didn’t take too many years for me to discover that grown-ups can be just as unkind and thoughtless as children. As an adult, I feel a responsibility to do what I can to tread lightly on the earth so that those who come after us know that we did what we could.