In this edition of ‘What Inspires Me’ we feature Lorna Pettifer, CERES’ Learning Innovation Director, and this year’s recipient of the AAEE Environmental Educator of the Year award. Lorna shares the beginnings of her passion for the environment, some of the exciting things she has planned for education at CERES, and her Superhero powers are like no other!
1. How did you first get started with environmental education?
I have always had a love for being in wild places. My family camped and bush walked every holiday, and we went on adventures around Australia exploring national parks and far off the beaten track places. Since being a kid I was always up a tree or creating elaborate worlds for insects and slaters and generally playing in the dirt. Essentially, I was leading my friends in Nature Play in my backyard from about 3! Does that count?…… This all contributed to who I am today and the career and path I have chosen.
I studied BA/BSci with a major in Zoology and Ecology in my undergrad. I was inspired by my Zoology lecturers in 1st year and moved out of chemistry and physics science streams to focus on animals and ecosystems. My Honours project had a focus on bird biodiversity and habitat complexity in the Murray Darling floodplains. I volunteered with Parks Vic and the Friends of Sherbrooke forest lyrebird group as a green graduate. As well as lyrebird monitoring, I had the opportunity to write and deliver environmental education programs for local schools about fire, ecology, plants and exploring nature. This was my first official dalliance into environmental education.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?
So many to choose from so I will choose a recent experience that has inspired me. Earlier this year I attended the Climate Reality Leadership Training in Brisbane. Surrounded by a room full of people from around Australia and the world that were there to champion the need to act NOW on climate change. As an organisation, CERES has declared a climate and ecological crisis and we are having a deep look at how we can better support our community to connect, build knowledge and be impactful. While sitting in this training and listening to Al Gore and many speakers from all sectors and backgrounds communicate passionately to the 6-700 leaders in training, I was scribbling ideas down in my workbook in relation to what I was going to bring back and work on at CERES from this experience. This idea is coming to life and I am proud to connect it to how we approach learning, connect people and affect change at CERES. We are soon to launch the School of Climate and Nature. We are shifting what we are doing up a gear, and ensuring our learning design, delivery and approaches are affecting change and inspiring learners in a time where we need to meet the 10-11 year deadline to reduce CO2 by at least 45% by 2030.
3. How do you engage with people that are not buying into the sustainability message?
George Marshall has researched how to talk to people who disagree with him. Watch this TED talk to learn more. He moved from being an activist or radical that was shouting at people, to somebody who listens and tries to understand where they are coming from and what their values are. Please check out climateoutreach.org to learn more about how to approach climate change conversations with people.
I believe you need to try and find common ground or link the topic to what will make them listen and what speaks to their values and needs. More people care than what we think, and there is a perception gap in terms of the percentage of people that do care about environmental challenges such as climate change. People are all busy and full of so many other things to worry about, or what needs to be done this week or next month. When we activate people and get them to open to change, we need to have the most impactful action on offer or at the ready for them. We do not want this energy wasted on a token green action.
4. Can you share a sustainability/environmental project or story that you’ve heard about that stood out for you?
Here are a couple of examples from so many amazing projects happening in schools.
Melbourne Girls College bin ban was pretty epic.
Balnarring Primary School wetland creation was very impressive in terms of ecological landscape creation, biodiversity building and community engagement.
Solway Primary School’s journey in sustainability. I worked with this school many moons ago and the parents, teachers and students collaborated on making change happen in the school.
5. What is your favourite environmental education resource for schools?
CERES Sustainability Hub and Cool Australia Website
6. If you could be a sustainability superhero, what name would you choose and what powers would you have to make the world more sustainable into the future?
My name would be BIO-MIMIC! I would be able to make spider webs from my fingers to create nets to rid the oceans from plastic. I would poop bio-char and drawdown millions of tonnes of carbon. My hair would be long and photosynthetic and have the ability to convert the same amounts of CO2 to O2 as the Daintree Rainforest when on land or an extensive underwater seaweed forest when in the ocean. I would sneeze out magic aloe vera and be able to heal the sick. My feet would be made of sea sponges and be able to mitigate any sea level rise and also they would convert salt or polluted water to clean fresh drinking. I would have the sensilla for fire detection like the Metallic Wood-boring beetle and use my feet sponges to put them out. I would also be able to fly like Bunjil the Eagle in order to see the big picture, and have eyes that can see in the dark like nocturnal animals just in case I needed to do superhero night shift.