What Inspires Me – Mike McEvoy

December 2020

In this edition of ‘What Inspires Me’ we feature Mike McEvoy, National Program Manager at Climate for Change.

Mike McEvoy on a hike in the wilderness.

The Climate Conversations Program.

1. Tell us a little about Climate for Change and your role.

Climate for Change is a not-for-profit organisation working to create the social climate in Australia for effective action on climate change. We do this by supporting people who are committed to climate action to have more effective conversations about climate change with the people around them. We want to see the political stalemate replaced by multi-partisan support for strong climate action. We envision an Australia where industry, community and Governments of all levels are united in their commitment to reduce emissions at a scale and speed that will return a safe climate. Even though polling tells us that the vast majority of Australians say they support strong climate action, this doesn’t always translate into meaningful action. The two major political parties have been allowed to get away with climate policy that is deeply inadequate.

I’m responsible for our Climate Conversations Program, a program that trains and supports everyday Australians to facilitate hundreds of Conversations in living rooms, kitchens, back-yards, workplaces (and online). The Climate Conversations help people understand the scale and urgency of the problem and motivate them to step up and take the actions most likely to bring about change.

2. How did you first become interested in environmental issues?

The seed for me was planted when I was little – on family hikes and camping trips in the Tasmanian wilderness, and on holiday visits to my Grandad’s native plant nursery. After falling in love with that wilderness at a young age, I was devastated to learn about logging when I was at primary school. I had a Wilderness Society poster of a pygmy possum on my bedroom door. When I spoke up about my concerns at school, my teachers helped me set up a paper recycling program for the classrooms. My parents helped me write a letter to Bob Hawke too. The connection between sustainability and activism was always there for me, although I feel a bit embarrassed to admit that for the next three decades I was mostly a spectator when it came to environmental activism. I did my bit as an individual consumer and I made donations to a few environmental organisations, but otherwise I think I was a little deluded in my trust that politicians and industry would eventually get their act together.

3. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?

I’m glad I made a decision to dedicate my time and energy to climate activism in 2016. The journey since then has been incredibly rewarding. I feel empowered and more hopeful because I have meaningful actions to focus on. That decision to take action was the first of many highlights. Being elected to Yarra City Council in 2016 was a real privilege, and although local politics was often frustrating, seeing a climate emergency plan eventually follow our 2017 declaration of climate emergency was a highlight. I have absolutely loved my time at Climate for Change too. There are so many great stories that come out of the Conversation Program. Seeing people inspired to start local climate groups, join MP Engagement groups, change their vote, divest all their superannuation, change power companies and sign up as volunteers is incredible. One of the greatest highlights has been witnessing that growing commitment from members of my own family, and from close friends.

Childhood family hike in Tasmania.

Signing the climate emergency declaration created by Climate for Change in 2017.

4. How do you engage with people that are not buying into the sustainability message?

This is the core of our work at Climate for Change. We use the latest social research to inform our approach and the facilitator training we provide to volunteers is a really great way to hone this important skill. Firstly, I make sure that I don’t shy away from the conversation. It’s so important to talk about sustainability and climate change because it’s through these casual conversations with people we know and trust that attitudes and behaviours actually change. But then, I have to remind myself of a few important things… It’s important to listen to find out what other people think and feel, and what they value, before launching in to let them know what I think and feel. Unfortunately my desire to yell and scream and jump up and down about the URGENT CLIMATE CRISIS has to be subdued most of the time! Generally, it’s more powerful to couple the ‘problem’ with a positive vision of what a sustainable future could look like, and to talk about the concrete actions I’m taking to bring about that change. It’s also great to be real, sharing how I feel and empathising with all the reasons we find it hard to engage with an issue as confronting as climate change. I don’t blame people for failing to buy into the sustainability message. There’s a big part of me that would love to bury my head in the sand (or Netflix).

5. Can you share a school sustainability project or story that you’ve heard about that stood out for you?

I am in love with any school that engages young people in the civics side of sustainability. When I was a local Councillor, one primary school class all wrote letters to us about waste and recycling. It’s a shame that only happened once for sustainability issues while I was on Council. I noticed how powerful school communities were at advocating to Government on other issues. When school councils, teachers, parents and the kids themselves started writing letters and turning up to Council meetings, it really changed the course of funding decisions and policy. The moral obligation on our elected leaders to look after the planet for their youngest constituents is pretty clear. It would be great to see school communities get more active in that arena.

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?

Something catchy like “Captain Psychology”, with the power to dissolve cognitive dissonance and other cognitive biases that stop us from seeing the threat of climate change and taking action commensurate with that threat.

7. Finally, we can’t ignore the fact that we’ve all played our part in keeping safe during lockdown here in Melbourne, and as a result we can now finally leave our homes and enjoy the many things we normally take for granted. What were you most looking forward to once restrictions eased?

I’m most looking forward to the return of theatre. Theatre has long been a sustaining force in my life and unfortunately the performing arts were one of the first things to shut down and will be one of the last things to open up. It’s the same with hugs.

Thank you Mike for sharing your story!

Learn more about climate change and how you can take action as an everyday Australian by visiting the Climate for Change website.

By ceres|2020-12-15T15:52:13+11:00December 11th, 2020|Featured, Outreach News, School of Nature and Climate News, What Inspires Me|0 Comments