Climate change is the big issue of our times. People from all walks of life such as Maffra science teacher Marie Clark are stepping up and getting active.
Marie Clark first started her journey in science growing up in Creswick when she received a microscope as a Christmas gift from her mother. In February 2018, Marie will be one of 80 women from across the globe travelling to Antarctica as part of a climate change leadership program.
Act on Climate coordinator Leigh Ewbank had a quick chat with Marie ahead of her inspiring research trip to Antarctica….
When did you get activated about climate change? What stoked your concern about the issue?
It’s been a gradual process over the last few years, really since I moved out of the city and started teaching in 2012. Teaching climate change and environmental science got me researching the issues so I could get the students engaged in the science behind climate change. Also, living in Gippsland, where the coal power stations are such a presence, brought some of the energy problems we are facing to the front of my mind.
In 2017 I joined a local group called the Wellington Renewable Energy Network (WREN) and this really got me interested in what we could do locally in terms of community investment in renewable energy.
Can you tell us about your trip to Antarctica? How did that come about? What do you hope to learn?
I heard about the program Homeward Bound early in 2017 on social media, and thought it sounded amazing – a year-long leadership program culminating in the largest all-female expedition to Antarctica. The expedition is an opportunity to form deep collaborations with other female scientists who share the same ideals, and includes group projects, visits to Antarctic research stations, leadership workshops and teaching from an international faculty of experts such as Dr Jane Goodall and Dr Sylvia Earle.
The overall aims of Homeward Bound are to create a global collaboration of empowered female leaders who can inform and impact upon policy as it shapes our planet, while also addressing some of the inequity that exists for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Over a period of 10 years the goal is to end up with 1000 women who are armed with the skills, knowledge, wisdom and self-understanding to create change.
I hope to learn leadership skills and up-to-date climate science, while forming valuable collaborations and networks with amazing women from around the globe and also exploring how I can best use my own skill set to serve my local community and the planet.
What do you have planned to update Victorians about the climate situation and your trip?
I’m planning to chronicle the trip with a daily piece of writing about what we are doing, which hopefully will get published or posted somewhere when I return (I can’t post it daily while we are there, due to the unreliability of the internet on the voyage). I’ve also got some radio interviews lined up and hopefully a chat with the local news here in Gippsland about the trip. Any visibility around the trip is beneficial to get our valuable messages out to the public and start conversations about climate change and gender equity.
With respect to the climate situation in general, I am doing a series of talks at primary and secondary schools and some other organisations when I return: about climate change and meaningful positive actions these organisations can take towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.
You're passionate about encouraging more women in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). Can you explain the link between this trip and women in STEM?
STEM fields (and many other fields) have a real gender imbalance when it comes to leadership. While women are entering STEM professions in similar numbers to men, the retention and advancement of women to leadership positions is lacking. Homeward Bound gives women in science a valuable platform from which to change this, and brings the issue into the forefront of people’s minds.
Women bring some amazing skills to leadership such as inclusivity, empathy, financial integrity and a legacy mindset. Highlighting these skills and the current inequity through the Homeward Bound program will hopefully start to turn things around, and by working together with each other’s support, we can all move towards workplaces and communities that are more inclusive, diverse and flexible.
Humanity is facing what is arguably its biggest challenge in climate change, and by investing in the best leaders regardless of their gender, we will have the skills and ideas needed to face the challenge.
It's an election year in Victoria. What would you like to see state politicians do to show leadership on climate change?
The most concerning thing about current state and federal politics when it comes to leadership on climate change is that politicians are constantly playing political games and worrying about point scoring rather than simply making the best choices.
I’d like to see real leadership on environmental issues, longer-term thinking and planning and a more committed and legacy-minded set of policies that are more concerned with our planet’s future rather than the outcome of the next election cycle.
Friends of the Earth wish Marie all the best with her Antarctic trip. Marie has kindly agreed to write an article for us to detail the key findings, so keep your eyes peeled for a follow up.