Hope for the Planet : Tim Flannery, David Suzuki, Naomi Oreskes at the Sydney Opera House


On Tuesday evening I attended ‘For Thought: Hope For The Planet’ at the Sydney Opera House.

Tickets for hope for the Planet

If the truth be known I booked it out of morbid curiosity than enthusiasm really as in the past I’ve been a little critical of Tim’s communication style and had even taken to calling him ‘Tim Flappery’ as I feel he is always in a bit of a tizz.  I didn’t that much enjoy his book (I reviewed it here) but felt guilty about my appraisal of him given that he has done nothing BUT try to help the planet which I’m all for. Also I could see that underneath my harsh glare there was a lovely, intelligent and thoughtful person and one who could no doubt teach me much.  I was going along to give him a second chance.

And then there’s David Suziki. I had never really paid much attention to him before either, mainly because I dislike the way he tends to skip a few steps of logic in his arguments, keeping them ‘marketable’ – the over-simplification trap- thus, in my very critical and scientific opinion rendering his arguments less valid. Again this appraisal of a much-loved and probably very nice guy had me feeling a little uneasy about myself, like I needed to ‘pull myself together’ and gain a little perspective.

I have to confess to never having heard of Naomi Oreskes before this event and having not had time to ‘google’ her before the night I turned up with no pre-conceived notions of who or what she was. Lucky for her given my past track record….

So I paid the $59 ish each per ticket and headed on down into town. I even caught the train and ride-shared home – ultra eco-friendly!

Hope for the Planet

So what was the verdict after all that?

David Suzuki was up first.

This guy has a way with words and a presence that is both warming and intellectually stimulating. I can see why everybody loves him and I too found myself nodding and agreeing with his point of view. I especially loved his anecdote about meeting a corporate suit and telling him to ‘leave his CEO title at the door and meet me as one man to another’, something the CEO was reluctant to do.  I loved the way he boiled human rights down to some simple and well-known truths – we need and deserve clean air, clean water and good food.  A philosophy he has popularised and turned into a movement via his  ‘Blue Dot’ foundation.  The way he emphasised that these three things  should be placed above all others in society, before the ‘economy’ and economic growth.  It reminded me of this:

cant eat money

Only my corporate and personal background, my history reminded me of what happens when you say that sort of thing to the business community. Greeny, socialist, leftie, tree-hugger, dreamer, idealist……

When did these things become insults?

And why did the opposite become divorced from these basic human needs and rights?

I don’t know which is more scary a thought.

The one thing that David said that didn’t resonate with me was the comment he made about mankind being naturally aggressive. I think this is worth discussing in a separate blog post as there is so much philosophising to do but my gut is telling me that this is not true.  As much as I am a fan of Darwin and understand that his ‘survival of the fittest’ mantra does hold weight I can’t help but think that applying this to humanity is showing bias towards a religious interpretation of dominion and is therefore flawed.  I say this after just finishing a book about Aboriginal Culture – Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe.  I see little sign of ‘survival of the fittest’ within that culture and wonder if the blessing of distance and space allowed humans to reach a fuller and deeper emotional growth than societies that grew up in a more invaded and competitive space.  I’d like to explore that further.

Naomi Oreskes.

Interesting, interesting woman  who talked about the history of science and more specifically why we should believe the scientists when it comes to climate change.  Basically she went through the way that the scientific method works and looked at what we do and don’t know until reaching the conclusion that even if the science is wrong we should still probably listen to it as what is the worst thing that could happen?  We would end up with a cleaner, better planet in any case which just has to be a good thing right?  I agree Naomi.

I’ve long been of the mindset that the science doesn’t matter to me in my day-to-day life.  Predictions, models, scenarios etc are all well and good but in reality the environment and the planet is bigger and more complex than we can ever possibly imagine. There is always going to be an element of hope (title of the talks) that we have chosen the right way but just like wearing a seatbelt, eating some vegetables, getting a good night sleep or just saying please and thank you if there IS a better, safer and cleaner way wouldn’t we just do it and not get hung up on the detail?  In this case I think yes.

Tim Flannery.

Aaaahhhhh good old Tim, you were last to speak but by no means least.  Tim spoke about what good things are going on here in Australia and the project that stood out to me most was the greenhouse project in the middle of an arid region of South Australia. Who would have thought it possible to growTomato’s where there is no rain? The greenhouses are watered  by using solar-thermal energy to desalinate water turning salt and sun into some 15 million kilograms of tomatoes, all grown in a pest free environment given the climate and distance from other growing communities.  The very definition of hope!

Tim also talked about the way the Climate Council is funded and is growing, working with businesses and helping to commercialise these fantastic initiatives and bring in investment from all over the world.  At the ‘out there’ conference I attended on Friday this week our very own Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull mentioned that Australia has a terrible history of commercialising new ideas and technology, well I think he should pop his head in to Tim’s office and see what is possible when government sacks you and the people pick up the pieces. Makes me wonder if our government is actually the liability here.

So did I re-mould my personal impressions of Tim after hearing him speak?  Well, yes and no. I have always rooted for Tim and wanted him to do well but he does have a quieter, more apologetic way of communicating than either David or Naomi but I’ve come to realise that this is not something that Tim should fix, it is something that society should accept and relish. The world is tough enough without people like me trying to bully Tim into becoming a hard-nosed fighter like what I am.

As you were Tim, as you were.

Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable night and one which I will not be forgetting in a hurry.  I have hope for the planet, not least because people like these three are fighting for it.







2 thoughts on “Hope for the Planet : Tim Flannery, David Suzuki, Naomi Oreskes at the Sydney Opera House

  1. Tracy Allen

    That bought tears to my eyes, Amanda, partly because I am a sook but mostly because your appreciation of what these 3 are trying to do on behalf of billions of people, is clear & you publicise that support. We each have our own style of tackling such an enormous problem & isn’t that the diversity & difference that is so often undervalued. I’m looking for integrity over charisma. Tim’s gentle tones are comforting & soothing, Suzuki’s confidence & age is reassuring & Oreskes’ fictional hypothesis is intriguing. We helped fund the Climate Council to get it up & running again & they regularly show their appreciation. It is my church of secular faith & hope. Btw, I love Suzuki’s focus on Elders getting involved more in nurturing our planet, as he models. I think that is a key idea. Xx

    • RealizeBeautyEd

      Aaahhhh thanks Tracy! Didn’t mean to make you cry oh and yes, Suzuki’s elder talk was deeply heart-warming and made me feel deeply appreciative and grateful that we are lucky enough to live with one of our elders. It has been a deeply enriching experience for our little family and one that I’d love to emulate when I’m old and grey, not least because both of my kids can cook better than I can 🙂

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