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"We need justice, equity and sustainability"

Bronwyn McDonald is Healthy Futures' new Energy Transition Campaigner, charged with driving the change from using polluting fossil fuels to renewable energy to help protect public health and our climate. Based on Awabakal & Worimi Land (Newcastle, NSW) she shares with us her motivations for joining our network of active health professionals.

Bronwyn McDonald

When did you first become concerned about climate change and why?

In the 90s sometime, my dad dragged me along to the local civic theatre to see David Suzuki talk about environmentalism (a big deal in Newie). Of course I then had one of those moments of awe and an insatiable curiosity for understanding how to do all I could to stop catastrophic climate change after that. Learning about melting glaciers, effects from intensifying weather patterns, the absolutely harrowing loss of biodiversity and species extinction definitely had its effect. Once I became concerned about climate change, it informed all my choices and commitments since. 

Why are you passionate about the work you do at Healthy Futures?

The opportunities at Healthy Futures to work alongside health professionals who can share their own firsthand experiences and knowledge about how climate change is the greatest health risk, are inspiring. Healthcare workers are uniquely placed to talk about both the future risks and the already real effects they are seeing in patients affected by climate change. They are essential workers in a broad reaching sector that are on the front line of climate change effects. Health care professionals can advocate and take action in particularly powerful ways as trusted, and needed workers in our societies and who know deeply what it means to work in crises. I’m passionate about Healthy Futures working with nurses, speech pathologists, physios, doctors, dieticians, and all health care workers and getting their concerns and importantly their voices heard on the issues that matter most when it comes to climate change. 

Tell us about your past work or experience.

I’m a policy and advocacy professional with near twenty years’ experience solely in the not-for-profit sector. I’ve held several positions in social justice and environment organisations and lectured at universities on the issues I care most about.  In the climate change movement, I have worked on campaigns to end coal and stop gas, advocate for better environmental legislative regulations, and I hold a PhD that looked at responsibility frameworks in environmentalism.

Who or what has inspired you?

In the 2000s I watched the blossoming environment movement in Newcastle participating in what became a nation wide conversation about the urgency of climate change action. The politics, the people and the actions were inspiring to say the least, and being part of a movement that was doing what was needed and not just talking about it was as inspiring then as it is now. Working alongside like minded folk who want to collectively advocate for a just, inclusive and sustainable world is what inspires me. 

Why do you think individuals and local groups taking climate action is so important?

I would say my deepest motivation to work in change making spaces comes from growing up seeing my local community successfully rehabilitating a mismanaged stormwater creek (colonialism 101) into a thriving healthy river running into the estuary ( that also happens to be part of the world's largest coal port).  Yet year by year, the creek is flooding, perilously so, into the low-lying streets and houses that run along it. The plans for dykes and sea walls along the creek my family helped clean up in the face of catastrophic climate change is quite harrowing. Whereas when I was growing up it was a particularly low socio-economic area, for a now gentrified trendy inner city area, the regular flooding we are experiencing speaks volumes to the impacts of climate change that will affect us all. So I share my story and the impacts on my local community knowing this is a fraction of the effects of climate change being felt by most people around the world. If it’s this bad here, I have to do all I can and commit to contributing a socially just transition to a more sustainable future. 

What’s your vision for the future?

I want to envision a world and societies and relationships based on compassion, sharing and collectivity. A future where the goals and values that inform our lives are not based on growth, private capital and individualism, but instead are drawn from the necessity for justice, equity and sustainability. 

Something fun, quirky or random about yourself that we might not know?

In covid lockdown, we noticed early on and by accident that the local tafe library was chucking out 100s of books each week, and we dumpster dived the recycling bin every week and saved as many as we could. We cycled them all around the city leaving books as gifts, pranks, and in street libraries (and kept a select few for ourselves including a collection of fabric bound, rice paper Japanese architecture and calligraphy books). Forever memories of all the foundational values: a love of books, of reusing and sharing. 


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