Our supporter of the month, Paul D. May is a passionate “eco-warrior”. Thanks to his perseverance and his thirst for knowledge he has met various environmentalists, including Deborah Tabart, whose career he follows regularly. Paul presented her with the “eco-warrior” flag, a symbol of unity for the protection of the environment. We interviewed him while he was here;
Q. One of your passions is Ecology of course, but what do you do in your day-to-day life? What are your other passions? Tell us more about yourself.
A. I have a broad range of interests. I love to learn new things and I am passionate about reading. I get through about 2 to 3 books a week. I also enjoy a range of outdoor activities from gardening to bushwalking. Apart from the usual dogs and cats, I have kept a range of pets from birds and fish to reptiles, amphibians and insects. I love travel and have seen many fascinating parts of the world. This has led to interests in the various languages and cultures of the world’s people. Many years ago, I obtained an Environmental Science degree although I am not currently working directly in the environmental field. I have, however, maintained a passion for science.
Q. How long have you been passionate about Ecology? Was there a trigger to this passion?
A. For as long as I can remember I have had a love of animals. As a child I would greedily devour any book about animals and I loved documentaries. My mother once told me she had a parent-teacher interview with my grade 1 teacher. My teacher told her that she once caught me not paying attention in class and that I was writing something. She approached me and asked me to hand her the piece of paper I had been writing on. I had written a list of animals. She passed my note around the class and asked each pupil to read one word from the list. My interest gradually expanded to include plants and other organisms and from there to biology and the other sciences. I began to realise that all things are connected and so now my interests are much broader. I discovered there are many threats to the natural world and my concerns now encompass all environmental issues.
Q. How did you find out about the “eco-warrior” group?
I found out about the Eco Warriors through a circuitous route of one of my interests – vexillology, or the study of flags. Flags represent peoples united under a common theme. There are flags for nations, states, provinces, territories, counties, cities, organisations, ethnic groups, religious affiliations, language groups etc. I wondered if there was a flag representing environmentalists. Searches on the internet revealed there are several. The one that most appealed to me was the “Eco Warriors” flag. The inspiration for this flag originated in the late 1990s when a mining operation in the Timbarra Plateau, in northern NSW, threatened a unique forest community with a high diversity of threatened species. This operation would also have caused disturbance to an aboriginal site and potential pollution of the Clarence River. Direct action and court cases by environmentalists and Aboriginal native title claimants brought attention to this matter and the idea of a united people’s environmental flag was born.
Q. Why do you appreciate this group? Their motivations, actions, mind set…
A. . The motto on the Eco Warriors website is One humanity, one planet. Eco Warriors is not actually an organisation. An Eco Warrior is simply an individual who cares about the environment and the diversity of life forms on Earth. Anyone who cares for our environment in their daily activities and decision making can be an Eco Warrior.
Q. What do you do as an eco-warrior?
A. I try to do what I can to lessen my impact on the environment and benefit it in some way. I am not so naïve to believe that my personal impact is not substantial or that there is not always room for improvement. I belong to several environmental groups. These allow me to stay informed of current issues and for them to address these issues on my behalf. I also make monthly donations to several organisations. I ensure electrical appliances are turned off when not in use, avoid excess packaging when I can, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (in that order) at home and in the workplace, grow some of my own food, avoid driving when I can walk or use public transport, compost organic waste, and be aware of what I put in my grocery basket. Since the advent of cyberspace it is now easy to be aware of many issues. I sign petitions regularly, email politicians and companies, and inform others through social networking. I have installed solar panels and solar hot water systems on my roof. I belong to a bushcare group and partake in community tree plantings. I pick up litter in the street and recycle whatever I can. All of us should do what we can but these little actions will not by themselves save the world. Action needs to be done at the individual, corporate and societal levels.
Q. You have met different eco-actors (in “Wildlife Heroes” or not), why do you particularly admire Deborah’s achievements and what do you think about what she has done for 23 years?
A. Yes, I have been fortunate to have met many prominent conservationists and environmentalists from throughout the world. I have been following Deborah’s Diary by email for some time. Deborah has devoted many years to researching the plight of koalas and educating the public and government of the many threats facing them. As the situation of koalas has become increasingly dire in parts of their range, the aims of the AKF have had to evolve to account for the additional threats that koalas are now facing. The research and mapping of the koala’s range undertaken by the AKF have become invaluable in affording additional protection of the species. This science-based research is essential for the future of koalas. Also, Deborah and the AKF have formed partnerships with other organisations to achieve the best outcome for koalas. Deborah’s determination is also admirable. Despite the frustration she must feel after constantly lobbying governments and attending senate hearings in attempting to upgrade the protection status of koalas, she still persists. As the only Australian to appear in the book Wildlife Heroes, she deserves to be included in this account of outstanding conservationists.
Q. What was it like meeting Deborah Tabart and her team?
A. The first thing I discovered was that Deborah is very busy. It took several attempts to meet her in person. She is often away from the office at meetings or at other locations. I was pleased to finally catch up with her and discuss issues that concern us both. I pointed out that we had met once before several years ago.
The team consisted of a group of young passionate people who could have been a miniature version of the United Nations. I found it encouraging seeing some Gen Y representatives supporting such an important issue.
Q. In your opinion, and after hearing all these testimonies, what is the future of our planet? And that of koalas?
A. The awareness of environmental issues is greater than it has ever been. In this era of mass media and cyberspace the amount of information available is unprecedented. Having said this, the passion towards environmental issues has waned. Other concerns, such as economic growth, are now more prominent. Increasing population, energy and resource use, and waste production are putting increasing pressures upon the capacity of the world to support us.
As for the koala, there are many challenges that lie ahead.
Q. Now, what are you future plans regarding your Ecologist passion?
I will continue to do what I can as long as the passion remains. The important thing is to be informed and engaged. As I’ve indicated previously, with the amount of information available today there is no excuse for ignorance. As I learn more I will try to improve myself, inform others and hopefully learn from my mistakes. I hope to leave the world in a little better shape than it may otherwise be.