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Disclaimer: Now, I know what you might be thinking… “Politics sucks, it’s so boring! I couldn’t even care less…” Indeed, Australian politicians live so out of touch nature and the general public, it’s no wonder that the average person feels so disconnected from the political world.

But here’s the problem: Politicians want you to feel this way. In order to maintain power, it is convenient for people to feel disconnected and powerless in issues of political nature.

But these policies that rich, old, white men are currently deciding upon are the policies that directly affect you and me. Becoming involved is the only way that we can better our world and make a difference.

Recently I had the pleasure of catching up with local Greens candidate, Scott Humphreys for coffee. He had some important things to say which I’ll share here.

Growing up in Annandale, Scott was always interested in politics. He was initially conservative, growing up in a working-class background and attending Townsville Grammar School. But after spending time in rural communities in China and Vietnam, he witnessed a different way of life.

“Why should people vote for the Greens?” I asked him.

Well, to start with,” he said, “The Greens are the only party standing up for every person’s wellbeing and for climate change.”

Turns out there are a few important answers to my question, including forward-thinking policies, full transparency, and that your vote will never be wasted. I’ve outlined the 10 important reasons we discussed below:

1. The Greens are free from corruption

Both the Liberal and Labour parties take massive donations from large corporations, including those from the oil, gas and mining sectors.

In the past 3 years the Liberals have accepted over $2 million and Labour have accepted over $1 million in donations from fossil fuel companies.

Both parties are supporting 114 new coal and gas projects containing more than double the amount of Australia’s current emissions.

These are the policies which are fuelling the climate crisis. There is no way to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 while still advancing 114 new fossil fuel projects.

Sadly, these donations are not put towards bettering the lives of the people. Instead, donations are used to fund fear campaigns and pre-election advertising campaigns.

In 2019-2020, the Morrison government spent $128 million on advertising instead of directing funds towards environmental or public health issues for Australians.

Due to large donations, the policies and interests from both the Liberal and Labour parties have swung further and further right. Labour is no longer a “workers” party, but rather prioritises the needs of billionaires above the needs of the people. Both parties are influenced by the interests of large corporations, prioritising mining corporations above actual mining workers. This is a great quiz created by ABC to see how your views align with the major political parties.

In fact, in Australia, you can even pay $100,000 to have lunch with a minister, where you can ask them to sway legislation in your favour. (Check out this free documentary series, ‘Big Deal’ by Christiaan Van Vuuren who investigates this further).

Unfortunately, not everybody has $100,000 to drop on lunch. In our Australian democratic system, everybody has a vote, but all votes are not equal. The interests of the billionaires (who already have more than enough) are more relevant to politicians than the everyday human.

Is this legal? Yes. Is it fair? Absolutely not. It’s time that you and I start sticking up for what we believe in.

The Greens party does not accept donations from corporations. They are built from the ground-up, and every member is a volunteer. This means that their policies truly prioritise the people and are that they are free from corruption!

2. Full transparency

Because they are not working for corporate donors, the Greens have nothing to hide. As such, the Greens will fast track a federal ICAC (National Integrity Commission) and ensure it is funded by the Commonwealth (and not by the corporations).

A National Integrity Commission will investigate unethical and corrupt members of parliament at a federal level, This happened at a state-level when former premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian was found having a partner and business dealings engaging in corrupt conduct.

Why is this not already implemented? It seems so obviously needed, right? Well, The Liberal National Party made a promise of forming an ICAC four years ago, but since then have blocked every step: the only rational reason being that they have something to hide.

3. Inclusive, free schooling

Growing up in Aitkenvale, Scott witnessed some of his friends wearing worn-out or second-hand uniforms because their parents couldn’t afford to buy new ones.

That was how it was back then, but it shouldn’t be like that now. That was 20 years ago!”

Despite most parliament members (including Prime Minister Scott Morrison (ScoMo) and Malcom Turnbull) having benefited from free university education back in their time, the Liberal party has continued to increase university tuition fees.

Acknowledging that the cost of living is rising, the Greens strongly believe that childcare, education, university and TAFE should be completely free and state funded. This includes uniforms, books and stationery provided to students.

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The Greens propose to forgive all student debt and to double Jobseeker and Youth Allowance payments so that student income is above the poverty line.

When poverty drops, the arts can flourish. Community art programs and other community-based activities make for a more positive life experience and contribute to important measures such as the Happiness Index.

4. The Greens will actually address climate change

Currently, neither the Liberal or Labour parties have a plan to phase out coal, oil and gas because they accept millions of dollars in donations from the fossil fuel industry.

Because they care about the future of our children, our wildlife and the Great Barrier Reef, and because they don’t take donations from corporations, the Greens plan to immediately freeze all new coal, oil and gas projects.

A transition towards long-term resources will involve guaranteeing income for those currently working in the fossil fuel sector. They will be guaranteed similar income for 10 years, but will be offered other opportunities in renewable industries.

This will allow individuals to maintain their livelihoods and still support their families, while we transition to a system that is healthier for our planet.

Instead of focusing on imports and exports, the Greens propose we make more things here to lower our country’s carbon footprint. With our plentiful sun and wind, Australia has the capacity to become a renewable superpower.

In Townsville, Scott would like to see a transition towards green hydrogen. Further, he hopes to focus on the expansion of park protection and rangers that maintain safe and healthy ecosystems. This would encourage more people to get back into nature and enjoy the great outdoors we are so lucky to have in our region.

Locally, the Greens will also direct $10 million to eradicate Yellow Crazy Ants in Townsville. This invasive species throws acid that can burn the eyes and skin outbreaks tend to occur after flooding events. The Townsville City Council have been facing this issue alone with virtually no help from federal or state funding. This has left families in Townsville with infestations in their backyards, particularly in Douglas and Annandale.

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5. Dental and mental health care to be included in Medicare

Not only do current parties accept donations from fossil fuel sectors, but also from many private health corporations.

Therefore, health care, which is a universal human right, is easily accessible for the rich while the poor have lower access and long waiting times. The Liberal government hopes to increase this gap and has cut billions from Medicare funding and even hopes to remove it altogether.

After COVID took a toll on all our sanities, the Greens have forged a very progressive plan to include Dental and Mental Health care into Medicare.


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6. A policy for the housing crisis

Finding it hard to find a rental or to pay your rent?

While ScoMo suggests buying a home if you’re struggling to find a rental, the Greens have proposed building one million new homes that are sustainable and affordable for everybody in order to target the housing crisis.

Source: Greens.org.au

These will be divided up to target three key groups in need:

750k houses to target the homeless (including youth homelessness)
125k houses to help first home buyers into the market
125k houses as rentals to help alleviate the rental crisis.

Not only will this create an estimated 135k new jobs, but it will also make sure that everybody has a roof over their heads.

7. Taxing the billionaires

You may wonder: “But how will they pay for all this?”

Due to our current system that allows for corporate donations, 1 in every 3 corporations pays no tax. This is legal in Australia, but it is not ethical.

Billionaires have increased their profits during the pandemic while millions of others lost their jobs. 


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Meanwhile, billionaires such as Gerry Harvey, have benefited enormously from JobKeeper subsidies while simultaneously cutting worker’s wages. Gerry Harvey still refuses to repay $16 million of JobSeeker subsidies.

This is Gerry Harvey, the 28th richest person in Australia (personal wealth $2.9 billion). He's chairman of: Harvey Norman, Joyce Mayne & Domayne. Amount his companies claimed in JobKeeper: $22m, while his profits doubled to: $465 million. Amount he's paying back to taxpayers: $6 million.

While the Liberal government allows their rich mates get away with daylight robbery, the Greens have introduced a bill for the money to be repaid.

To tackle this injustice, the Greens have also proposed a 40% tax on big corporations and a 6% tax on unrealised gains on anyone earning over $1 billion. This will mean that huge mega-corporations will pay their fair share.

Australia’s 131 billionaires have hoarded so much money for themselves, that a 6% tax on their unrealised gains alone could fully fund re-expanded Medicare, including dental and mental health care (with leftovers) for all Australians: and that’s almost 26 million people.

Poverty is a political choice – and the Government has decided to line the pockets of billionaires with tax cuts, while forcing millions of Australians into poverty.”

8. Your vote will never be wasted

Unlike the UK and America, you can’t waste your vote in Australia. Luckily, we have a more progressive voting system here.

When all of the votes are calculated and no party receives >50%, the lowest ranked party is re-examined and the second votes for the party are then counted as first votes. This continues until there is a majority vote.

This is a big deal because it tells the party in power where their preference votes come from. Voting for the Greens will tell the Labour party that you care about the environment, education, healthcare and equality. By voting Green, we can keep the Labour party accountable for the policies (outlined above) that are important to the community. 

The Labour party will then look at Green’s policies and can pick up some as their own. This happened in 2012, when the Gillard (Labour) government introduced the carbon tax, which the Abbott (Liberal) government then axed in 2014 because it was set “at far too high a level to be politically sustainable.”

Check out this cute koala comic for further explanation about Australia’s preferential voting system.

9. For the community: Leaving no one behind

“So what inspired you to join the Greens?” I asked Scott.

“After I returned from my travels, I began working for the local government in public health. I was helping out with mosquito control in the community, and at that time (in 2009), there were around 400 cases on Dengue in Townsville.”

Working in the community, seeing all of the yards and houses, how so many people lived, it was eye-opening,”

“So many people were struggling to get by.”

Today, Scott works in security, keeping community members safe when they are having fun on a night out.

But Scott can also relate to the feeling of living week-by-week. During his university years he struggled to afford rent and food.

“I was inspired by my friends to join the Greens. The Greens go way beyond any stereotypes of tree-hugging hippies. Yes, we prioritise the environment and want to save the planet, but we’re a multi-issue party that is built from the bottom up. We are here for the community, to raise the socio-economic status and to improve everybody’s overall quality of life.”

Indeed, unless you’re a billionaire, the Greens seems to be the party for everybody.

While other parties support discrimination, the Greens leave no one behind.

In February, the Liberal government passed a Religious Discrimination Bill, with laws that allow religious institutions to discriminate against women, people of colour, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community.

Luckily, the Labour government passed a bill to remove Section 38 of the Sex Discrimination act, which gave religious schools power to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or pregnancy.

The Greens do not believe in discrimination that puts anybody, particular students, children and minors at risk. They are entirely supporting of inclusive schooling.

Frighteningly, ScoMo and the Liberal party plan to pass religious discrimination laws if re-elected, without making amendments for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Governmental powers should not be used to discriminate against certain groups or limit people from expressing who they truly are.

The Greens are likely the most diverse and well-represented party there is. They believe that all Australians should feel free and safe in their communities.

10. For the future generations

The Greens have envisioned a future for us all, where no Australian is left behind.

A vote for the Greens is a vote for equal rights for every member of the community. This includes first generation Australians, young people, First Nations Australians, people of colour, females, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The Greens campaign is funded by the people, not by corporations. Therefore, their policies focus on the people NOT on the corporations.

They are interested in the common good of all Australians, not just the benefits for a select few.

Oftentimes, the forward-thinking policies of the Greens are implemented ~20 years later. Let’s speed up the process and get things happening now, before more floods, cyclones and coral bleaching events force us to face the facts.

When talking with Scott, I asked him for any advice he would have to give to the average Joe.

“Take a bit of time to read up the policies of the major parties,” he said.

Put the party that you genuinely think is going to be best for the region first.”

“Remember that you can’t waste your vote, and that preferences matter!”

Behind the scenes with Ammonite Daze.

“Let’s film a music video!” My housemate, Lawrence said one day.

Lawrence knows I’m always up for anything. “Alright,” I answered, “this could be fun.”

The band: Ammonite Daze

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Brothers Lawrence (left) and Oliver Scheele (Right).

The two brothers I was living with, Lawrence and Oliver Scheele have recently begun an electronic duo. They call themselves ‘Ammonite Daze,’ after the ancient cephalopods which died out around 66 million years ago. ‘Ammonite Daze’ represents their connection to the natural world. It’s no surprise that ammonites, with their spiral shapes, are symbols of positive movement and transformation.

“We want to create music that invokes the beauty and connectedness of nature, that allows people to reflect on their own lives,” Lawrence says.

Oliver and Lawrence Scheele on a romantic sunset beach walk.

The duo’s philosophy is to bring people back to the place within themselves –to reconnect them with their true nature.

And like all great and noble things, it all started after a near death experience. Lawrence was knocked unconscious by a falling coconut while gardening in his backyard. The day after he returned from the hospital, he wrote the ‘Starry Night’ demo while recovering in bed.

“I sent it to Oli, my brother, and was like, what do you think? He added his input which created an ethereal vibe that we rolled with.”

The cast (left to right): Gina Karnasch, Atlanta Simutanyi, Tiani Dun, Valerie Cornet and Sam Crisp.

The song is chilled yet energetic, it almost feels like you are drifting through the cosmos or dancing on the beach at night.

All of this inspired the making of Ammonite Daze’s very first music video, which was only just released TODAY (on February 16th, 2022)(and on the Leo full moon, of course).

The making of a music video:

Lawrence, Oliver, myself and co-director Kaspa Blewett all lived together on Magnetic Island. This made planning our debut videoshoot a very smooth and cohesive task.

Lawrence’s vision was to film the video on a secret beach, under the stars and the full moon. It would be a late night of “work,” so naturally, some camping, a bunch of friends and many snacks would be required.

The cast gather around the campfire while eating some (well-deserved and delicious) Pad Thai noodles.

We decided to film the music video on one of the most isolated spots we knew. Impossible to get to by road, our old mate Fred agreed to taxi us over on his boat. So the camera crew went over by sea, while the others hiked over the hill to meet us later on.

Steaming over the Coral Sea towards our destination. Film shot by Tiani.

Being on student budgets means that we didn’t have any expensive camera equipment. In fact, we used our dive torches as lights, and found a nice pair of Kaspa’s shorts to hold in front of them to create an amber tone. (Sadly, the shorts were a casualty of the night and caught on fire during the filming processes. Luckily, a bright pink Napisan scoop did the same job for more filming at a later date).

We borrowed a fire twirling stick from some neighbours, and I brought a pair of party glasses which made for a fantastic lens effect.

Tiani dancing with extremely high-tech effects from party glasses.

“It was pretty experimental, and it all just happened. Nothing was staged, nothing planned, and it all just flowed naturally,” Lawrence said.

“Everyone helped to create it and spontaneously had ideas to contribute. It was a collaborative effort.”

It’s true. Half of the cast didn’t even know they would be in a music video until they arrived. We just turned the song on repeat and danced!

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Living in the moment with Gina, Val, Tiani, Atlanta and Sam.

It’s times like these that remind us to live deeply in the present. If we trust in the process, everything will eventually work out. Like how their name, ‘Ammonite Daze’ refers to the duality of night and day, Lawrence and Oliver hope to convey this same idea that past and future don’t exist. We only have what’s here and now, so we need to relish in each moment.

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More party glasses effects. Cool, right?

Doubling as a local photographer, Lawrence wanted to also showcase the wonders of the natural marine life of his island home. Naturally, of the locals, the turtle ‘Shelly’ makes a guest appearance in the music video.

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Shelly cruising along to her favourite electronic beats.

“The island’s marine life is awe inspiring. The inshore reefs create such biodiverse habitats that are often overlooked.”

The band’s album cover features a Bigfin Reef Squid. The squid, captured on one of Lawrence’s (many) night snorkels last year, represents our young artist’s connection to the island. 

Starry Night Album Art: by Lawrence Scheele

“Ultimately, I hope the track inspires people to reconnect and immerse themselves in nature,” Lawrence says.

But the song is also about how you interpret what you feel when hearing the music. It’s an instrumental so really, it’s anybody’s story.

Check out the full music vid to ‘Starry Night’ below! Also follow Ammonite Daze’s journey on Triple J Unearthed, Spotify and Instagram.

Dredging in Cleveland Bay. Source: MINCA.org

Hello Islanders, Townsvillians, and fellow snorkellers of the North Queensland region.

If you’re anything like me, you often look forward to escaping the city to explore our local piece of paradise on the weekends.

But sometimes, we may be disappointed that despite the weather being clear and sunny, a snorkel often isn’t possible on Magnetic Island.

I used to think that poor visibility was just the nature of all inshore reefs. But after talking to a few locals, I was soon convinced that there had to be another factor at play.

So I decided to do some researching, and I began by looking back in time.

Apparently, in the 1960s, the visibility on Maggie was typically more than 10m, particularly in Arthur and Florence Bays. In fact, biologists have compared the reefs on the island to those found on the outer reef!

The Island’s “coastal fringes once supported coral reefs equal to any found on the Reef proper” —Theo Brown (1972).

But today, visibility on Maggie rarely exceeds 2m (MINCA.org). This just didn’t seem right. After some investigation, I found that the answer was glaringly clear:

From the early 1970s onwards, the shipping channel in Cleveland Bay was expanded. During this time, the Townsville Port obtained authority to dump dredge material at a new site, just east of the island.

Answer: Dredge sludge from the Townsville Port is placed right next door to our local reefs

Expansion of the shipping channel to the Port of Townsville is conducted to provide greater access to the port, particularly for larger vessels. Unfortunately, this means that maintenance dredging must occur for 4-5 weeks per year.

The blue line shows the extended dredged channel to the Port, while the Dredge Material Placement Area (DMPA) shows the location of where the majority of maintenance dredge is dumped. The DMPA is located just 4km East of the pristine reefs of Magnetic Island!

Unfortunately, winds in Cleveland Bay predominantly come from a south-easterly direction. When wind stirs up sediment, silt pollution from the dredge is blown into the bays of Magnetic island, destroying the visibility for local divers and holidayers alike.

In fact, prior to any major dredging of the channel, the Queensland Department of the Environment established a popular reef trail in Geoffrey bay. This was used as a recreational and educational attraction, where visitors could walk along the reef flat with a map, finding a diverse range of species including branching and brain corals (MINCA.org).

Today, the walking trail has been long abandoned, and the intertidal reef is covered in a layer of mud. Whatever the complex reasons for these declines, near-shore fringing reefs and sea grass beds along the Queensland coast are fast disappearing and they can ill-afford further cumulative impacts from unprecedented dredging programs.

—Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (2014).
Source: MINCA.org

This Port was designed under the Sustainable Ports Development
Act 2015.
But maintenance dredge is continuously dumped just next-door to our island. Annual dredging has known devastating effects on our coral reef ecosystems and is not sustainable for our natural ecosystems.

No plans to stop dumping dredge in the sea

The Townsville Port have a long-term maintenance dredging plan in place, where they plan to continue dumping their maintenance dredge in the same place. Dredging has been found to decrease light levels and decrease coral calcification (growth) by up to 33% (Bak 1978), resulting in the annual smothering of the reefs surrounding our island.

While other ports around Australia have decreased their amount of dredging, the Townsville Port plans to increase their dredging over the next 10 years. The Port is expecting to dredge approximately 6,050,000m³ to maintain the channel from 1 January 2019 to 1 January 2029, and dump a majority of this sediment in Cleveland Bay. See the 10-year plan below:

The Port gets special treatment

Even more frightening, is that the Townsville Port and shipping channel are somehow exempt from being a part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Below, we can see an imaginary boundary which has been drawn as an “exclusion area” from the World Heritage Site, despite being located just 1km from Bremner Point on Magnetic Island.

This means that the port is somehow “excluded” from being protected under the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area that surrounds it.

The marine life in this region of the shipping channel are totally disregarded from any protection awarded to the Great Barrier Reef, our World Heritage Listed site.

On their website, the Port of Townsville can therefore say that the dredging “Has no direct impact in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park General Use Zone.”

But unfortunately, the circulatory nature of the ocean does not quite work in this way. We cannot simply build a fence, or draw a line and remove protection from parts of the ocean without expecting there to be nearby repercussions.

Dredge silt being dumped in the DMPA is blown straight towards the island from any easterly or southeasterly winds. Here, it settles on our pristine reefs of Geoffrey, Arthur and Florence Bay.

Partially dead coral colonies covered in silt on Magnetic Island’s reefs. (Reef Check Australia 2008)

Further Cleveland Bay is home to a plethora of marine plants, animals and birds. Many species reside here, including Snubfin Dolphins, humpback dolphins, turtles and dugongs.

Dredging poses a danger to our native and endemic species

The Snubfin Dolphin is Australia’s only endemic dolphin. There is believed to be only thousands of them remaining and they are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Endangered Species list.

Australia’s Snubfin Dolphin: Source: MINCA.org

The only reliable local estimate of population size of Australian Snubfin Dolphins is located right here, in Cleveland Bay. There has been estimated that a population of around 100 individuals inhabits our local backyard (Parra et al. 2002; Australian government, 2020).

Continuous dredging will further decimate the habitat of these dolphins, having disastrous results for the species.

A report funded by the Townsville Port Authority stated that:

“The dumping of very large quantities of dredged sediment in the early and mid 1970s probably played a significant part in more widespread changes to the seagrass beds throughout the Cleveland Bay area” (Pringle 1989, pg 74).

But the report also said we should continue to monitor these effects.

Unfortunately, non-action is not quite good enough. Seagrass habitats are vital for the survival of not only Snubfin dolphins, but also dugongs and turtles, both which have been observed in Cleveland Bay.

Green Sea Turtle at Arthur Bay: by Tiani Dun

Why are we letting the port “Continue to monitor” the effects of dredging on our endangered species? We already know that dredging in other areas causes habitat loss, which is detrimental for entire ecosystems (Todd et al. 2015, Wilber and Clarke 2000, Gintert et al. 2019, Okoyen et al. 2020, Erftemeijer et al. 2012, Pollock et al. 2016, Brown et al. 1990, Dodge and Vaisnys 1977, just to name a few studies!). Do we really need further studies to show this same effect on a local scale?

By the time these studies find what they are looking for, it will already be too late for our marine species’ populations.

Since the 1883 Townsville Port have been dredging a shipping channel in the harbour. Prior dredge was dumped in Middle Reef near Cockle Bay, creating the wasteland we see today.

Accumulative affects of a long history of dredging combined with the already muddy sediment bottom of Cleveland Bay resulted in devastating impacts during cyclone Yasi. With dredging only looking to increase, along with a predicted increase in natural disasters, future impacts are likely to be alarming.

It appears that it is up to us, the community members and ocean advocates, to step up and have our voices heard.

A simple solution to this issue would be to simply relocate the DMPA site further offshore where it would not be blown onto our local reefs.

But instead of coming up with a solution to this environmental issue, the Port of Townsville funds projects such as the MOUA, which will set up a snorkel trail on the island that is pointless if the visibility is continually ruined by the dredge.

How can we expect to save the planet if we can’t even protect the local reefs in our back pockets?

It is time we unite and stand up to protect our island home!

What can we do?

Write to our Australian Minister for the Environment:

I have drafted up a letter which you can send to our Environmental Minister, Sussan Ley. You can copy and paste the template below and submit your concern online here:

Dear Sussan Ley,

I wish to formally submit my opposition to the placement of the DMPA site by the Port of Townsville, just 4km east of Magnetic Island.
In particular, I am concerned about the dredge spoil and its affect on our local reefs on Magnetic Island.

I believe that objectives and purpose of the marine park, which is to protect and conserve the Reef, are not being met as annual dredging continues to smother the corals and their inhabitants each year.

My main concerns overall are:
– Talk about your main concerns here: ie. visibility, tourism, ethics, turtles, dugongs, etc.

Finally, I believe that this issue can be easily resolved by relocation of the DMPA further offshore where it will not have such localised impacts on Magnetic Island.

Your name. 

You can also send the same letter via email to the Queensland Environmental Minister Meaghan Scanlon here, or express your concerns to GBRMPA (assessments@gbrmpa.gov.au) and the Port of Townsville (community@townsvilleport.com.au).

Students: Be wary of who you work or intern for and who they are affiliated with. Do your research to see who funds your professor’s projects!

Let’s not let large industries smother our beloved local reefs right in front of our noses.

I don’t know about you, but I want my children to be able to snorkel in some clear water here on Magnetic Island.

Further Reading:
Keeping our Great Barrier Reef Great
Environmental and Social Values Surrounding the Port of Townsville
Port of Townsville Limited Long‐Term Maintenance Dredging Management Plan
Port of Townsville Seagrass Monitoring Program
Maintenance Dredging Fact Sheet

In this Haiku series, I describe my surroundings on a short hike down Pace road in the Paluma range. Here, I compare the unconscious mind to the occupants of the forest. The plants, like our thoughts, are endlessly competing for light above (our attention). What we pay attention to grows and can be dangerous or suffocating. When we soar above the forest in the sky overhead, we find peace when we forget our thoughts and breathe.

Halifax forest by Tiani Dun

Slow creeping death takes;
Inching plant’s eternal fight.
Leaves reflecting light.

In darkness damp drops:
Palm shades on the overgrown,
Dark light deprived rocks.

Bright spots reflecting
Through breaks of pondering blue
Meditate their hue.

Light above shaded
Cold within the recesses
A neglected mind.

Preoccupied thoughts
Are like forest underlay
Fighting each other.

Peace is only found
Above the canopy top
Where vines don’t persist.

By Tiani Dun

On a solo camping trip down Cape Hillsborough way, I am woken by the birds to a magnificent sunrise. Here, over 50 people gather to watch the spectacle and photograph the kangaroos being fed by the park rangers. In the city, we turn to our devices for entertainment and often forget to watch the shows that nature displays. Yet this morning, the sky is magenta, and I am reminded of the magic of being here on this planet. 

Sunrise at Cape Hillsborough by Tiani

When the painted coloured start of morning smiles
For miles and miles.
When the patterned waves roll over sand
Sea to land.
When the kookaburras sing to us awake
With all at stake.
Is when the silent show is due to start
Us a part.

The islands drift, the sky alive 
It’s half past five. 
The light that opens up her face
A peaceful pace.
Outside the gates stand all the sheep,
Fast asleep.
They see the signs and don’t proceed
A sight indeed.

When treading east on the stretch of beach
All thoughts at peace. 
When the silver water covers dark rocks 
Forget the clocks. 
Where the sea is still, and sight is broader 
Out of order. 
We escape the highways and backed-up cars
To see the stars.

By Anaïs Bond

Image by Anais Bond

I want to learn how to read the wind, see how it sways across the fields.
I want to learn how to trust my breathe, then submerge beneath the surface.
I want to learn how to let go when the currents change direction, and the tide pulls the other way.

I want to look into friends’ teary eyes and tell them everything will be ok.
I want to cry as if my tears are ribbons of gold, cleansing my heart of pain.
I want to watch watercolour flow across canvas, running like rain down the windowsill.

I want to feel like a leaf drifting across the ocean, unknown of direction but peaceful within its place.
I want to feel vulnerable like a ship in the middle of the sea, tender to the power before me.
I want to feel as light as the clouds on a spring’s morning as they drift alongside beautiful memories.

I want to learn how to read the wind.

I want to hear the tides trickle over shingle beaches as the day speaks its final goodbye.
I want to hear nature as if the forests are pulsing in a mellow heartbeat.
I want to hear your voice and spin under the stars.

I want to watch the sky as it wraps the world in bands on peachy slicks.
I want to shine like water trickling through a stream as the sun drops below the horizon.
I want to feel pure warmth as the sun kisses my skin and leaves behind a freckle on my cheek.

I want to swim in the river and share stories with my children.
I want to be as strong as a snow gum in the brisk of winter chill.
I want to grow as tall as the mountains whose beauty stands bold in the vastness.
I want to learn the seasons of being the human I am.

I want to learn how to read the wind.

A photographer, divemaster and remote sensing scientist.

By Tiani Dun

Valerie Cornet is a current PhD student at JCU, where she has just begun her research project in the field of Remote Sensing in coral reef monitoring. Coming all the way from Hong Kong and the UK, Val completed her Masters degree in 2020. She obtained a high distinction in her research component, awarding her an AIMS@JCU scholarship for her PhD.

Growing up, Val would visit her favourite reef on Coral Island, Thailand and go snorkeling with her family.

“It was a beautiful vibrant, lively reef. We went every single year. It made me fall in love with the ocean.”

Val at Orpheus Island: Photo by Tara Prenzlau

But it was also here when Val first realised that our oceans needed our help.

“One year, half the reef was gone. I was so shocked, what had happened to this magical place I loved so much?”

“And the next year it was gone. No live coral, no fish, the reef was a graveyard. We haven’t been back since.”

Val felt as though she had watched something she loved slowly die.

“It had disintegrated in front of my eyes year after year, and then it was just gone. It was heartbreaking.”

This particular reef had no regulations, so it was not surprising that with the many tourists touching, stepping on and breaking the corals; along with heat waves and recurrent bleaching events, the ecosystem had collapsed.

“I felt as though I had watched climate change occur in front of my own eyes. Since then, I realised I needed to do something.”

Coral Bommie by Valerie Cornet

Val’s intimate experience with the ocean is what drove her towards the field of marine science. For her, it was an obvious path –she couldn’t see herself doing anything else.

“I wanted to do something that matters, to make a positive difference on the planet.”

To leave her mark on the earth, Val felt the need to contribute in some way. Now she hopes to do what she can to help make the world a better place, reef by reef, and it all stemmed from her love of diving.

“I fell in love with diving straight away – I was obsessed. That feeling of being underwater -it was just something else.”

When she was 15, about a year after she started diving, Val started experimenting with underwater photography.

Porcelain anemone crab by Valerie Cornet

Photography opened up a whole new avenue of diving for Val, forcing her to look at the underwater world with fresh, new eyes.

“Diving gave me the opportunity to photograph things that people don’t often get to see and show them to others.”

She began a diving portfolio, @Valgoesdeep on Instagram, which has now gained a following of over 10,000!

Bignose Unicornfish by Valerie Cornet

However, in the past couple of years Val has been concentrating more on her studies and hasn’t taken the time to go diving as much as she would like. Luckily, she has been exploring the ocean in new ways through her Remote Sensing research.

In October last year, Valerie went on a research expedition to Cape York with Schmitt ocean institute. Here, on the Research Vessel Falkor, Val was put in charge of the deep freezing. Samples of corals, sediments, jellies, inverts and sponges needed to be preserved in liquid nitrogen, at -60°C!

The trip was an exciting one, as the team of scientists planned to use multi-beam sonar to create 3D maps of the underwater topography. In this manner, they could create really large maps at once, in areas that hadn’t been mapped before.

In fact, the Falkor made a new discovery –a massive detached reef, taller than the Empire State Building! The reef is over 500m tall with its peak at 40m, and is the first to be discovered in over 120 years.

Newly discovered reef is higher than the Empire State Building, by Schmidt Ocean Institute.

It was also on the Falkor where Val worked in the control room behind the ROV SuBastian, a 4500m remotely operated vehicle with two robotic arms and 10 or so cameras attached.

On one dive in particular, while SuBastian was 800m below the surface, the scientists observed an undescribed species of cephalopod (seen below).

Spirula by Schmidt Ocean Institute

This burrito-like creature is called a Ram’s horn squid (Spirula).

A ram’s horn squid in waters off the Cape York Peninsula in northern Australia, never before filmed in its natural environment. Video by Schmidt Ocean Institute.

Val was one of the five scientists on board working with the ROV in real time. Through SuBastian’s lens, Val was able to watch these deep-sea, alien-like creatures and their strange behaviours.

“It was a bit like being in blue planet – a realm I never thought I would get to explore or discover. It was such a privilege!”

Some more creatures from the ocean’s Twilight zone:

Chiroteuthid squid by Schmidt Ocean Institute
Coffinfish by Schmidt Ocean Institute
Bobtail squid by Schmidt Ocean Institute
Dumbo octopus by Schmidt Ocean Institute

In her current research project, Val will apply the methods of remote sensing that she has learned, using drones and spectrometers, with a focus on developing new bleaching alerts for coral reefs.

While remote sensing has been often used in terrestrial habitats, it is a relatively novel method in marine science. Typically, Val runs into countless problems when mapping marine environments in terms of their reflectivity and radiation. But she is working hard to create a method that is becoming more easily accessible to the public.

Despite seeming to have it all, Val is still trying to figure out her own path and see where life brings her. She still wants to travel Australia and do the things she loves.

If Val could give us any piece of advice it would be this: It’s okay to not find your dream job straight away.

“I used to look down on myself because I wasn’t a straight biologist or remote sensing scientist. But I’ve started to be okay with not being a specialist. Humans are often more generalists and good at a lot of different things, rather than just the one thing.”

“Embrace everything about yourself –embrace it all. You may start as a generalist and you just haven’t found what you want to be a specialist at yet.”

Val says it’s important not to ignore the things you enjoy just because they might not be valuable to your “career path.”

“Appreciate that you have many talents that you can join together to do new things.”

Val at Orpheus Island: Photo by Tara Prenzlau

Val further encourages us to test our own boundaries to discover ourselves.

“It’s important for our self-discovery that we try a lot of different things. Don’t be afraid to do something and fail, or to do something and hate it.”

We are built as holistic humans with different values and strengths. Just as she combined her research with underwater photography, Val reminds us to discover these strengths and merge them together.

In this way, you can create something; a career, and a lifestyle, that is completely and uniquely you.

By Tiani Dun

Kidaman Creek on Film

“Hold wonderful pictures in your mind’s eye” – Robin Sharma

Caring for our mental health has never been more vital. In fact, mindfulness is becoming trendy -it’s everywhere. People are meditating all the time -at home, in the garden, on buses, trains, in lectures, in the library -it appears to me that no time nor place is unfit for a little introspection.  

But in all seriousness, mindfulness is a way we can survive in this new world of social separation. So here’s a couple of reasons why you should get out your yoga mats and sit with yourself, alone, for a few minutes per day:

Did you know: That the average person thinks around 60,000 thoughts per day?

Did you know: That around 95% of these are the same thoughts as yesterday’s?

This slight glitch in human functioning has led to the great, widespread impoverished thinking in our new world. Look around you. We sit inside boxes, separated from the natural world we were born into. We wear clothes and shoes on our feet which further shield ourselves from our environment -the Earth, our home. And now I’m starting to sound like a hippie, but can you see where I’m coming from?

A majority of people still think that they need to live by these “rules” imbedded into our minds by society. These rules advocate mindless consumption -of clothes, food, alcohol, cigarettes, and where have these social norms led us? To forests cleared faster than they can ever be restored, to mountains of rubbish in our oceans, rivers, and freshwater streams.

Even more worrisome, is that an uncannily large proportion of humans still act as though “global warming” were a myth, like a deity we can either choose to or choose not to believe in.

We have polluted our minds just as we have contaminated our seas and our atmosphere. Of 60,000 thoughts per day, a large proportion of these can be unproductive or negative, particularly when faced with dire circumstances. With around 57,000 of the same thoughts as yesterday’s, it’s almost too easy for our attentions to cascade downhill. What may begin as a bad Monday may shortly develop into a Friday of wallowing in a deep pool of grief and self-pity.

We are captives of our own minds, and if we don’t stimulate them, they act as a broken record replaying the same loops. And these cycles can certainly lead us to some dangerous places.

But imagine if everybody took 10 minutes per day to reflect upon their actions. To think about what made them feel good, and what made them feel not so good. We may start to notice that what makes us feel good is often fresh food, fresh air and fresh sunshine. We may also notice that indulging in unnecessary gossip, or binge watching that new show ’90 Day Fiancé’ didn’t feel quite so fulfilling.    

We are either limited by our thoughts, or we can harness them in a way to set us free. Meditation is a way we can train our minds to focus on being present and reflect upon our feelings. We may begin to see that our moods do not necessarily need to govern our actions, that we can gain control over our minds -as a rider does his horse.

A good rider will train his horse each day, will care for it and patiently watch it grow. Similarly, our minds are our horses that carry us through our realities. Through quiet contemplation, we can take the reins over our horse rather than let it run free or trample all over us.  

Further, we can recount upsetting events and feel uncomfortable feelings from a safe distance. Instead of being inside the feelings, watch them come, and watch them go. Moods are often like clouds passing. Sometimes it’s stormy, and sometimes it’s sunny. But the sky is always there.  

Stradbroke Island on Film

Your mind is like your garden. Imagine that good thoughts, supported by good people, are like spreading water and sunshine over your plants. Meanwhile, negative thoughts are like throwing a bucket of toxic waste over your precious garden bed.

Gatekeep your garden from negative thoughts. Have the courage to delete the negativity in your life, and surround yourself with humans who will help you to learn and grow into the best version of yourself. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and make you think.

Do you want your garden to be full of weeds, or do you want it to blossom with flowers?

A marine scientist and creative writer

By Tiani Dun

Aliya Siddiqi

Aliya Siddiqi is a bubbly, artistic soul who shares her inspiration with all who are blessed to be in her presence.

Often one can spot Aliya working in her natural habitat –at JCU, in The Science Place. But when she isn’t doing research for her master’s degree Aliya often writes free verses to help her to express her desire to change the narrative that Western society has written for our planet. She is often inspired to write about nature and her experiences within it. Here, she can create a space where she can delve into the deep recesses of her mind.

Poem by Aliya Siddiqi

Aliya has been writing poetry since she was 12 and finds it a perfect way to put the thoughts in her head onto another medium. She uses her writing as her creative outlet -particularly when things aren’t going well, to release her thoughts and reflect upon her present mood.

“I like to just sit and write and see what comes out. Then I can get a better understanding of how I’m feeling in that moment,” she says.

Brain Coral by Aliya Siddiqi

While we often use the logical and analytical part of our minds when working or studying, Aliya encourages everybody to tap into their creative mediums in their spare time. This helps open space for the expression and acceptance of oneself and may encourage us to look beyond our immediate surroundings for deeper connections. For Aliya, it enhances her connection and appreciation of the natural world and her place in it. This connection is deeply important to Aliya, and she explains how it is often lost in translation with many people in Western society.

Poem by Aliya Siddiqi

Recently, Aliya has been focusing her writing about our disconnect with nature in the Western world, one that is reflected in the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are manipulating nature and it is responding,” Aliya says. “COVID is a symptom of human activities: a net result of the mindless destruction we are leaving on our planet.”

We are a part of the system – things that happen to it are reflected back in us.

“We need to redevelop our relationship with nature,” Aliya continued. “Rather than to look at our resources and think, ‘What can I gain from this?’ We need to recognise that we are a part of it –not separate from it, above it, or in complete control of it –and that’s what is truly important.”

COVID-19 gave Aliya the opportunity to write more, and to reflect on what is happening to the planet on a global scale. “I’ve been writing more about our current society. Growing up in a landlocked city in the USA, I’ve seen how many of us are shut off from nature, so the monopolization and commodification of nature is not something most people even recognize. We’re stuck in a neoliberal narrative.”

As marine biologists, we are taught to quantify the values of ecosystem services and our natural resources. This is a part of what we study –how much money we can make from nature. How much is a coral reef worth to us as a fishery or through tourism? And how can we profit from this ‘free’ resource? But it is here, in our focus on perpetual advancements in capital, that we are wholeheartedly missing the point.

Coral Gardens by Aliya Siddiqi

“Many people get lost in the symptoms of the problem,” Aliya says, “but we are missing the root of the problem. We need to decrease carbon emissions –it’s true. But the actual problem lies in the norms and values of western society, in our drive for the constant accumulation of wealth. Every day we use more, waste more, and exploit more of our planet.”

Most of us lack a deep relationship with nature that is seen in the cultures of indigenous and First Nation’s people.

Poem by Aliya Siddiqi

We have a vast impact on the earth that often, we don’t even acknowledge. In the prevailing issues that we see today, it becomes all the more necessary to deconstruct how this has happened. Most of the “goods” and “natural resources” that are being exploited only benefit a minority of people on the planet, and most of the individuals that make significant gains from exploitation of the Earth and human labor are wealthy individuals who have no real need to use those resources, except to accumulate more wealth.

In the video she made below, Aliya infers that we do not require much to make us truly happy. We don’t need an excess of material items – just a few, small things that have good quality and use. Ultimately, Aliya contends that it is our experiences with nature and other people that are what makes life worth living.

Heaven on Earth: By Aliya Siddiqi

And Aliya is far from finished –she is only just beginning to leave her positive impact on the Earth. In the future, Aliya hopes to aid those in developing countries, and ultimately to leave this world in a better place than which she found it.

For those of you interested in helping Aliya out in spreading awareness and understanding, here are her top 3 tips in making a change:

1) Disconnect from your phone/technology

Social media, in particular, is a brainwashing tool designed to maintain your attention and steal your time. These apps are designed to keep you addicted, so that advertisers can gain maximum profits from your views on their ads.

Your social media feed is tailored to suit your “user profile,” which has kept track of every click you’ve ever made, every photo you’ve ever “liked” and every location you’ve ever checked in. This narrows your view of the world and can create a bubble of misinformation tailored specifically to you. Just think –all of the time you spend staring at your screen is time you are selling yourself to these companies –missing the magic that could be found in creative outlets, time with friends, or experiences out in nature…to benefit corporations and marketers.

Poem by Aliya Siddiqi

Aliya encourages everybody to get out and spend some time in nature each day. “When people are forced to sit in silence they get uncomfortable –but once we get past the initial discomfort we can learn so much about ourselves.”

Stingray Stack by Aliya Siddiqi

2) Put pressure on political systems

Aliya knows that many scientists would prefer to stay neutral in political debate. Yet in order for positive changes to occur, there is a pressing need to express an opinion. academics are more protected from political and corporate influence, and therefore have an obligation to go beyond the fundamentals and encourage critical thinking about how people view and use the world around them, and how it will influence future generations. We should all use any privilege we may have to stand up for what is right and advocate for changes to be made in our local communities.

Octopus by Aliya Siddiqi

3) Expand your knowledge

There is an endless supply of knowledge out there –most of it for free. Yet educating oneself is not often promoted in our misguided system, as knowledge does not necessarily make you rich. It does, however, empower individuals to the world a better place, and lead to much fuller, richer lives. Therefore, Aliya encourages everybody to read widely –and not just about the things you are interested in. Read about the things you like, sure, but also read about the things you don’t like. Try to understand things from as many different perspectives as possible, to think outside the matrix of society. Travel, and have constructive conversations with others, listen to what they have to teach you and share what you learned along your own journey. It’s okay to have disagreements, but it is important to gain empathy for other perspectives.

Question everything. Stay awake to the organized chaos. 

Aliya in her natural element (aka the ocean)

By Tiani Dun

Gina at Chinaman’s Beach: Film by Tiani Dun

Meet Gina: A Marine Scientist and Plastic Waste Warrior, born in Germany but currently living in Townsville, Queensland where she is completing her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology.

Gina lives in my house part-time, and spreads her message of environmental awareness through her cheerful demeanor and minimalistic lifestyle. In this article, she describes her journey towards environmental activism and how we should start by first looking at our own lifestyles.

“Just by doing one small thing each day, everyone can make a difference.” 

Gina Karnasch at a beach clean-up

It was on her exchange to the Galapagos islands when Gina’s eyes were opened to the pressing issue of our growing plastic wastes. Here, she found plastics accumulated around islands which were not even inhabited.

“It was sad because the island chains don’t necessarily use all that plastic but are the ones who reap all the effects from major producers, like Asia and the US.”

Often, due to the direction of the currents, the poorer countries are the ones that see the effects of our luxurious and unsustainable lifestyles.

“People think that when you throw it away it’s gone – it’s out of sight and out of mind. But it does accumulate. We just don’t see it – so we don’t think of the consequences.”

Each year, 381 million tonnes of waste is produced. 50% of this is in the form of single-use plastics, and only 9% of this has ever been recycled (2).

“It’s everywhere, we’re swimming in it, we’re eating it, people just don’t care because it doesn’t necessarily affect them. People think the ocean is a never-ending, bottomless pit.”

There has even been plastic found at the deepest point on earth –in the Mariana Trench –10km below the surface!

Deep Sea Debris: Source JAMSTEC

“Throughout our degree I’ve become more and more conscious of how much we use. Whether it was working in beach cleanups or diving after debris events, I’ve always been shocked to see how much plastic there is in our oceans,” Gina says.

We have an ethical responsibility to our planet to spread the message of conscious living. So here, Gina provides us with seven simple ways that everybody can make a change.

1. Be more active

When you can, try to walk or cycle rather than drive. You not only get exercise but you get to save the environment at the same time (so it’s a win-win, really). If you need to go somewhere far, see if it’s possible to car-pool with a friend.

Source: Bikeradar

2. Buy second hand

Each time you buy something brand new, think of whether you will actually use it or not. Check the tag –has it been ethically made? How long will it last you? Enough to justify the price you pay and perhaps the child labour required to make it?

Buying things new is feeding into the consumerism that drives our society today. Often, new clothes are overpriced and made unethically overseas. In order to reduce our footprints, Gina suggests heading to your local op shop for new wardrobe ideas instead. Often, op shops and second hand stores are filled with plethora of hidden treasures –and for less than half the price!

3. Reduce your meat intake

A largely vegetarian or vegan diet is not only better for your health, but will also have colossal environmental effects. In fact, scientists have calculated that just one meat patty requires over 2,400 litres of fresh water for irrigation and drinking purposes –and this doesn’t even take into consideration the feed, transport and land usage required for production (The Game Changers, 2018).

Meat production is the root cause of a large portion of the deleterious environmental effects we are seeing on our Earth today. If the world suddenly went vegetarian, food-related emissions would drop by up to 60%, while up to 80% of land used for agriculture could be restored to grasslands or forests. Further, worldwide vegetarianism would see a global mortality reduction of up to 10%, thanks to a reduction in coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers (Nuwer, 2016)

Making your own food is not only cheaper, but also much healthier. Check out some easy and cheap vegan recipes here!

4. Reuse everything!

Plastic, if one thing –is used as a convenience. Particularly in this time, plastic is used simply because we are often too lazy to think of other options. However, this sickness is easily curable with a little bit of awareness and a lot of commitment.

Gina advises us to be mindful of what we buy.  If there’s an option to buy something that isn’t wrapped in plastic, then take that one –it may be worth paying a couple of dollars to reduce your impact on the planet. Gina recommends buying fruits and veggies from our local markets (which are not wrapped in plastic), and shampoo in bars from stores like Lush. Make the switch to bamboo toothbrushes, hairbrushes and buy drinks in glass bottles rather than plastic when possible! When you do go shopping, bring your own mesh/tote bags and say no to plastic at the counter.

When out and about, it may be useful to have a set of cutlery, tupperware containers and coffee cups that live in your bag or car. Not only will you never need single-use plastics again, but reusing your items also ends up being cheaper in the long-run (at most coffee shops, you can get a discount on your coffees if you BYO cup)!

Further, Gina advises us to avoid eating takeaway foods –not only is cooking much cheaper, but takeaway options typically come in unnecessary plastic packaging.

5. Girls – switch to the menstrual cup

As a modern woman, it may be time to rethink your feminine care options.“Every single tampon is wrapped in plastic – that’s a lot of plastic used per year for one single woman,” Gina says.

One woman will use around 11,000 disposable pads or tampons in a lifetime. But today, there are new, eco-friendly alternatives to pads and tampons. Gina recommends trying out the menstrual cup -a reusable, sustainable option that lasts for years. So if you haven’t already, jump on the menstrual cup bandwagon and give one a try!

Source: OrganiCup

6. Start small

It may seem overwhelming, but the trick is to start small and improve over time. When focusing on minor aspects of your life, it becomes easy to find small changes you can make to your everyday habits. Perhaps begin with having a look in your pantry and seeing which items of plastic you could possibly reduce. Maybe you could buy certain things in bulk, or even head to the zero-waste store where you can bring your own jars.

Some people may think it’s too much of a hassle to live sustainably. It’s true –to live consciously isn’t an easy feat. It’s hard, and often our efforts go unrewarded or unnoticed.

Sometimes, you may find yourself unconsciously comparing yourself to others, thoughts like, “Why should I make such an effort when others don’t?” may pop into your mind.

I’m asking you to look beyond the selfish predispositions of your ego. Know that here lies a greater purpose, one which is beyond the individual and for the service of all living things.

It is our responsibility to change. If this resonates with you –if you’ve come this far reading this article –or if you care at all for the future of our planet and civilisation, then you now hold the power to contribute to our new earth.

“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.”
—Barbara Ward

We are at a crossroads: If we don’t do anything now it’ll only get worse, and soon we will exceed the point where we can ameliorate our dying world.

7. Share your knowledge

By simply telling your friends and family to change their ways, you are having a bigger effect than you can ever imagine. Lead by example –your conscious way of living will inspire those around you and have ripple effects on the people around you and your wider community.

Gina at Chinaman’s Beach: Film by Tiani Dun

Remember that education is key, and although you may sometimes feel like drowning in the abyss of mindless human consumption, know that people are awakening all over the planet. There are reasons to be positive –worldwide mindfulness is improving and a green revolution has begun. Remember that the core of it starts with you, and even the slightest changes you make will have an impact.