Encouraging people to do the right thing

The Sustainable Hour no. 501 | Transcript | Podcast notes

Let’s TIDY UP our towns! #TidyUpTownsville shows us how.

Our guest in The Sustainable Hour no. 501 is David Dudley, founder of Tidy Up Townsville. We also listen to insights from Bill McKibben and Layne Beachley AO.

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The Hour begins with a quote from our UN Chief António Guterres: “It’s time to wake up and step up!” – and after our Acknowledgement of Country follows a ‘weather report’ – a 2050 weather prediction – from Jenny, a child who highlights the impact of climate on their future. This is one of several videos recorded by the United Nations in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organisation and The Weather Company to start a conversation about what will happen if we don’t get our act together and stop burning coal, oil and gas. All these videos and more can be found at: www.weatherkids.org

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Colin Mockett OAM reports on recent environmental developments in the U.S., including the Biden administration’s efforts to address climate change. Find a transcript of his Global Outlook below in the transcript.

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David (Dave) Dudley, who founded the TIDY group in Townsville to combat illegal dumping, shares his experiences and the impact his group has had on cleaning up the area.

Dave saw a major problem in the amount of rubbish that was being dumped in and around Townsville – a city with a population of 200,000 in northern Queensland. Rather that just complain about it, he got stuck into it and brought the Townsville and district community along with him.

Dave shares examples of how businesses and individuals in Townsville are contributing to cleaning up the environment, such as donating prizes and organising clean-up events. He also discusses his decision not to run for local elections and his plans to involve more council members in clean-up activities.

Dave Dudley’s work with the Tidy group in Townsville demonstrates the power of individual action in combating environmental issues. The conversation then shifts to the urgency of addressing climate change and the role of individuals and governments in taking action.

You can find out about Tidy Up Townsville on their facebook page which can be found here.

Inspired by Dave and as a direct result of our discussion, Mik Aidt instantly started the Facebook group Tidy Up Geelong on www.facebook.com/TidyUpGeelong. If you live in Geelong region and would like to join the initiative, just give it a Like.

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Layne Beachley AO discusses Earth Day and the importance of individual actions in protecting and preserving the planet through actions like picking up litter, reducing plastic use, and reducing carbon footprint. “The standards we set are what we allow,” she says.

American author and co-founder of 350.org Bill McKibben emphasises the need for collective action and the power of older generations to support young activists. Older generations have a responsibility to support and amplify the voices of young activists, he says. Bill McKibben on Climate Crisis: How we got here and what we can do now

Mik Aidt reflects on the need for cultural change and the importance of education and mental health in addressing societal and environmental issues. Cultural change is necessary to shift towards a more sustainable and caring society. Investing in education and mental health is crucial for addressing societal and environmental challenges.

The May Letition-letter is about mental health and climate change.

A vigil is going to be held in Geelong on Fri May 10 to let deputy prime minister Richard Marles know that his constituents are not happy with his government’s inaction on climate. More info below in our calendar.

We round off the Hour with Missy Higgins’ ‘The Difference’ and a guest appearance by Greta Thunberg. The song is from an album which was entitled Climate Grief #2 on ABC listen.

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Each week we get to know our guests and their motivations. This week was no different. Dave’s work is inspirational. He saw a problem and didn’t wait for someone to solve it. As he said, he “got stuck in” and started working on it. In the process he bought the Townsville and district community along with him.

A classic example of what he has inspired was the event when he got the local four wheel group involved. They pulled 23 cars at various stages of disintegration from a creek, and then removed from the sight and recycled by a couple of local businesses.

It’s always a great satisfaction each week to shine extra lumens on people who go about their work with determination and persistence. The world is definitely a better place for them being here. We’ll be back next week with more inspirational champions to their causes.

In the meantime, be the difference: send a letition, be part of something bigger and see you on 9 May!

“We pulled 23 cars out of a creek a couple of years back. You know, they were anything from a recently stolen vehicle to a rusted wreck, but we got them all out. And that appealed to the fourwheel drive community because I offered them an opportunity to test themselves and they answered the call. So, you know, we were chaining these wrecks up to fourwheel drives and literally skull dragging them out of the bush. And we got 23 vehicles out… Then I had one of the local crane companies volunteer their time for about two days to come out and we removed all the wrecks from the roadside. So we just didn’t pull them out and leave them there. We got the whole job done.”
~ David Dudley, founder of Tidy Up Townsville

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We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we
are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millennia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”
The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore the climate emergency are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How disrespectful and unfair is that?


Troy Butler. Credit: Carmen Bunting / SBS

“These kids are scared of the future. They do realise that we’ve stuffed up and they’re a bit lost.”
~ Troy Butler

Podcast episode about children and teens

Growing leaders in Maryborough: How a school groundsman and students tackle climate change

In episode 3 of Everything we need we go Maryborough Education Centre (MEC) in Central Victoria and meet children and teens who will be in in the prime of their lives when the planet has warmed around 2.6 degrees (by current projections).  The planet has already warmed by 1.2 degrees, this is bad enough – a warming of  2.6 degrees is catastrophic. 

“These kids are scared of the future. They do realise that we have stuffed up and they’re a bit lost.” 
—Troy Butler

MEC groundsman and sustainability officer Troy Butler is refreshingly upfront about not having all the answers. It hasn’t stopped him form stepping beyond his basic role at MEC to start a climate sustainability club for the students. He draws on his own childhood experiences as to find ways to help students at the school regain trust in the people around them and prepare for a world that’ll be different from the one we know.

LISTEN to Ep.3 of Everything we need


→ The New Daily – 29 April 2024:
How Australians are cutting out single-use plastics
“A YouGov survey found 78 per cent of Australians are concerned about the use of plastic in Australia.”

→ The Conversation – 25 April 2024:
If plastic manufacturing goes up 10%, plastic pollution goes up 10% – and we’re set for a huge surge in production
“In the two decades to 2019, global plastic production doubled. By 2040, plastic manufacturing and processing could consume as much as 20 percent of global oil production and use up 15 percent of the annual carbon emissions budget.”


Woodside AGM highlight

Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) wrote in their monthly newsletter for April:

In a powerful demonstration of environmental advocacy, CCWA, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Drummers for Climate Action and many more climate and nature groups protested at Crown Perth at Woodside’s 2024 Annual General Meeting (AGM). The event saw passionate climate advocates uniting to challenge Woodside’s ongoing gas expansion activities. 

Woodside’s relentless pursuit of gas extraction threatens biodiversity, notably its plans to drill in the marine ecosystem of Scott Reef.

The protest held Woodside and shareholders accountable for the fossil fuel giant’s actions and highlighted the urgent need for a shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy solutions.

Following the protest, the AGM began, where greenwashed answers from Woodside’s board led to activists breaking into song to demonstrate their frustrations, making headlines on 9news, ABC and more.

 “The WA community will not stand for the destruction of Scott Reef to make way for Woodside’s gas plans and mega profits – the impacts on green turtles, pygmy blue whales and the climate would be catastrophic. The future is in renewables, not new gas.” 

Jess Beckerling, CCWA Executive Director, who attended the rally and commented to the press

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First Dog On The Moon: Is everything really getting worse – or is it simply old people imagining it?

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TRANSCRIPT – The Sustainable Hour no. 501

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General:
It’s time to wake up and step up.

For a green, clean, sustainable Geelong: The Sustainable Hour.

Anthony Gleeson:
Welcome to the Sustainable Hour. We’d like to acknowledge that we’re broadcasting from the land of the Wadawurrung people. We pay tribute to their elders – past, present and those that earn that great honour in the future. We acknowledge that we’re on stolen land, land that was never ceded. Always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land. And finally, we have so much to learn as we navigate the climate crisis from the ancient wisdom that they’ve acquired from nurturing their land and their communities for millennia before their land was stolen. We can’t hope to have any form of climate justice without justice for First Nations Australians.

Weatherkids.org video:
I’m Kayleigh with the Very Special Weather Report. From up there to down here, everything is crazy. If we don’t listen to scientists, things are going to be even crazier when I grow up. Let’s look at the forecast for 2050. Heat waves will affect 94 per cent of children, making playing outside a thing of the past. Extreme droughts will wipe out wheat crops, killing the one food my brother eats, bread. Disasters will cost taxpayers almost six trillion dollars. My parents hate taxes. Of course, all of this is caused by a blanket of heat trapping pollution in the atmosphere that we could just like… not put up there. But don’t worry, there’s still a chance of clear skies. Right now, clean energy systems are moving in from the east to the west creating tons of cool jobs. And solar prices have dropped lower than oil and gas. Going through the satellite, it looks like a highpressure system of grownups could still move in and protect kids from an avalanche of really bad stuff. Some gusty political winds ahead, but they’re no match for the power of Hurricane Felicia. That’s my mom. We’ll keep you posted as we track if adults stop wasting time and fix this totally solvable problem.
Because it’s not just a weather report to us, it’s our future.

Mik Aidt:
A recent Australian survey of children in the age between 10 and 14 reported that one in four of these children who participated believed the world would end before they grow up.

What we listened to here was one of several videos that have been recorded by the United Nations in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization and the Weather Company to start a conversation about these kids’ future. What will happen if we don’t get our act together very, very soon and stop, completely stop burning coal, oil and gas? And you can see these videos. The campaign website is weatherkids.org.

On the website they write, ‘Talking about the weather is no longer just small talk. It’s breaking news every day. It’s the most crucial conversation for our future and for the future of our children.’

And that’s why we’re here in The Sustainable Hour. We will be talking about the future of our children today. But first we need to hear what’s been happening around the world since last week. Colin Mockett OAM, what do you have for us today in the Global Outlook?

Colin Mockett OAM:
Thank you, Mik. Yes, my roundup today begins in the United States, where in the week since Earth Day, the Biden administration has been on a remarkable roll when it comes to the environment. There has been one key announcement after another helping to cement President Biden’s reputation as the most climate conscious in American history. In some cases, it defended previous decisions.
The White House managed to get aid to the Ukraine without giving in to Speaker Mike Johnson’s demands that it revoke its pause in new export permits for natural gas. Some of the decisions made up for bad decisions in the past, like the Interior Department, protected a wide swathe of the Alaskan Arctic from new oil drilling that they allowed just a couple of years ago.

Some of the new projects were shiny and new and tied to Earth Day, like the Solar for All initiative. That’s a $7 billion program that’s aimed at bringing solar panels to lowincome Americans. Some of them brought back echoes from the past. They invited applicants for a brand new climate corps, which is modeled on the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps.

And you remember when President Carter brought in the Peace Corps. It’s getting young people involved. But now they’re getting young people involved in climate change. Young people signing up to bring clean energy to communities across the country. And some of the new projects were easy to miss technical changes that may produce enormous change in the years ahead. The best example of this came on Thursday.

First with a new rule on cleaning up power plants, which could save more than a billion tons of carbon by midcentury. That’s a billion tons of carbon being put into the atmosphere. And then a little noticed ruling by the Department of Housing in America and Urban Development, which will require builders to put up federally funded houses and apartments that comply with a new set of building and energy codes instead of the earlier slacker standards. Now the timing of this move was crucial. Decisions announced before April the 30th will be much harder for a possible Trump administration to overturn. And this was a clever law because it addressed not just rising temperatures but also the rising price of building and owning a home.

And on Thursday, the administration also placed the final cornerstone of its climate change plans. That’s a regulation that would force the nation’s coalfired power plants to eliminate the planet warming pollution that they release into the air or shut down. The regulation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires coal plants in the United States to reduce 90 per cent of their greenhouse pollution by 2039, one year earlier than they had initially proposed.

The compressed timeline was welcomed by climate activists, but condemned by the coal executives, who said the new standards would be impossible to meet. That’s a surprise, isn’t it?

The US EPA also imposed three additional regulations on coal burning power plants, including stricter limits on emissions of mercury, which is linked to development damage in children. The rules also restrict the seepage of toxic ash from the coal plants into water supplies and limit the discharge of wastewater from them. Taken together, the regulations are likely to deliver a death blow in the United States to the coal industry, the fuel that powered the country for much of the last century but has caused global environmental damage. When burned, coal emits more carbon dioxide than any other fuel source. So it’s coal very much in the target for the current Biden administration.

Now in that regard, Australia’s most polluting company Woodside held its much publicised annual general meeting last week when there was a revolt by shareholders who claimed that many of the company’s boasted climate change initiatives were greenwashing and they insisted that the company adopts a much more rigorous policies. The company was shaken by the revolt of its own shareholders and promise to come up with tighter controls in the future. We will be watching.

Now, hosting a huge international event like the Olympics hasn’t exactly been a climate friendly thing to do in the past. But Paris 2024 wants to change that. The home of the UN’s landmark Paris Climate Agreement has reworked nearly every aspect of hosting an Olympics with the intention of not just reducing emissions, but becoming the first ever carbon neutral games and throwing down the gauntlet to other sports administrations. They’re also promising to make it all transparent for anybody to see. We will be keeping an eye on that too. And that positive note ends my round up for the week.

Listen to our Sustainable Hour for the future.

Anthony Gleeson:
With us now we have Dave Dudley. Dave is from Townsville. He founded a group called Tidy, which is in response to illegal dumping that was going on up there, I understand. Dave, can you tell us about how all that happened and why you decided to do something about it?

Dave Dudley:
Yeah, all right. Well, back in about 2018-2019… I’m an outdoors person, I guess. I go out and ride the motorbike, I go fishing, go out into the bush a lot, and I was just coming across dump site after dump site after dump site. I then got in touch with our local council and said, you know, what are you guys doing about this? And basically no one was doing anything about it. It was just there and it was there for years because there’s a whole range of issues around what it is, where it is and whose land it’s on and nobody wanted to step into the next jurisdiction and sort the problem out. So I wrote to the council and said, oh, look, I’m happy to sort the problem out. I’ll just do it because I’m sick of no one doing it. And I got a response. It took a few months, but I got a response back from the council saying they would give me three free dump vouchers and three lots of free trailer hire from a trailer hire business to go out and do it. So I did that. I did it the correct way and I proved myself to the council and I said, all right, well I’ve done that now. I want free dumping. I’m just gonna continue to roll on and it sort of ballooned from there to what it is now. So that’s how it got started.
That’s great, Dave! Can you tell us the nature of the stuff that you’re actually collecting? Whether it all goes into infill and is any of it being recycled?

So the sort of stuff that we’re collecting is everything basically. Everything from domestic waste to building and trade waste, from the tires from the trucking industry, just about everything you could think that would be dumped or couldn’t be dumped is being dumped out in the bush. So that’s the type of stuff we’re finding. When we go out and we do a dump clean up, I’ve got a waiver from the state government now to go to the landfills. Due to the time constraints and the amount of stuff that we actually pull out, which can be several tonne at a clean up, that’s the maximum that we’ll get. And considering that we’re all volunteers and we’re on a time clock.

What we do is we try and recycle the stuff that we can at the landfill, which is generally the metal waste and the tires. And the rest ends up going into landfill because it’s usually that grossly contaminated. And trying to separate the material, especially when it’s in its tons with the amount of time that we’ve got is just logistically impossible. So our landfills up here aren’t well managed and they’re full of everything. So unfortunately this… you know, whatever’s left apart from metal waste and tires pretty much goes into the landfill itself.

I’m really surprised that you can recycle tires because here in Victoria, tires are being dumped everywhere because they’re counted as being unrecyclable.

Right, so there’s a couple of businesses in Queensland, Tire Cycle, and a couple of others that collect these and I believe they go down to Brisbane and places down to New South Wales and down to South Australia to be turned into rubber crumb that might be used into road base and unfortunately playgrounds which I think they’re trying to change now because it’s just as bad as the rubber itself. But yeah, so the tires get shipped down there. There’s no sort of a… I think there’s one company up here that’s doing it. I haven’t come across them yet. I’ve got to look them up. But most of all of that stuff goes down south and they do whatever they’re doing with it down there. Now, is there an end in sight? Are you clearing so much of it that now it’s looking much better around Townsville? Yes, it is. Good. Yes. I’m fairly well connected now with the Townsville City. Well, I am well connected with the Townsville City Council. I’m connected with the state government, and I’m dragging those people along for the journey, whether they like it or not really. The good thing about what I do is I’m not regulated by anything. The tidy group is just an idea. There’s no committee. I’m not a notforprofit, I’m not a NGO or whatever, I’m just an idea, but I’m that consistent with it and keeping up the pressure that they just have to toe the line. So, yeah, we are making a difference. The places that we do target, regularly stay reasonably clean. Some places have stayed clean for a couple of years. So because we’re out there consistently, we’ve got a consistent presence and I’m fairly prolific on social media. The message is getting across, so we are making a difference. So not as much as I’d like, but it is happening.

And when you say ‘we’, who is ‘we’?

Oh, it’s myself and the volunteers. So, you know, I don’t run an event like Clean Up Australia Day where it’s just a once a year social event. Basically, we’re fairly consistent in what we do and I’ll try and run at least four to five events a year, big events. I’ve got another initiative called Bag the Bag or Bag A Bag where volunteers within the group will just go out and I’ll just grab a bag of litter and post it up to the page. So, whether it’s a playground or they’re out on a bush walk or down the beach, photograph what they’ve picked up and just posted up to the page.

We ran a competition last year for that where I’d run a monthly draw prize and I’d put them all into a hat. I’ve let that go this year. I’m trying to do some different things now. The people that are involved, whether it’s a business or just a private individual, are all involved because they want to be there. No one gets paid. We’ve had everything from transport and recycling companies involved down to the little individual.

What would you say, for instance, to people here where we live in Geelong or in Melbourne and so on, how do you reach the critical mass, you know, where you begin to have a tipping point where everyone begins to think like you?

I guess leading by example is the key thing to this. You can’t just sit back and be a keyboard warrior, you’ve got to get out there and demonstrate. And I’ve been consistent with that the whole time. We had a trailer donated by the Rotary Club up here for the Tidy group. It was about three and a half thousand bucks worth that they just chipped in. They liked what we were doing, said how can we help. So they gave me a trailer and a few… There’s so much to this, they gave me a few other things. But I guess the driver is me setting the example, not just expecting other people to do the work.

So, you know, I’ll be out there on a roadside anywhere around Townsville maybe once or twice a week and I’ll just be out there picking up litter on the roadside. So I’ve actually signposted all over the city, the tidy group. There’s not many people that don’t see it.

So I imagine when you say that there’s a lot less rubbish being dumped, are people now heating that fact and simply not dumping the rubbish or have they found new places to dump it that’s out of town?

They might have found new places, but they’re not doing it here because the the chances of you know, potentially getting caught or You know shamed which I don’t do on the Facebook group, but you know, they’re the repercussions for getting caught and just the awareness now that we’re creating, I think is enough to put a few people off. I’ve actually caught a few dumpers myself redhanded, like in the… and pulled them up and they’ve eventually come back to clean up their rubbish, whether it’s been enforced by the council or not. But yeah, we just don’t back down on this.

Dave, this is really inspirational that someone who’s concerned about things that are happening locally, instead of just whinging about it, got out, got off his ass and did something about it. These are the things that change the world, the ills of the world at the moment. I was wondering how many volunteers do you have at the moment?

So, yeah, there’s probably about four and a half thousand or more people following the Facebook group. But actually getting people out of the lounge room on a weekend or a Sunday in the tropics, especially in the wet season to get out there and actually clean something’s a lot different. But a lot of people support it. I think the most I’ve had at any one event has been about 30 people. It depends what appeals to them at the time. So we pulled 23 cars out of a creek a couple of years back. You know, they were only anything from a, you know, a recently stolen vehicle to a rusted wreck, but we got them all out. And that appealed to the fourwheel drive community because I offered them an opportunity to test themselves and they answered the call. So, you know, we were chaining these wrecks up to fourwheel drives and literally skull dragging them out of the bush. And we got 23 vehicles out.

Then I had one of the local crane companies and a metal recycling company volunteer their time for about two days to come out and we removed all the wrecks from the roadside. So we just didn’t pull them out and leave them there. We got the whole job done. So, sorry, to answer your question, volunteers can range between five to 30 at an event, but there’s people on there all the time, doing something and people will pop up regularly on the group that I’ve never seen before doing stuff.

So just as a matter of interest, what’s the population of Townsville?

About 200,000 now. That’s the entire district, not just the city. So that extends over around, I think, 100 kilometres from one end to the other.

And have you found yourself now with a full time job?

This is my fulltime job! My paid job… I do four shifts a week. But the rest of the time I spend doing this at the moment.

What other forms of support have you got from the local community? I think I’ve probably had about a hundred businesses contribute to the group over the time and I don’t ask them to contribute all the time and I don’t ask for money.

But what I will do is when I need some support for an activity, like pulling the cars out of the creek, I’ll reach out to that business and I’ll say, hey, listen, this is what we’re doing. You’re not going to get paid for it, but would you be interested in being involved? And nine times out of 10, I’ll jump on and say, yep, no dramas. And a bit of a difficult topic to cover is the insurance side of things, because I don’t have it.

But I tell them that straight up and I say, listen, it’s not insured if you break something when you come in, it’s your bad luck, but you’re doing it because you want to be there, not because you’re covered for this and covered for that and etc. So. Yeah.

Well, fear of litigation restricts so much, so many really good activities like you’ve got. So just and the people that come acknowledge that and accept it, that if anything happens that they’re involved in that, it’s their responsibility or that they’ll bear the consequences.

Yeah, well, you don’t have public liability insurance or whatever when you’re riding as a group on the road on push bikes or anything, do you? So I’ve seen so many things just stopped in their tracks because people are worried about litigation and think if you want to achieve anything, you’ve just got to move past that and accept the risk. And people do it in their day to day lives for everything else. So why not cleaning up a bit of rubbish?

Layne Beachley AO:
How are we feeling about Earth Day? Sometimes I get really sad on this day because I look at this beautiful planet and I go, sorry, I’m sorry for how we’re treating you because if it was a human being, I’m sure we’d treat it with much more respect. It provides us with life, with oxygen, with food. The Earth gives us so much and yet we continue to take so much from it without allowing it to regenerate. Nature is under attack. We’re assaulting her and this beautiful planet sustains our life.

And so there’s three things that we can do to help sustain the life of the planet to ensure that it’s enjoyed for future generations. Number one, the standards we set are what we allow, what we walk past we allow. So if you walk past a piece of litter, have the courage to pick it up and put it in the bin, be the role model to the future generations, protect and preserve the planet by doing little things like picking up trash and plastic.

Number two, stop or reduce your use of singleuse plastics. This is suffocating our planet. Our bodies were not made to consumed plastic. We can’t digest plastic, yet we’re breathing it in, we’re drinking it through plastic water bottles, and we’re suffocating our oceans with it. We need to change our behaviour when it comes to plastic.

And number three, reduce your carbon footprint. Use public transport, ride a bike, walk, get your body moving, exercise is the body’s natural antidepressant, and just be more conscious of the impact that you’re having on this beautiful planet.

Before Tidy started – or the idea of Tidy started – are you doing things now, that you would never have thought about doing then?
I’m dragging politicians along to these events now or dragging them along to events just with them so that they can see the problem. So, you know, I’m surprised at the amount of influence I’m actually having on different people and companies like… I’ll just tell you quickly, now over the last three years I’ve been working with the multinationals. So, trying to get them on board to run customer education or educate their customers on littering their products.

So, in Townsville we’ve got McDonald’s on board, which had to go through McDonald’s, their support had to go through McDonald’s Australia. So it took about two and a half years to get sorted but they’ve now got signposting on their drivethroughs to remind customers to put their litter in the bins and stuff like that rather than throwing it out.
We’ve got KFC on board now, they’ve done the same thing. We’ve got a company called Tweed Bait which is big up in Queensland that do a lot of the bait packaging to get their customers on board. I got in touch with a great northern brewing company, they did a small thing, I’m going to work on them a bit more.

And the last one, I don’t know if you have it down in Victoria, Hungry Jacks?


Yep, all right. And so I met with them a couple of weeks ago with their management and got them on board now. So they’ll be looking at signposting their drivethroughs, what I’ve presented as an idea and nothing more. I’m not a business. So, you know, these multinationals and national companies are starting to, you know, do something, I work on it.

Has it had an effect? Because you’ve been doing it for a while, are you now finding that you’re getting fewer McDonald’s wrappers just chucked by the side of the road or just dumped by the side of the road? And in that regards, when I drove around Townsville in Queensland a decade ago, the roads were always littered by drink containers either side. Bits of shredded tires and drink containers, that’s what you saw more than anything else by the sides of the roads. Is that still the case or have you been effective on that too?

That’s really hard to quantify but look it may have had some impact. What it has had an impact on is the producers and the manufacturers of the items because now they’ve got on board and acknowledged it’s a problem and they’ve done that publicly. So getting them to acknowledge there’s a problem and get this signposting up has been a huge… – I don’t know – a huge stepping stone, you know, because they just don’t want to know about it. And, you know, once the product leaves their premises, it’s someone else’s problem. Well, I’ve made it their problem now. That’s the first step in the change. I mean, I’ve got a lot longer to go with this. But, you know, getting them to acknowledge there was a problem and then get that signposting up has been massive. So, has the problem stopped? No. Will it stop? I’m hoping so. So, you know, by more education, getting these guys on to get this stuff rolled out onto their apps now and their social media and their mainstream advertising is my next next step.

How have the media been? Have they been helpful in covering your activities?

Oh, massive. Look, I’ve had massive support from the the Townsville Bulletin up here, which is a local newspaper and the TV stations up here. Tidy’s appeared on ABC 24. I was on the 24hour news cycle a couple of years ago. You know, that continuous rotation that they run. We ran an event up here and they came out and filmed the thing and Channel 7, Channel 9 up here. And in the media fairly consistently. Like I’ll probably at least be in the bulletin once a month. I actually rang up a few months ago last year and got front page.

And now you’re [on The Sustainable Hour]. I mean, you’ve reached the final accolade!

People from Melbourne or Victoria reach out and ask what all this is about is pretty good because it’s sort of getting the word out there that we just need to do the right thing. And it’s good to know that you’re not just shaming people but you’re also offering incentives. When you have your raffles, what sort of prizes do you give to the people who are doing the most, if you like, or helping people the most? Well, I get all sorts of stuff donated. When I was doing the prize draws for the bag a bag last year, I was getting an approach to company and say, look, I need a $100 voucher. You’ve got to make it worthwhile. So they’d either cough up something from their own business or if that wasn’t relevant then they’d chip in like a $100 BCF voucher or something like that. But we were running those sort of things. I’ve had other companies recently where trying to get people to pick up marine litter when they go out on their fishing trips. So a bag in a bag of that when they come back in. So there’s a fellow by the name of Jay who owns a crab pot company, and he’s donated multiple crab pots to the cause. All quality stuff for free, just to try and encourage people to do the right thing.

For an outdoor mob or a fishing mob or whatever, trying to clean up the oceans and clean up our local waterways is pretty important. Nobody wants to go catching plastic bags, do they, or rubbish. They want to go out there and enjoy the environment.

Have you ever thought of standing for parliament?

I thought of standing for the local elections, and I gave that some serious thought last year, but I thought I won’t be able to achieve or do what I do. If I did, I’d be hogtied. And I can now drag these. We’ve just had a local council turnover here. Only four of the original council remained at the local election. The rest, four out of 11. So I’ve hit the ground running with these guys straight up.

Yeah, this is not a make or break here, but I just want to drive the message home this year so I’ve already had three councillors turn up to tidy events this year and I plan to drag the rest on out on a about June’s Alana team building activity I’ve got about 30 tires out in the bush that are in a really difficult location. So and I’m offering them a free team building activity and I’m doing that publicly so we’ll see how we go. I think I’m pretty confident I’ll get them on board.

Look, I have to ask at this point, is ‘Tidy’ an acronym?

It used to be. When I originally did it, I was trying to work out what I would call the Facebook group and I came up with Townsville Illegal Dumping Yobos. The original name was Townsville Illegal Dumping Yobos – and in brackets: (Tidy up Townsville).

I’ve linked in with one of the big businesses up here, Domain Central. I don’t know whether they’re in Victoria or not. But anyway, and they said, ‘Oh look, maybe you should – if you want to go a bit more professional – look at changing the name a bit.’

So we just got rid of the Yobos and just turned it into ‘Tidy up Townsville’. And that’s worked and it says everything that we need to say.

I’m assuming that the amount that goes to landfill has increased thanks to your efforts.
And that’s a sort of a doubleedged sword for the council, isn’t it?

It’s having to process more landfill and look for maybe more landfill sites. And that’s not a good thing in the long run, is it? Oh, no. Look, yeah, it’s terrible. And I’m estimating now, because I gave up counting a while back of how much we actually removed, but I’m estimating we’ve removed probably about 70 tonne.

Rubbish as a group over the last four years, which is a hell of a lot of rubbish. And I’m estimating we’ve been responsible for removing probably over a thousand tires that have been dumped within the district. The separation of waste at the landfills up there just isn’t happening. So everything that goes in your green bin or goes out to dump on a skip goes into landfill basically.

Some of the skip companies are stripping stuff out of their sites because they can make more money out of that. But most of it RPR ends up in the landfill which is really appalling. We just haven’t got the infrastructure or the assets or the funds and the staff I guess to strip this stuff out when it gets to the landfill sites.

Yeah that’s probably your next target, Dave:
Contact the council or push the council and put pressure on them for at least composting what comes in people’s green bins.

Oh look, that already happens up here. So they’ve got a good green waste is free up here. So you’ve got anything green waste that goes into your bin when it gets out to the side, it goes to a separate area and that stuff’s all mulched up and goes to wherever.

So I think most of it, don’t quote me on this, but I think most of it goes to the landfill site for capping and stuff, because usually it’s got some form of contamination in it that they can’t put out to the general public. Now, people in Townsville, I know some people that live in there in that area. What should I tell them about, how can they get in touch with you?

Oh, look, if, if people want to, if anyone wants to get in touch with me or has ideas, I’m contactable on LinkedIn, you know, for the professional side of things. But if they just want to generally have a look and see what we’re doing and see how we’re doing it, or we’ll get some ideas, I can get in contact with me via the tidy up towns for group on Facebook. It’s that easy. Just send me a message. I’ll answer it.

So, that’s excellent! I think we can start a tidy up Geelong right here, Dave. It’s already happening in my little park and I am the first member of Tidy Up Geelong because I actually, you know, when I take a walk with a dog, the dog does its thing and I have a plastic bag that I put it in. And then on the way to the bin, I always pick up other things that I put in that same plastic bag. That’s your ‘bag in a bag’-principle already happening in my real life.

All you need to do is put it out on Facebook and then, you know, start something similar.
New area and you get one person, then they’ll be two, and then there’s three or four people and there’s lots of people doing this individually but collectively you get a bit more. Thanks for your back I guess.

Yeah and you get a good feeling about it, you know: the optimism, that we can do better.

Yeah exactly exactly if any of the people on the sustainable listening water want to make a difference just give us a yell because it seems to be working up here and there’s no reason it can’t work in other places. If you search through the tidy group, you know, there’s four and a half years of cleaning up there, you’ll see some everything we’ve done. So there’s no copyrights on anything I do. If anyone wants to patch anything, feel free. It’s just, it’s, it’s all about doing stuff because you want to do it, not because you’re paid to or you’re getting some reimbursement or what. If, if someone did want to start a group up or

I’m happy to give them advice, I’m happy to tell them how to talk to the council about it and how to get those people that can change things on board.

Bill McKibben:
In my 20s, I wrote a book called ‘The End of Nature’. When I wrote that book, I realised that I desperately did not want the world to heat up and wither and blow away. I liked the world sort of the way it was, with a little bit of ice at the top and bottom and the odd coral reef in between. And so it became my life’s work to slow down those shifts some. The idea that I grew up with, that there was this thing called nature that was bigger than people and outside our control, that’s what we’ve lost. If we had gone to work as a world wholeheartedly in 1989, we wouldn’t have solved this problem yet, but we’d be well on the way. For 700,000 years, humans have been enthusiastic burned off things. We learned to cook food, and that gave us the big brain. We were able to move north and south from the equator. No one was going to live in Vermont before you invented fire, you know.

When we learned to control the combustion of coal and oil and gas in the Industrial Revolution, that produced modernity. The problem is now, drawbacks to combustion have become enormous. We now know, from great investigative reporting, that the oil industry, right at the moment that I was writing that first book, was busy doing their own investigations of climate change.

Exxon scientists told their executives in the 1980s how hot it was going to get and how fast. Exxon’s executives started building their drilling rigs higher to compensate for the rise in sea level they knew was coming. The only thing they didn’t do was tell the rest of us.

Instead, they hired the people who used to work for the tobacco industry to build this huge edifice of denial. Now, when we’ve reached the point where it’s really impossible to pretend the planet isn’t getting warmer, now they engage in slightly more sophisticated forms of greenwashing and denial.

If you’ve been watching Exxon’s ads for the last decade, you might conclude that Exxon was an algae company that happened to have a few oil wells on the side someplace. Algae-derived fuel could help us meet growing demand while reducing emissions. We’re making a big commitment to finding out just how much algae can help to meet the fuel demands of the world.

As it turns out, they’ve put some tiny, minuscule percentage of their research budget into things like algae and just kept looking for more oil and gas. If you’re Exxon, you’ve prospered for a hundred years by having people write you a check every month or every week or whatever it is for another shipment of energy. To them, the idea that you could pay to put a solar panel on your roof and then after that, the energy would be delivered for free,

Every morning when the sun rises above the horizon, they hate it. And that’s why they’ve been willing to go to the mat to try and make sure it doesn’t happen.

About 70 per cent of Americans understand that climate change is real and it’s a problem that we have to do something about. And in America, as divided as ours, 70 per cent is not too bad. The problem is activating as much of that 70 per cent as possible to actually make it an issue that our political leaders can no longer avoid. Everybody likes solar power.

When we poll it, it comes up with huge approval ratings from Republicans, Independents, Democrats. If you’re a conservative, like my home is my castle and now with solar power on the roof, I don’t have to connect to anybody. Liberals are like, oh, the groovy power of the sun is networking us all into this big grid. The sun and the sky really are great unitors. As we move towards renewable energy, it’s going to do great things for our economy.

Oxford University did a big study a couple years ago and they found that a rapid switch to renewables would save the planet tens of trillions of dollars. They didn’t even measure the damage that’s averted by not having allout climate change. They were just talking about the fact that you no longer have to write a check every month for some coal or some gas or some oil. That instead you’d be getting that power from the sun which for some reason has decided not to charge for it.

One of the problems with relying on fossil fuel is that it means that the people who control those few small deposits of coal and gas and oil end up with too much power, which they tend to abuse. The Koch brothers are our biggest oil and gas barons and they used their winnings to degrade our democracy. Vladimir Putin used his to invade Ukraine.

One of the nice things about the sun and the wind is nobody owns them and they exist everywhere, which means that moving in their direction moves us at least somewhat in the direction of local control of one of the most important things in our world.

Climate change is unique among our political problems in that it comes with these really tough time limits. We’re kind of used to problems that exist forever and we make incremental progress on them. As long as I’ve been alive, America’s been debating whether or not to have national health care like every other industrialised country. I imagine someday that we’ll eventually do it and I hope it’s soon because people die and go bankrupt every year when we don’t. But the fact that we’ve delayed, doesn’t make it harder to solve the problem when we eventually get there. Climate change isn’t like that. Climate change is this series of ratchets that work one way. Once you’ve melted the Arctic, no one has a plan for how you freeze it back up again. No one can set a kind of exact dropdead date for planet Earth, you know, when climate change will just overwhelm us. We’ve already raised the temperature of the Earth pretty near a degree and a half Celsius, which is causing extraordinary problems. The North and South Poles are melting. The hydrological cycle, the way that water moves around the planet is completely disrupted, so we have way more flood and way more drought. That’s going to get worse at two degrees Celsius and worse again at three degrees. Compromise is a very useful thing in a democratic society. That’s how most of our problems are solved.

You think that there should be no minimum wage because you’re a libertarian. I think the minimum wage should be 30 bucks an hour because that’s what it takes to live. We meet in the middle at 15 bucks and we come back in a few years to argue it out again. That’s not how climate change works. The negotiation that’s going on here isn’t between Democrats and Republicans or environmentalists and industrialists. The deepest negotiation is between human beings and physics.

And physics is a very poor negotiator. It’s just going to do what it’s going to do so our job is to meet the bar that it sets. Young people are providing most of the leadership in the climate fight and thank God. There’s millions of them engaged in this. You know, we know about Greta Thunberg and we should. She’s remarkable. What fun it was to send her a letter of congratulations this year on her graduation from high school. Think about that a minute. But you know what? I heard too many people my age say, ‘Oh, it’s up to the next generation to solve this.’ That’s a rotten thing to say, and it’s also an impractical one. Young people, for all their energy and intelligence and idealism, lack the structural power to make the change we need on the scale that we required in the time that we have.

If you have hair coming out your ears, then you’re likely to have structural power coming out of your ears too. Those of us over 60, there’s 70 million of us in this country. We all vote, and we ended up with most of the money too. We got about 70 per cent of the country’s financial assets. So if you wanted to take on Washington or Wall Street, it’s good to have some people with hairlines like mine backing up those young people.

Those of us in our 60s and 70s and 80s now, in our first act, we were around for the greatest moment of social and cultural and political transformation ever. Maybe in our second act, we were a little more interested in consumerism than in citizenship, but that’s water under the bridge. Now in our third act, we have time, resources, skills, and a sense of legacy of the world we’re leaving behind.

Legacy seems like an abstract word until you reach a certain age, and then you understand that legacy means the world you leave behind for the people you love the most. My name is Bill McKibben and this has been my Brief But Spectacular take on what we can do together.

Well, in regard to Dave and his Tidy Townsville, I used to work in town and I chose to cycle to work for many reasons. The most obvious one was I didn’t have to worry about parking. But when I was cycling, it was relatively easy to stop and pick up plastic waste, especially plastic bags, because I’m aware that in Geelong, the stormwater system just takes anything that’s flushed down the drains and they’re pretty big drains on the main roads of Geelong and dumps it into the bay without any treatment at all. There is a catch net affair thing at Rippleside that catches big bits of plastic but mostly it’s just washed out into the bay.

I got in the habit of doing that but since I’ve no longer work in the city of Geelong, in the city centre that is, I rarely cycle that route, but I did last week because I had a booking in the city center, and I was surprised to see the amount of plastic that was back again. I got it when I was working daily, that I could cycle to work without seeing any plastic because I picked all the bloody stuff up. And then that was when the supermarkets used to take it. And so I’d have the the knowledge, all I had to do was take it into a supermarket and put it in their bin for compression. Now that doesn’t happen. I don’t think anybody’s picking the stuff up. And look, I’d love to be a Dave and organise the people of Geelong, but I don’t really know how I can do it. He’s got it a bit easier actually when you think about it by organising the four wheel drive groups and saying, hey, come and drag some dumped cars out of the creeks. I would imagine the four wheel drive groups would love to do that in Geelong. And the scuba divers maybe might want to go in the bay and pull out all the shopping trolleys and stuff like that. But organising it all is a big job. That’s your job, Mik.

Well, you know, it’s got to be fun. If it’s not fun, then it’s going to fall apart. And I think that’s the energy Dave puts into it. He’s also doing things that are fun, like the raffles and these kinds of ideas. It’s about people coming together and doing things together.

Can I just mention that I think there’s something interesting going on in this space in the surf course Shire. They have at the moment a circular economy action plan out for commenting and at our little center for climate safety, Vicky Parrett wrote a 10 page long, very critical analysis, you could say, of their plan and what’s wrong with it and what can be improved and where it’s good and so on. And it’s actually, I think potentially a very effective guide to the community towards how Council can help create this zero waste future that we want to see.

So if you want to know about what’s happening in the surf coast, you can go to www.climatesafety.info and you can, if you don’t want to read the long 10-page submission that Vicky has produced, then you can just read the article that we wrote.

And also there’s some links there with some interesting findings that have come out, like Reuters just reported recently. You know, there’s all this talk about building an incinerator, a place that burns waste and turns it into a little bit of electricity that they want to build near Lara. The story around the world is that 500 municipalities around the world are seriously looking at what it means to be a zero waste city, and they’re going away from their incinerators.

Denmark, where I come from, have built quite a few of these incinerators, but they’re now decommissioning them. 30 per cent of the Danish incinerators are being decommissioned because they want to improve recycling rates and they want to cut down on the emissions that are associated with the burning of our plastics and so on. So that’s an interesting development that I think councils should be aware of because even in Surf Coast Shire, they’re talking about incineration.

No, please, we don’t want any more up in the atmosphere. We can do without that. Burning plastic is really a very, very difficult job to scrub the air clean of the different types of emissions that come when you’re burning plastic. It’s almost impossible.

A couple of points that there are, I think there’s four or five proposals in Victoria for similar incinerators. And the point on soft plastics, apparently there’s a pilot program that started in Melbourne. I haven’t done the research on it yet, but they’ve chosen a number of places where people can bring in their soft plastics. And I guess if that’s successful, that program will start up again and markets will be created.

So, yeah. I think the company was called Red and I think it’s still in existence. Yeah. So it’s just that it ran out of space, I think, if my memory serves me right. It couldn’t store it anymore and there wasn’t enough capacity to actually recycle the into a usable product. Yeah. And it’s, yeah, they’re trying to do it to reinvigorate that whole network system, I guess.

And yeah, so it’ll be interesting. We’ll see if we can find out a little bit of that, get someone on to talk about what the plans are. Great. But also, hey, innovation is happening. And in the laboratories, they have created the kind of plastic that we need, which is, you know, plantbased plastic, meaning that it’s the kind of plastic that looks like plastic when you use it for wrapping and so on. But you can put it in the compost. It’ll break down and the worms will eat it.

You know, that’s the sort of stuff that is already happening. I put up a long, very optimistic article about all the good news stories that there are in the technology development here and there around the world, how we’re moving forward. So you’ll find that if you go to the climatesafety.info website as well, including a link to an article where the headline says, revolutionary plant-based polymers promise to break the microplastic cycle.

Yep. I saw an episode of QI a couple of months ago where Alan Davis said that his newspaper now comes wrapped in plastic that it’s plant-based, it’s potato peelings and potato waste makes the plastic wrapper for the newspapers in the UK, or at least in London. So yes, it can, doesn’t have to be using oil products because virtually every plastic that we handle here in Australia is an oil product.

That’s all we could fit in the hour. Thank you very much – an optimistic one! And I think certainly, you know, we often talk about that we need systemic change, but we also need a change, you know, in our culture. Very strongly so. And I think when I look at the demonstrations we had last weekend with the signs where women were saying they need the government to declare an emergency over domestic violence. And I have to, you know, as someone who has campaigned for getting our government to declare a climate emergency, I have to say that when I look at these signs, I’m thinking, ‘Sorry, but I don’t think the government really has the power to change this. This is much, much deeper in the culture, what’s going on here. And we need to start from bottom up.’

And that’s the same thing we’re talking about with the climate in some ways, that the plastic story that we’ve shared today, it has a lot more in it than you think just from looking at it on the surface, because it’s about the mentality that you go into the world with, whether you want a better world or whether you just don’t care.

I’ve been thinking about it, especially since the weekend. And as somebody who’s been on this planet for more than 80 years, I’ve seen so many things change and so many things have, so many changes have been for the worse and they weren’t stopped at the time.

One of the things is the government’s cutbacks into education. We’re a dumber community than we were before. One of the things is the fact that we can’t address the drug and alcohol problems in our community. You think by now we would have learned how to at least control some of it, but we all know that drug and alcohol abuse leads to domestic violence, especially male domestic violence. And it also really contributes to what we’ve been talking about this morning. It’s the non caring about your society, just chucking stuff away and dumping stuff out of sight. Basically, it’s a problem of education. And to right the wrongs of education in the past, when we cut back on education, we got rid of teachers, we closed schools, we did everything just for the money side of things, that was wrong and it’s very, very hard to write it again from this distance. A similar thing with mental institutions and the structure of help for people with mental difficulties. Again, our governments only looked at the money, saving money side of things, when in fact they should have been looking at the best way to care to people who are suffering.

Two things we quickly need to mention is that today, 1st of May, there’s a new Letition out, and this month it is a letter that’s talking about mental health and climate and talking about the children who don’t think that they have a future and asking the politicians to actually take this more seriously, calling for a meeting with your local MP and so on. So if you go to letitian.org, you can help by sending a letter to your local MP in that way. It will take you five, six minutes, but I think it’s a worthwhile thing to do. It’s a way of saying, hey, we need change.

And also another interesting thing that’s happening on the 10th of May, that’s Friday… Remember when we used to do also here in Geelong, the Fridays for Future strikes in front of the local Council and so on. Now there is a revival of the Fridays for Future thing on Friday the 10th of May at 9:30am in front of Richard Marles’ office in Geelong – and the title for it is ‘Vigil for a sick planet’. ‘We’ll meet outside Richard Marles’ office in Brougham Street and host a quiet vigil. There’ll be an opportunity to sign Get well cards, and children can call in their own message.’

So that’s, I think something worthwhile. ‘Bring your own placards.’

And they’ve got on that same Facebook page a couple of ideas for what you put on there. But it also says that Richard Marles’ office is in the Westfield building. It isn’t. Richard Marles’ new office is in what was the former pyramid building, the big blue glass fronted office that fronts onto Brougham Street and the rear entrance goes through to Corio Street. And his old office was on the corner of Corio and Yarra Streets. It’s just around the corner. It’s at the former pyramid building. That’s where you’ll find Richard Marles nowadays.

Plenty of opportunities, really, for everyone to be the difference!

Colin and Tony:
Be the difference. Be the difference!

Greta Thunberg:
Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do. But I’ve learned that you are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to.

Missy Higgins: ‘The Difference’

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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.



List of running petitions where we encourage you to add your name

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