By Keith Badger
If you told me ten years ago that I’d be a climate activist, I would have laughed. At that point, I had spent the majority of my life working in the corporate sector, finding ways I can best provide for my family. It wasn’t until I had a climate epiphany that my life’s course completely shifted for the betterment of the world – and my family.
I moved from London to Melbourne 30 years ago to give my family a fresh start in a new country. In 2010 I returned to London with my wife Debby, embarking on a five month, 2,801km trek through the British countryside. Taking 3.5 million steps through your old country enables you to see it in a more fascinating light. For the first time in my life, I was able to disconnect from the capitalist world I had once immersed myself in, and my body was able to connect deeply and intimately with the natural landscape around me. We had originally intended for the walk to just be a walk – but along the way we discovered a new way of seeing the world and our place in it.
At the heart of every converted environmentalist is a transformative experience – something which re-orients the mind towards a new, greener course. Many people spend their childhoods in nature, instilling within them strong environmental values. Others, like me, have more dramatic experiences that shift our paradigms, and many have a suite of experiences somewhere in between.
‘Decisions are made by those who show up’ – it’s a line I remember from the West Wing, and Dad showed it to be true. If you don’t take a seat at the decision-making table, you can’t sit back and whinge when the things you want to happen don’t happen. You have to do something! Small actions can impact many people – even if you just influence your immediate family and friends, who knows how far that ripple-effect can spread? Human beings are highly impressionable; we are influencing each other all the time. After several years in Sydney and another in China, I moved back to Melbourne. I wanted to start a family, and focus on showing up for and developing connections in my little patch of the planet.
I’ve since published a book sharing the story of the journey that changed my life, co-founded an organisation that aims to empower people to regenerate the systems required for life on Earth to flourish, and volunteered as Treasurer on the Port Phillip EcoCentre Committee of Management for the last eight years.
It’s hard not to get angry at the unacceptable level of inaction and apathy towards climate change. For many years I had witnessed shouting matches between activists and decision makers, but it wasn’t until, through my walk, I connected with nature and climate change on a level that resonated with my personal values that I finally felt compelled to act.
Anger is important for communicating emotions and a sense of urgency, but anger alone isn’t an effective way to bring about change – research even suggests it breeds apathy, particularly when only one part of the population is doing the shouting. We need to create ways for different people and sectors to work together for climate action, through adapting the climate narrative to resonate with the vast amount of values held by the global population.
While delegates at the COP24 annual UN climate conference last year made progress towards creating a rulebook to allow for standardised measurements and transparency between countries, back home I’m empowered to find new ways to enable climate epiphanies in more of our population, and bring about the climate action the world needs.
I had previously applied myself diligently to the challenge of making companies successful and enjoyed myself, but there was nothing there to really get the juices of my passion flowing. The impact of the change has been felt within the web of people close to me. It was best summed up at my birthday celebration. As the speeches flowed, it was my youngest son who announced to all that his dad, for so long a respected businessman and father, had suddenly become a 60-year-old hippy!
Keith Badger is a company director, philanthropist, advisor, writer, and year-round ocean swimmer. He acquired a deep grounding into diverse cultural and business practice, living and working on four continents during his twenty five years experience in the corporate sector. He and his wife walked the length of the UK in 2010, and found their worldview transformed. He is now a small business owner and works closely with various not for profit organisations and individuals to shape a more sustainable world.