Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Who are you and where do you live?
I'm Anna, I live in Central Australia. I'm originally from the UK, but the vast, wild, ancient, powerful landscapes of Central Australia drew me in a few years ago.
Can you tell us about your work in the outdoors, your current work in tourism and your entrepreneurialism?
My love affair with the outdoors began with my art - I made paintings about my experiences in the landscape. During my group tutorials at Art School, I realised that not everyone has experiences of remote outdoor space like mine, and I wanted to facilitate them. I founded The Artist Expedition Society, a group that takes artists and designers outdoors to make work and re-contextualize their existing creative practices.
In order to build this group up into something really special, I have been working in tourism and learning about the industry from the inside. This started with a couple of tour guiding jobs, including a season leading hiking expeditions on the Larapinta Trail with World Expeditions, which was extremely fulfilling work and has led on to my current work as the Tourism Industry Development Officer at Tourism Central Australia. I'm learning about the behind the scenes aspects of the industry which is really valuable for my own growth and the future of The Artist Expedition Society.
What are your favourite outdoor activities and places? Why?
As you can probably tell already, Central Australia is one of my favourite places. There is an ineffable energy here, a deep connection to the planet that I have felt myself and heard many people talk about. The stars at night are unbelievable and consuming, and looking up at them from the comfort of a swag, accompanied by the sound of Dingoes howling is one of my favourite outdoor activities.
The landscape here has been managed by Aboriginal communities for thousands of years, and unlike in the U.K., where I am originally from, the environment hasn't been redesigned by humans for humans. Generally, as we move through space, we are guided by the design that another person has created in the environment - be it a pavement or a road or a footpath. Looking at the arid landscape, your mind is free to wander in ways that it is not when looking at urban or rural environments in the UK. Rather than following the hedgerows and tram lines of fields, you can pick out a path through the landscape that has not been predetermined for you. There is an autonomy in that. And a connection to the ancient human culture of this continent - our bodies require a lot of the same things that bodies have required in this space for a long time eg. shade & water. The gorges and shady spots that look appealing for a rest in now probably looked appealing thousands of years ago. I often wonder whether my feet are following ancient unmarked tracks through the landscape.
My favourite place in the whole world is a waterhole on remote Aboriginal land that I came across on an off-trail bushwalk. I felt like I had been led there. It was very hidden away, and very difficult to navigate back to.
Often in these places, there are objective references to history like paintings and grinding stones. This relationship to human history is very exciting to me, and I feel extremely privileged every time I'm granted access to Aboriginal land directly or indirectly through national parks.
What concerns you about climate change?
The summers in Central Australia are already very hot. Last year we had a huge bushfire and a very long drought. The weather is getting more extreme here and we have to ask questions about which plants and animals will continue to survive in a climate that it hasn't evolved for, and which important cultural sites will be destroyed by climate change.
In this part of the word, the complexity of the environment is really apparent. Projects like the Newhaven Sanctuary highlight the effects that certain animals have on the environment, like the native bilbies who turn over the soil that becomes compacted in areas where the hooves of non-native animals and livestock like horses and cows regularly tread. This looser soil allows for different plant growth. It makes me wonder what will happen if there are mass extinctions of animals who play a critical part in the eco-chain. There could be a domino effect.
Do you think climate change impacts your work, the places you love or your favourite activities? How?
Climate change is something that I think about every day. I would like to be able to travel more for work and to experience culture in bigger cities as remote living takes its toll, but it doesn't feel environmentally responsible. Reducing travel is important right now - I can't wait for solar-powered planes!
What do you do to address the climate crisis?
I try to do small, medium, and large things to lower my impact. I try to reduce my impact as I believe that nowadays, ignorance about the impact of our actions isn't an excuse. Although I have to admit that my impact zig zags.
I generally try to drive rather than fly when I do have to travel - which is interesting in Central Australia as this has led to thousands of kilometers behind the wheel. There is a great website - seat61.com that can help with planning no-fly travel routes.
I try to reduce material waste but also try not to beat myself up when I forget to bring reusable bags to the supermarket.
Activism, in 2020, is something that has become a regular part of life. I get involved with digital activism and participate in protests. I talk to people about small changes that can make a big difference, and make a concerted effort in my place of work to speak up to educate my colleagues.
Everything we can do in our personal lives helps - consumer buying power is real, but I think environmental business decisions and future design innovations will make the biggest difference in the long term.
Is there anything more you would like to do in the future to address the climate crisis?
A big aim of The Artist Expedition Society is to facilitate space for designers to learn lessons from the environment. There have been some interesting innovations in recent years inspired by nature and I believe these innovations will help us to design a more sustainable future.
For example, designers recently learned that plants can conduct electricity, and plant matter could potentially replace the metal in wires. These kinds of insights come from observation and a specific kind of thinking in the right kind of environment.
Thanks so much to Anna for taking time out of her busy schedule to do an interview with us.
Outdoors People for Climate Action is our members - a varied bunch of outdoors people from all corners of Australia, who all hold a unique connection with wild places whether it be through their love of art, mountain biking or conservation work.
By celebrating our members, we explore what outdoors people are doing, at present, for the climate and how we as a community and as individuals are relating to this complex issue.
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