WEPA was honoured to have Jeff Angel, Executive Director, Total Environment Centre (TEC) as the speaker at our recent AGM. The TEC, alongside the Nature Conservation Council, is one of the premier NSW environmental organisations and has been involved in critical environmental campaigns since the early 1970s. Jeff thanked WEPA for its generous donations. In line with his theme ‘endless campaigns’, he spoke about a range of campaigns with which he’s been involved since the TEC started in 1972.
Container Deposit Scheme
One of the longest-running fights has been the 40 year battle for a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) which was recently achieved in NSW and should soon be in place in all mainland states. The most recent leg of this campaign started 13 years ago and involved ten environmental groups working together as the Boomerang Alliance. The beverage industry fought hard against the proposal. Over time it threatened to run electoral advertising against Government MPs, called for a large number of feasibility studies and lobbied to change the focus to all litter (for which a CDS is not the answer). The NSW Government’s CDS will be rolled out in December this year. Jeff noted that the Boomerang Alliance now has 46 member organisations and continues to work to end plastic pollution and dangerous tyre dumps. It has adopted a target of reducing plastic pollution of our waterways by 70% by 2020.
Jeff also spoke about the work undertaken by TEC on promoting Green Energy. He noted that the Government’s stunt with the piece of coal in Parliament in February was probably the ‘last hurrah’ for the coal industry. Renewables are now politically mainstream and the focus is on using our own resources before exporting them and moving to carbon pricing. Elon Musk (Tesla) has recently demonstrated how renewables can be put in place efficiently and quickly. The fight for renewables has gone on as long as that for CDS but Jeff suggested that the marriage of economic forces with community aspirations should result in enough momentum to generate real change on this issue.
SOS Green Spaces was the last campaign Jeff outlined. He referred to the ‘growth spirals’ Sydney was undergoing and the impact of infrastructure which was not well thought through. He noted that in the case of WestConnex and the South-East light rail there were opportunities to reroute and protect trees and open spaces but the communities’ wishes were not respected. Jeff was hopeful that the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) planning process would bring a degree of balance. He spoke about the recent work done by an alliance of environmental professional, community and university groups to prepare a New Environmental Vision for Sydney as an input to the GSC process. A Green Spaces Forum planned for 1 April will work on bringing together the type of economic valuations of the environment that need to be brought into decision making.
Lessons for Upcoming Environmentalists
In summary, Jeff spoke about his own 45 years of environmental experience, acknowledging that environmentalism, which only started in the 1960s, was a relatively young social change movement. He said that established and upcoming environmentalists alike could profit from understanding the need for:
- local groups to be involved in online communication so that they could reach younger and more diversified audiences;
- the importance of ‘finding your own voice’ when trying to influence issues;
- encouraging hope and convincing people they had an opportunity to make things better;
- the psychology of persistence – as individuals and as a group;
- taking the initiative, for example, in pushing alternatives as early as possible to the proposed North Tunnel;
- negotiating strategically and building alliances for example with the business community; and
- being unpredictable in campaigns/avoiding stereotypes.
Further comments by Jeff Angel on crafting effective environmental campaigns can be found here on the TEC website.