Today, another special post as Part IV has landed for Conversations with Community. A series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing some crazy inspiring things. People quietly changing things up, following untraveled paths, living creative lives, connecting in different ways that are often ignored in our culture of time racing, and today?
Today is a fascinating chat with April the environmental scientist, (also shark whisperer, fire pit lover and part time mermaid, but you have to read on a little further to find out about all that.) I hope you can grab a cup of chai, settle in and have a read.
Rightio, importantly, let’s set the mood… Tea, coffee, something to nibble? What shall I bring and where shall we go?
Definitely a pot of fresh tea and some savoury snacks. I’m all about the savoury. A spread of cheese, crackers, olives, nuts, fresh prawns etc is one of my favourite things. Fortunately they also make a great picnic so we’d probably go outdoors, preferably by the water somewhere.
You work in the field of environmental behaviour change. Can you explain that area little further? (I feel like that’s at the frontline of all things really important!)
I originally actually had no intention of working in the space of behaviour change however as my career has evolved I have developed a deeper interest in this space. I had studied environmental science at Uni and the dream was to be a marine biologist and get paid to dive and conduct research. I grew up in a small coastal NSW town and the ocean was (and still is) a big part of my life, so my motivation was to save the oceans – so to speak.
It wasn’t until I started working as a fresh graduate that I was introduced to the concept of ‘behaviour change’. The organisation I was working for (and still work for) have the philosophy that if you are looking at an environmental issue, you have your back to problem. Meaning that to achieve any meaningful environmental change we needed to also focus on working with the people in our community (or organisation) to address environmental issues. This changed my perspective entirely. As an environmental scientist I guess I had always thought that, if you knew what I knew about an environmental issue, then you would care like I care, and make the changes necessary. Humans are way more complex than that and a bunch of facts and figures don’t really motivate people to change.
Behaviour change programs use the wisdom of social science to communicate complex issues to a community, to find out what motivates people to change, and how we can tap into that to move them through from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’. It’s a softer approach compared to enforcement and has many benefits like connecting people with each other, developing solutions together, building a sense of community and developing a greater connection to place.
Having a gloriously green looking organic urban backyard farm is something that many people aspire to having. Is it something you’ve always had an interest in, and what’s your thing you are most proud of growing?
I had no interest in growing food until I met my partner Joël almost 20 years ago. He had grown up in the bush in rural QLD. As a kid his family had veggie gardens and chickens and he had spent many school holidays working for one of the neighbours picking grapes, or tomatoes or whatever needed harvesting. So when we first moved in together he dug up the back yard of our little rental house in Brisbane and started growing. We’ve had a veggie garden at every house wherever we went and I’ve always been really proud of what he’d bring in from the garden. Of course we’d talk about what to plant but I never really knew what I was doing so I left it to him and I would get busy turning food from the backyard into delicious and interesting meals.
It wasn’t until 6 years ago when we lived and worked on a farm in Spain that I truly understood what it felt like to get your hands dirty and the connection we have to the soil. After living in a yurt in rural Spain, being connected to the community we were living in, having much more reliance on the food that was grown, and the time dedicated to sharing with each other really lit a spark for me. So when we returned home, and moved back into our house we went about converting our backyard to a small urban farm. The goal was to minimise the amount of grass and maximise food production. So my personal interest and involvement in the garden is a relatively new thing.
I don’t think there is any single thing that I’m the most proud of growing, although we’re always trying to grow new and interesting things. The thing I’m most proud about is that we can create an entire meal from our backyard. Fresh eggs, herbs and vegetables can create a wholesome meal. It’s a simple delicious meal and that’s what I love about it.
Living in The Great Lakes area, water is obviously something that plays a part in your life, is water somewhere you feel comfortable?
Absolutely. I’ve never been able to stay away from water for too long, I need to see it, hear it, smell it and get in it as much as possible. My parents will tell stories where as a kid they would have difficulty getting me out of the water, in ANY kind of weather. I love adventuring along coastlines, and when I first started scuba diving I felt like I had come home. Being underwater felt like I was in my natural state. However the ocean has since reminded me a few times of her power and the thin line we walk when we are underwater and I definitely now have a deeper respect for the forces of the seas.
What’s the most exciting/scary thing you’ve seen underwater?
Am I allowed to say everything? (YES!) Underwater truly is like being in another world! It’s beautiful and exciting and harsh all at once. I’ve gotta say that the first time I saw a shark was pretty exciting. We have a few Grey Nurse Shark congregation areas around here and watching 50 or more sharks swim back and forth in front you is a stunning sight.
The scariest underwater thing I would say was an experience rather than anything I saw. I was on a dive trip to Vanuatu to dive a shipwreck ‘S.S. President Coolidge’, a popular dive site. One of the icons of this dive is a statue called ‘The Lady’ which is located in the first class dining room of the ship at 40m depth, and a must visit when you dive the Coolidge. We made it to the lady, I took a photograph and then blacked out. My awesome divemaster got me out of there promptly, for which I am forever grateful, but it was definitely my most scary underwater moment.
I see having a backyard fire has popped up on your instagram feed a few times. I love having a firepit in the backyard as it’s something I’ve aspired to for nearly two decades. Now that we finally have access to one (albeit an old style bbq, which I refuse to call it because firepit sounds so much better) it’s a highlight of our cool weather weekends. Why do they appeal to you?
My dad made our firepit out of an old keg and it suits our urban backyard perfectly. An outdoor fire has a way of bringing everyone together, to chat and connect with each other, to draw us away from our screens and other obligations and just be with each other. There’s no pressure for conversation either and sometimes just watching the flames can be meditative. Personally I feel like it burns away all the stresses of the day or week and makes me feel relaxed.
Considering we first connected on instagram, how does social media play a part in your life?
I first joined instagram because my friend Eartha had told me how awesome it was, and gave all of us girls a lesson one day. I’m a bit of an introvert when it comes to sharing things publicly, and I started our ‘freefunabundance’ account when I wanted to plug into the urban farming and growing community. I use it to share but also to learn. There is so much knowledge out there on all sorts of things and people are more than willing to give advice or help out. Plus I’ve met some great people on insta, including yourself.
I do like the extra ability to connect with people on social media, and to stay in contact with people I don’t get to see often, or relatives that live far away. I can also opt out for a few days or weeks if I need to and it’s no big deal.
As a parent though, I also make sure I’m across all the social media apps so that I understand the spaces that my children have access too. I actually quite enjoy watching the kids interact with their own communities (safely) and I make sure I have some fun myself.
Describe your perfect weekend.
Camping, by the beach, no phone reception, with a campfire and salty snacks!
Ahhh perfect. April thank you so much for taking the time for a chat. I feel like there a thousand more questions I would like to ask you, but for the moment…I say lets go for a swim!
If you would like to see a few more snippets of April’s world, she is on instagram @freefunabundance (All pictures are supplied by April.)
Conversations with Community– a series focused on some of the amazing women within our community doing truly inspiring things. These are some of the people quietly changing things up, following untravelled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.
Go on, take a few extra minutes to meet some of these inspiring, wonderful women here.