In this episode we speak with environmentalist Dr Bob Brown who over decades has taken a stand on issues both politically and environmentally across the national and international spectrum, including self-determination for West Papua and Tibet, opposing the war in Iraq, and the dumping of nuclear waste in Australia. We also celebrate his book, Green Nomads Wild Places, in which he visits some of the beautiful places of south and west Australia.
00:18 Bob's written a book
00:24 Who is Bob Brown?
00:46 Going global
01:24 Green Nomads Wild Places
01:54 Retirement of the MV Bob Irwin
02:36 The Great Australian Bight
03:00 Bob’s river protest
04:55 Bob’s partner and co-author
06:15 The High Court case
07:04 The Bay of Fires
09:11 An eye for photography
11:15 Enjoying nature
12:36 The future of the world
14:16 Get in touch
14:34 Next week we visit…
Bob Brown is a is a retired medical doctor, environmentalist and former politician.
In his first speech in the Senate, Bob raised the threat posed by climate change. Government and opposition members laughed at his warning of sea level rises.
Since 1996, Bob has continued to take a courageous stand on issues across the national and international spectrum, including self-determination for West Papua and Tibet, saving Tasmania's ancient forests, opposing the war in Iraq, justice for David Hicks, stopping the sale of the Snowy Hydro scheme and opposing the dumping of nuclear waste in Australia.
Bob stepped down as Leader of the Australian Greens, and then retired from the Senate in June 2012 but continues his tireless fight to save the environment.
Visit some of the most remote and beautiful places of south and west Australia in Green Nomads Wild Places, Bob Brown and partner Paul Thomas’s three-month adventure across Australia.
This is a photographic and written record of a journey that took them first by yacht and then by road along the coasts and by-ways of southern Australia.
The Bob Brown Foundation is all about action with a vision to protect Australia's wild and scenic natural places of ecological and global significance.
Read about Bob being throwing out of parliament for “heckling” former US President George W Bush.
Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.
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Kim: Hi, and, in this episode, we are speaking with environmentalist, Dr. Bob Brown. He's written a book with the support of his partner, Paul, called Green Nomads Wild Places. It's visiting some of the beautiful places of South and Western Australia.
Phil: Look, a little bit about Bob Brown. He's very famous in Australia, but, for our global audience, he's a former medical doctor and then a very outspoken and successful environmentalist. Then, later, he became a politician from which he has now resigned. He successfully campaigned for a large increase in the protected wilderness area of the Australian state of Tasmania, and he reached international notoriety when he was suspended from the Australian Parliament for interjecting during an address by US President George W. Bush.
Kim: Yeah, Bob had been campaigning at the time to have two Australian nationals held at the US base in Guantanamo Bay returned to Australia. While Bush was talking about the end of Saddam Hussein's regime ... It seems like years ago that, wasn't it-
Kim: ... in Iraq, Bob interrupted by saying, "If you respect the world's laws, the world will respect you."
This, Phil, is a man who's not afraid to fight for what he believes in.
Phil: No, wonderfully inspiring man, he really has been. That's a snapshot of Bob, now to the interview.
The book, Green Nomads Wild Places, came about after he took a trip on the Sea Shepherd, the MV Steve Irwin Sea Shepherd boat, to study the Great Australian Bight which had been earmarked for deep sea drilling for oil and gas.
Kim: Now, that ship, which is part of the world's leading, direct-action, ocean conservation organization, that's a mouthful-
Phil: You can say that again.
Kim: ... had just been retired at the time that we spoke with Bob, so we kicked off by asking him, how did he feel about that?
Bob Brown: Well, I'm very sad about the ship, but it's a happy sadness, because that ship and it's going on Sea Shepherd Australia Cruise saved hundreds if not thousands of whales in the Antarctic where the Japanese were and still are illegally harpooning Australian Minke whales and others. Then, it took us up the Kimberley Coast to help with the campaign there against one of the world's biggest gas factories right in the middle of Aboriginal land and the biggest humpback whale nursery in the world.
It also took us to the Great Australian Bight, where we saw these magnificent wildlife colonies, seals, many species of dolphins, whales under the Bunda cliffs there. We had an elder of the local Aboriginal people there with us. He had a picture of his grandfathers who were Whale Warriors. They sang to the whales. This is all threatened by drilling in the Great Australian Bight by the Norwegian company, Equinor, so the campaign goes on about that.
But, I came home to Paul full of stories about it, and, as a result, we set off to go right around the West Coast of Tasmania up the South Australian coast and around into Western Australia last year, and this book's a result of that.
Kim: Just, if we can go back in your career, you're a medical doctor, and you practiced not only in Australia but, also, in the UK. At which point did you transition into becoming this champion for the Earth?
Bob Brown: Well, yes, I was a young doctor in Launceston, and I got asked to go down the Franklin River by a guy that couldn't find anybody else who was silly enough to do that in 1966, and I was just transformed.
It seemed to me as a doctor where half the people coming into my office were suffering from anxiety or stomach ulcers or blood pressure, the whole range of diseases due to anxiety of modern living, it was madness to be destroying the biggest repository for allaying that anxiety and relaxing us which is nature. That's why we all like to see Attenborough and want our children to be watching Attenborough on TV. We put pictures of nature, not bulldozers and chainsaws on our walls.
To destroy that to produce more electricity to produce more drug factories seemed to me a stupid thing to do. As a result, the Franklin, we had thousands of people involved in that campaign right across this country and beyond, is flowing free and bringing great delight to people from all around the world.
Kim: You met Paul in 1996. Paul, you were a Greens councillor on the Huon Valley Council, is that correct, at the time?
Paul Thomas: No, I met Bob before I got on to Huon Valley Council, but, at the time, I was helping his campaign for his election to the Senate for his first term there.
Kim: Your ideals clearly matched?
Paul Thomas: Yes, I had an aunt who was a keen bushwalker, so she introduced me to bushwalking as a young kid and took me into Lake Pedder of all places, which I'm eternally grateful for.
Phil: Can I just say, this is a, we've got a global audience for this, and the majority of the audience is in the United States. Can I just implore people there to consider when they come to Australia that they go down to Tasmania as well, because places like the Franklin and Lake Pedder are just unbelievable. They're just out of this world, aren't they?
Bob Brown: Well, they are although Lake Pedder was flooded by a hydro scheme, and it was the uproar about that in the 1970s that led to the Franklin being saved. But, not until 1500 people had been arrested and 500 jailed for peacefully blockading the bulldozers in the rainforest in 1983.
The High Court decision, new federal government, the Hawke government was elected in 1983 opposed to the dam, and millions of Australians were waiting for an opportunity to vote that way. When they did, there was a High Court case between the state government and the federal government. The federal government won and instead of the dam destroying the river, it became World Heritage. It was really a mass action and delight by Australians in this Tasmanian wilderness.
I should just add here that Paul and I have just walked, done what's called the wukalina walk, W-U-K-A-L-I-N-A, in northeast Tasmania with Aboriginal people. Three nights, really glamping, because marvelous accommodation and great food, including Aboriginal items and introduction to Aboriginal culture, and then finishing with a 17-kilometer walk down white, sandy beaches, deserted beaches except for the shore birds, which are hatching their young at this time of year, just a fabulous thing which very few other places on Earth can offer.
Kim: Is that Bay of Fires, Bob?
Bob Brown: It is.
Bob Brown: That's right.
Bob Brown: It ends up at Larapuna which is the old Eddystone Lighthouse, and it's a very, very lovely accommodation there. We're really indebted to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, which, of course, took a major role way back in protecting the Franklin River.
Kim: Okay, so, you mentioned that you were inspired by that trip on the MV Steve Irwin. You went back, you talked to Paul, and this inspired you for the Green Nomads Wild Places book that we're spruiking. How did it work? I know, Bob, you've been an author previously. You've published Lake Pedder, Earth, Optimism, and Green Nomads. What was your part in that, Paul, in this particular publication?
Paul Thomas: Well, Bob was the photographer, and I was left to do the camping chores.
Bob Brown: Really couldn't [crosstalk 00:08:06], you know?
Phil: Well, that's good work, well done.
Paul Thomas: [crosstalk 00:08:10], blowing up mattresses, cooking dinner, all that sort of thing.
Bob Brown: Paul's a very good hand with the camp oven, which, by the way, is an Australian invention going back a century, an outback invention for cooking in the outback, and it delivers a very nice roast.
Bob Brown: We, at that time of year, because we were traveling in the Australian winter which is very mild, just a frost on a few nights, that's all. The places we traveled to were largely deserted. I did do my share of the chores, I have to put in a word for myself.
Phil: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, sure you did. Yeah, yeah, thousands believe you, Bob.
Bob Brown: [inaudible 00:08:52] Olympus OM-D camera, it's not, it's just a basic camera within everybody's reach and went walking. What-
Kim: The photos are beautiful. The photos are absolutely stunning.
Phil: What is it? You say it's a pretty basic camera. Obviously, you've taken photographs for a very long time, but do you think you've got the eye, as they say, or have you practiced at it?
Bob Brown: No, I've always had the eye for nature. There's a picture in there of a swan, black swans in the Southern Hemisphere, of course, doing a dance on the beach. But, that didn't just happen, I was there for an hour and a half on my belly, I might add, while Paul was back cooking-
Bob Brown: ... dinner.
Phil: Cooking a very nice roast. Well done, Paul.
Bob Brown: As the sun went down, you can see that storm in the background. Swans mate for life, and when they lose their mate, they stay single. There's this beautiful single swan, and she does this dance just for five seconds, and I'm so glad I waited and captured that with the setting, well, the orange-colored clouds from the setting sun behind.
That was on the beach of Kangaroo Island, this magnificent, beautiful place in the Great Australian Bight of South Australia which would be completely clobbered by an oil spill if oil drilling went ahead. The companies [inaudible 00:10:13] that if it was like that BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009, it would surround that island and Tasmania and the Great Australian Bight. It was really worth seeing how beautiful the place is. This is why we did the book, because we like to share it with other people, so that they can see what's at stake too.
Phil: Oh, I know, and they are-
Kim: There's plenty-
Phil: ... beautiful photos. Can I ask this question though, lying on your belly for an hour, as you say, with a rainstorm impending, with the smell of a roast wafting over you from behind, but is that, the patience that's involved in that, do you think that's been a part of your success as a politician as well? That you've been patient, and you've been waiting for people's attitudes to catch up with what you're saying?
Bob Brown: Well, there's a great patience required in enjoying nature. It does settle you down. It does allow you time to think and to reflect, and there's always something going on, always. I never use a tripod, because I'm there on my, on this occasion, on my elbows and moving around and watching out of one eye what's going on with the other eye, focusing on potentially taking a picture. But, yes, it does require great patience.
On the other hand, there's great urgency. Our world is in a spiral dive down as far as its living environment's concerned. We're already consuming, the biggest herd of mammals ever on the face of the planet, eight billion of us, consuming 170%. Imagine that, 170% of the living resources. That's why there's less forest and less fisheries, less arable land, less species, and so on, every morning. We need to urgently reconsider what we're doing on this planet, or it's going to catch up with us.
It's a labor of love here. Love for the future of the planet and for people as well as our fellow species.
Kim: Well, you're campaigning for the Tarkine at the moment, and I must say as a Tasmanian I do worry, Bob, about who's in the wings? What's it looking like there on the ground with the youth and the attitude toward the world?
Bob Brown: Well, the youth are fabulous. We just saw thousands of them on a so-called strike. Really, they were just leaving school for the afternoon to campaign right across the country, and the Prime Minister came out criticizing them. It didn't matter. They won the day campaigning for a safer world against global heating and Australia's position as the world's biggest exporter of coal, et cetera.
But, that aside, it's places like the Tarkine which is the largest, unprotected wilderness in Southern Australia. It's in the northwest coast of Tasmania, the heart-shaped island just south of Australia where Paul and I lived. Paul's ancestry goes back to the 1830s there. Love of land is very, very important and keeping spaces like that for the even bigger numbers of people in the future, so there is a place to go back and see where we all come from is incredibly important.
Kim: Well, you're lucky that you both get to go back to Randall's Bay which just, Phil, is a stunning part of southern Tasmania, and you can sit there reading a book by the fire, while Paul cooks your dinner, Bob.
Phil: Yeah, I was going ... Paul, can I ask you, how do you feel about doing another book, mate?
Paul Thomas: Well, it does have its rewards, I have to say.
Kim: Well, you're on a bit of a tour of the country at the moment, spruiking the book, which is absolutely beautiful, Green Nomads Wild Places, Bob Brown and Paul Thomas, thanks for chatting to us.
Bob Brown: Oh, lovely-
Paul Thomas: Thanks-
Bob Brown: ... thank you.
Paul Thomas: ... Kim, thanks, Phil.
Kim: We will share some links to Bob and his foundation Action for Earth in show notes.
Phil: Got a suggestion for an Amazing Nomad, which we recently did receive one, thanks, [Paige 00:14:17], and we're following up on her idea, but if you've got one, you can email us at: [email protected]
Kim: Now, you can download the episode from iTunes, please subscribe and rate, or the Google Podcast app, or you can ask Alexa and Google Home to play the World Nomads Podcast. Next week, Phil?
Phil: We are visiting the Baltics.
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All preconceptions of the word “bog” were blown away away the moment I entered this pristine environment.