By CCC19 in-house co-convener, Graham Meltzer.
Whilst I was living in Brisbane, Australia during the ’90’s, researching cohousing and ecovillages for a PhD, I occasionally visited the recently established ecovillage of Crystal Waters, located about 2 hours drive north. I found it a curious eco-development, with its site layout comprising dozens of privately owned, one acre blocks connected by bitumen roads. Back then, it appeared anything but eco, with its large single family houses at extremely low-density, scattered across depleted farmland.
The vision of the founders took time to unfold; but unfold it certainly did. To go there now (in fact, since 20 years ago) is to experience one of the most successful examples of ecological regeneration, anywhere in Australia. The community has famously turned once barren, infertile land into a dense, lush, productive, permaculture landscape and an incredible nature and wildlife sanctuary. They have re-imagined and re inhabited of the land with deep love and empathy for all species that dwell there. It’s almost as if they were indigenous to it.
The whole community can take the credit, I imagine, but there are at least two centrally involved individuals who deserve a special mention: co-founder, Max Lindegger, an ecodesign consultant working with both GEN and Gaia Education over many years; and also, permaculture designer/teacher/consultant Morag Gamble. These two folk are quite famous in their own right as experts in their field, not least because of their association with Crystal Waters where they have lived and worked for decades.
It will be with great pleasure that I’ll welcome Morag and her family to Findhorn for the Climate Change & Consciousness conference, not least because her daughter Maia will be the youngest registered participant at the event. Morag and Maia were amongst the first to register, almost two years ago. Back then Maia was 11, which at the time caused me some concern. I could’t imagine that one so young would have what it takes to survive an intense week-long conference as a full participant. But with Morag’s assurances of her maturity, intelligence and passion for environmental causes, I agreed to accept her.
Monty, Maia, Morag, Hugh and Evan
It turns out that the whole family is now coming: Morag’s partner, Evan, and Maia’s two brothers, Hugh (11) and Monty (5). The family are travelling in the UK from late March to early May and they have, in Morag’s words, “a great adventure planned.” To begin with, Morag is offering a permaculture workshop for children at the Sustainability Centre, Hampshire. Then they head to Schumacher College where she will co-teach with Jonathon Dawson (who is also attending CCC19) and others in a course entitled, Beyond Development. And there’s much more planned, including site visits (e.g. to the Eden Project and CAT), making a film, conducting interviews and visiting the House of Commons as guests of environmentalist politician, Zac Goldsmith, whom Morag and Evan met whilst volunteering in Ladakh, way back when.
This blog post has been inspired by an article I came across on Facebook (where else?) titled, Flinders Principal’s Scholar Travels to Scotland to Participate in International Climate Change Conference. It had been posted by Maia’s school, Matthew Flinders Anglican College, located in Buderim, near to Crystal Waters. In it, I read, “Year 9 student, Maia Raymond, will next month travel to Scotland to attend the international Climate Change Conference and participate in a special youth forum as its youngest participant.” True enough, Maia will be the youngest registered participant. But based on what I hear from Morag, I think brother Hugh will be equally keen to engage. Such is the trend in the world right now, with children and youth taking centre stage in the fight for climate justice. So it will be at the conference in Findhorn; the contribution by youth will, I predict, be one of its strongest and most effective forces.
The article went on to say, “Maia has been accepted because of her maturity and understanding of the topic of climate change and sustainability, having grown up in an ecovillage on the Sunshine Coast and having completed a permaculture design certificate, which she recently gained in Uganda.” School Principal, Stuart Meade, was quoted as saying, “Maia was selected as the 2019 Principal’s Scholar for her accomplished efforts towards her studies and as a proactive and engaged young person with a passion for the environment. We are confident Maia will be inspired and challenged by her experience at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Scotland.”
Furthermore, says Meade, “We are excited to hear she is collaborating with other young people participating from many countries around the world in a special youth forum.” The CCC19 youth contingent comprises students from NZ, Australia, the US, Belgium and Ireland as well as local schools around Findhorn. And indeed, there will be a youth forum, midway through the conference as part of a whole day dedicated to youth and future generations. Accompanying the students to Findhorn will be several teachers and chaperones from the same schools. They will all camp together in the Findhorn Bay Holiday Park, a short walk from the main conference venue, the Universal Hall.
Principle Meade notes that Maia is engaged in many different environmental groups and activities. She presented last year at the Melbourne Urban Agriculture Forum where she shared her views and experience with native plants, local food and edible landscaping. This year, along with other students in the school’s Environment and Science Club, Maia will help design and build a flora and fauna walk on their campus, including QR codes to share information about chosen plants and their use as for food or natural medicine.
Maia, who also plays in the College Band and as part of the Saxophone Ensemble, says there are many things young people can do to make a positive difference to the planet. “Students can start with simple daily choices, like to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by walking and bike riding to school instead of travelling by car or bus,” she says. “It’s also possible to shop less and to avoid buying things new if you don’t need them. For example, shopping at op shops is a great alternative to fast fashion.”
I’m very excited to see how the conference youth programme will roll out. With so many informed and impassioned young activists on site, it’s going to be fascinating to see how they engage with the older delegates; and exactly who will learning from whom!