Published 22 January 2020
“Knowledge can be shared through executing practical activities which gives the individual the wisdom to armour themselves against misinformation around them.”
Christine: My background is in media, and my environmentally-focused career is rather young. I grew up in a religious household and was taught that famine, plague and war was brought about by God’s will. It was not until I left school that I began to question the reality of this and seek science for answers to questions that had troubled me for so long. I was working in media going from one long boozy Friday lunch to another and feeling increasingly unfulfilled. I knew I had more to offer the world.
In 2018 whilst on a (typical) soul-seeking trip to India, and after weeks of seeing both human and animal suffering and a devastating amount of waste, I had my lightbulb moment – I was to dedicate my life to somehow, in some way, create a more sustainable Earth for all beings. So, on a dusty rooftop in the Rhajistani desert I applied to become a student at Sydney University in the Faculty of Science. That year I left my media job selling fast food coupons to kids on Facebook and got a digital job at my local Council. With a more mature approach to work, and a loyalty to my new commitment, I threw myself into utilising the mediums at hand to promote environmentally-friendly messages to my community where possible. At the time the ABC’s War On Waste program was stirring up distress over our use of plastic straws. Out of rage over lack of change at my local cafes, I created a business offering wholesale biodegradable drinking straws. We now have clients all around Australia.
What environmental issues are you most interested in?
I am most interested in energy – at present our national energy system is broken, resistant to change and part of the fossil fuel club that continues to harm our planet. With the technology available to transition to renewable sources, I am interested in seeing how the current narrative of industry’s relationship with policy and public pressure plays out. I am also interested in waste management and how communities around the world are shifting their use and reuse of disposable items and choosing to eliminate certain materials. Waste-to-energy technology also fascinates me however I believe it is only a short term solution and doesn’t solve the underlying problem of our consumption.
Was there anything in particular that drew you to the Institute and that inspired you to work with us?
I have been engaged with SEI for quite some time now, going to many events and reading various online articles. I was always impressed with the way you confronted and discussed relevant yet weighty topics and presented them in a way that was captivating and accessible to the general public. More recently as a student, I recognised that the institute shared the same ethos and commitment to drive positive environmental change.
At the SEI, bringing knowledge from the academy into the public sphere and translating research into policy are critical parts of what we do. Are there any lessons you have learned in your work as a communications strategist that speak to the importance of knowledge dissemination, especially as a means for environmental advocacy and change?
Working in local government for the last two years has taught me how crucial it is to break down information into digestible pieces and reinforce the message until change can be seen. When speaking to a broad audience it’s important to educate in a way that is not overwhelming. Bringing knowledge into the public sphere appears to be relatively easy – drop the jargon and long spiel and make your point in as little words as possible. Give your audience a clear call to action so that they can utilise the information and provide instructions or how they can begin to put their new knowledge into practice.
Throughout my career in communications in particular, the majority of users use the title of the post to retrieve information and continue swiping. It’s imperative to offer an interesting yet informative title that entices the user to read the whole story, but isn’t detrimental if they don’t. Once you have educated people they form large groups of like-minded communities that inspire one another, which assists with growing advocacy and as a result, pushes change. One thing to mention is – click-bait is not cool anymore. Users are more savvy these days and expect information that’s reflective on data distributed from recognised institutions.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to positive environmental change, particularly here in Sydney? And how can our strategies of engagement and knowledge sharing help to shift that narrative?
I believe the major challenge is overcoming misinformation published in the media and spread online. In the current climate, engagement across the political spectrum is crucial to shift attitudes on what is happening around us. Respectful conversations and debates will continually need to be had on stages that can be seen by all. Overcoming ‘fake news’ requires strategies that are constantly developing, as media and technology advance at a rapid pace. SEI’s strategy of collaborating with communities and creating projects that aim to produce local solutions to local problems is a fantastic way to get people from both left and right involved in positive environmental change.
Christine Dundas is a sustainability professional with a strong media background. She describes herself as an outgoing and creative individual who is passionate about the environment and promoting sustainable living. Whilst undertaking a Masters of Sustainability at The University of Sydney she also runs a biodegradable drinking straws business, RAWW Straws, which she founded. She has several year’s experience working in the media industry including radio, TV, print, digital and social media and is driven to use utlise her communications skills and educate audiences on how to create a more sustainable and resilient world that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. She has developed a keen interest in emerging technologies, innovation and design, and her long-term goal is to work in the Smart Cities industry. Like many, she is concerned about the pace and impact of climate change and is committed to fighting for a green and peaceful future.