Nick Carroll: When the Seas Rise

10 Nov 2020 25 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

“They haven’t been drawing in surfers on this specific issue, tying in the effects of a changing climate on our surfing lives. We experience them directly..." Belinda Baggs. Photo: SA Rips/Patagonia

“They haven’t been drawing in surfers on this specific issue, tying in the effects of a changing climate on our surfing lives. We experience them directly..." Belinda Baggs. Photo: SA Rips/Patagonia

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

…a lot of what we know about surfing today will be gone. Here’s a new group hoping to make a difference.

Belinda Baggs says she’s just trying to find a balance.

Belinda’s a pretty self-aware person who’s been thinking about, and working on, climate change issues for some time. You’d pardon her for believing she was personally on top of it.

Then a while back she did a carbon footprint calculator and found that in the course of her normal life, she was spewing out heaps of CO2. “I drive a car, almost everyone does that,” she told us. “I travelled overseas, a lot!”

It’s part of her motive for co-founding Surfers For Climate, a new movement designed to help bring surfers into real contact with the ongoing effects of climate change — and show us what we can do about it if we choose.

The mainstream is full of climate awareness groups, but, Belinda says, “They haven’t been drawing in surfers on this specific issue, tying in the effects of a changing climate on our surfing lives. We experience them directly — things like beach erosion, coral reef bleaching if you’re lucky enough to surf a reef, coastal bushfires.”

“We’re not all 100% green, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do something about this. If we unite and do better ourselves, we can make a difference.” Photo: SA Rips/Patagonia

“We’re not all 100% green, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do something about this. If we unite and do better ourselves, we can make a difference.” Photo: SA Rips/Patagonia

She and fellow co-founder Johnny Abegg got together on it all last year, after both had separately attended a climate change awareness conference on Heron Island. Johnny’s wife had been invited to attend; he went along to look after their three kids. “I went along to some of the events and I was blown away,” he says. “I kept thinking about my kids. They’re two, five and eight, and I’ve put a lot of time in with them.”

Johnny called Belinda to see if she’d help with some sort of group effort and found she’d already got rolling on it. So, err, boom.

One task of the group will be to gather together thinking on how surfers can lessen our individual carbon footprints. In this way, Belinda thinks the Covid has been a blessing of sorts, or at least, a lesson. “It’s caused me to look closer to home — to go down the coast and find spots which I might not have done, rather than just going to Indo on a surf trip. I changed my diet to eat closer to home. Just realising everything you consume will have a footprint of some kind.” In other ways, it might be as simple as making a board last longer.

They also hope to influence the surf industry over time — encourage companies to find ways of reducing their impact on greenhouse emissions.

View this post on Instagram

Proud Aussie moment? While 125 countries worldwide have adopted (or are at least seriously considering) various net-zero carbon targets, the Australian federal government still opposes the notion (even with all state and territories coming to the party)… #climatekooks? ? Internationally, Uruguay leads the charge with an aim to hit the goal by 2030, Japan by 2050 joining United Kingdom and the European Union. Net zero by 2050 would require the world to reduce emissions by 40 per cent over the next decade. So we gotta get moving. ? A simple feel-good thing to do is add your voice to the @climateactnow act, and continue to push Australia toward a sustainable future 🤙🏽? ? Photo by @philgallagherphoto #surfersforclimate

A post shared by Surfers for Climate (@surfersforclimate) on

There’s a hell of a lot of viewpoints out there on this one. It’s hard to find an issue that’s been more politicised over the past 20 years or so. Both Belinda and Johnny know they’re likely to provoke as much scepticism as anything — for a while. “That’s part of why we started this,” Belinda says. “We’re not all 100% green, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do something about this. If we unite and do better ourselves, we can make a difference.”

There’s a lot of surfer environmental groups too, but Belinda says they’re not rivals. Surfrider Foundation and quite a few others are on SFC’s Allies Page. “We don’t want to re-invent the wheel. We want to be able to come together on the issues where we’re on shared ground.”

— As a kickstart, legendary surf filmmaker Jack McCoy has called on his friendship with Sir Paul McCartney to release a hidden gem from the former Beatle’s back catalogue, set to some of Jack’s footage. All proceeds from the release of the track and clip will go to Surfers For Climate. Check it out at surfersforclimate.org.au.

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