Nick Carroll: Room For Optimism

30 Jan 2020 2 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Sophie Taylor-Price planting the dune at Curl Curl during a Landcare/Coastcare task

Sophie Taylor-Price planting the dune at Curl Curl during a Landcare/Coastcare task

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

Sophie Taylor-Price brings her grand-dad Bob Hawke’s legacy to the Global Wave Conference

Sophie Taylor-Price has been invited to speak at an upcoming public rally, featuring a number of very famous Australians.

The idea is filling her with a certain amount of dread.

“I’m quite introverted,” she says, trying (and somewhat failing) to hide a little smile. “It’s way out of my comfort zone!”

This may come as a surprise to many Australians who will have watched Taylor-Price’s extraordinary speech at the recent memorial service for her grandfather, the late lamented Bob Hawke.

Surrounded by the luminaries and survivors of Hawke’s time as PM, she held the room with her clarity and intensity on the issue of climate change — how time spent as a little girl with her “pop” had enlivened her both to the issue’s vital importance, and to the qualities required to take it on.

“He implored us to take action on climate,” she said of Hawke at the time. “He saw it as a collective failure of our nation that we have traded short-term interests over intergenerational equality.

“He would say that the foundations of excuses we cling to are fragile and will inevitably collapse. We must stop delaying the cost of change now, for all we do is load our future citizens with a debt that they cannot repay. Let us listen to the children and young people who parade their courage and conviction, because their tomorrows will be affected by our actions today.”

In other words, she read the riot act to some of this nation’s most important people.

Seven months later, she’s now due to deliver the keynote speech at the Gold Coast’s upcoming Global Wave Conference 2020. Her subject: climate optimism. Even in the face of the huge bushfires that ravaged NSW coastal areas in recent months.

Like a lot of us, Sophie has a personal connection to the fires. From the age of seven, her holidays were spent down at Bawley Point, mucking around on a bodyboard. Seeing the area under threat, she says, was “an incredibly emotional time, everybody I know has been affected in some way.”

Even still, “I’m optimistic,” she says. “I feel like 2020 is the year, nationally and globally, when there is a shift coming (on the climate issue). That’s one thing I’ll be bringing (to the Conference) — that these are times for optimism.

“I’m passionate about how we connect young people to that ability to make a change — to help them past that climate anxiety. It’s their time to do what they want to see done.”

In person Sophie is warm and quiet, with a clear direct gaze and a soft voice that never muffles her carefully chosen words.

Her paying job is as senior manager of climate change and sustainability with accounting firm Ernst & Young. She manages to fit this into four days a week, leaving her another two to fill roles as an ambassador for Landcare and a board member of the Antarctic Science Foundation, among others.

Both of these are directly related to her grandfather’s efforts. Landcare was a Hawke Government initiative, and Hawke drove the current international conventions on the management of Antarctica, rescuing the continent from mining — at least for a while.

“Antarctica was the first place I’d been where I could feel the land was alive,” she says. “It hasn’t been changed by people. It’s where a lot of the research into past climates has been done.”

Confident and intelligent, Sophie will be a star turn at the GWC. But she’s not a surfer per se, and at one point in our chat, she asks me for tips on coping with a surfer audience: “How do you think they’ll view me?”

I think they’ll all want to talk with her.

The Global Wave Conference 2020 will run February 10-14 at a range of Gold Coast locations. For tickets to this event and other information, see: globalwaveconference2020.com.au

Read the full text of Taylor-Price’s speech at the Hawke memorial service here.

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