What drives me to jump? An activists motivation

15 November 2010

Kristen McDonald is a trained Greenpeace climbing activist. Her latest pursuit was hanging a banner of ANZ’s HQ in Brisbane – urging the bank to take responsibility for its actions and stop polluting our world. Here in a two-part blog she talks about her motivations for taking action.

What drives me to jump?’ they ask.

Well jumping off a building isn’t actually what I do. I carefully descend on a safety rope system that is thoughtfully planned and has been built on months of training.

But still, I’m often asked why I feel compelled to dangle at precarious heights off the side of a structure, such as with the recent action I took in Brisbane.

Is it because I’m a burly, action woman who thrives on adventure? If you took one look at my biceps, you’d see that’s clearly not the case.

Is it because I’m just another ‘ratbag’ who wants to cause trouble and disrespect the social systems in place? Contrary to frequent accusations by [insert shock jock name], this is way off the mark.

In truth, I wish it didn’t need to be done. I believe, like Greenpeace, in relying on social systems to create positive change (be that political, legal etc). For over thirty years, Greenpeace has used many tactics – from scientific research and investigative work to political lobbying and communications – to protect our fragile environment.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to also take direct action as we could achieve progress through conventional means. Yet, of course, we don’t live in an ideal world.

I take peaceful direct action when the systems in place let us all down. How can it be legal to knowingly cause irreversible destruction to the planet, yet it is illegal to directly stop this destruction? How can companies or governments burn coal, drain our ocean’s resources or obliterate forests when we need these for our survival?

Progress in society has often been achieved through civil disobedience – we wouldn’t have the weekend or the female vote if dedicated people weren’t prepared to stand up for our rights.

We have the right to a healthy planet. We have the right to protect our future. We have the right to enjoy the beautiful natural resources that are given to us all without charge. At the same time, we have the responsibility to ensure they are there for everyone.

We couldn’t exist without fresh air, clean water, masses of trees and healthy food. If we destroy these things, we destroy our very existence. It’s not rocket science to see that something isn’t right with the way things are going. So I guess it’s common sense that makes me want to stand up and fight for the protection of our environment. And a feeling that if it’s not me, then who?

So what else do I often get asked about taking direct action? It has something to do with bladder control and adult nappies…

There are many ways to get involved with Greenpeace, most do not require you to wear an adult nappy!