What I did on my vacation -
By Shane Scanlan
Did you do anything interesting over the holiday break?
Emily Ballantyne-Brodie did. She joined Sea Shepherd’s hunt for illegal whalers in the Southern Ocean.
The director of Docklands-based Urban Reforestation was called upon at the last minute in mid-December to replace the regular vegetarian cook who suffered an accident and could not sail.
For the next 36 days Emily, her partner Nathan, and 10 other Sea Shepherd volunteers crammed aboard the tiny pursuit craft Gorija and patrolled the Antarctic.
During the period they “engaged” a refuelling vessel and a number of harpoon ships. Emily said she stuck to her duties in the galley while other crew members attempted to throw red paint over the whaling vessels.
“Although, on one occasion, I went to the front of the boats and made a ‘peace’ sign to the whalers. I was virtually asking them to please just leave the whales in peace,” she said.
Emily said one of her roles was “peace ambassador” – a role which she will carry out more formally in July when she chaperones a group of children to Japan as part of the Asia Pacific Children’s Convention.
As a primary school student aged 11 in 1995, Emily herself visited Japan as part of the same program. This was when her environmental concerns were first beginning to find voice.
“I have been invited back to help select this year’s students and to accompany them as a peace ambassador,” she said.
Emily said it was important to separate the whaling activities from the Japanese people. “It’s the whaling that is the problem here, not the Japanese people,” she said.
During her time at sea, Emily said whales had come right up to the boat and she remarked on how curious they were.
“The whales are very curious and innocent. They are being very easily killed by the whalers,” she said.
Emily said anti-whaling went way beyond the whales themselves. “I see it as symbolic of how we connect with nature,” she said.
“I think our long-term sustainability starts with food. That’s what the Docklands garden is all about. It’s about investing in growing food. To me, this is more fundamental than the issues of energy, waste and water.”
She said living with 11 others in close proximity for more than five weeks at sea was remarkably tranquil despite extremely trying conditions.
“I think this was because everyone was concerned about issues which are so much bigger than themselves,” she said.
“It’s really a model of how our urban societies can work. We are all connected and each person has to be conscious of being a responsible member of the community.”
“Social sustainability is integral to ecological sustainability. It starts with each person being aware.”
Emily hopes the Gorija will visit Docklands next month.
“We’ll have a vegetarian barbecue and everyone will be welcome to come along,” she said.