Climate Change Conversions

Example 1:

Bill McHarg was an Australian real estate titan and the co-founder of Colliers International. He worked on the development and sale of property all around the world for more 40 years. A millionaire and avid bicyclist at 62 you would think Bill had his eyes set on a comfortable retirement off the coast of Australia.

Instead, Bill quit his job, bought a van, decorated it with yellow and red and mounted four huge megaphones to the top. Then he drove it down central Melbourne during lunch time playing loud kookaburra calls and mocking the Australian Prime Minister. “It was the most undignified thing I think I've ever done” he said.

What triggered this abnormal behavior? Eight weeks early McHarg was at an event where Al Gore, the leading voice of climate change in the world, in his polite Tennessee drawl explained global warming and its effects around the world.

Something triggered in Bill. He then spent all his time until the upcoming election determined to take down then Prime Minister John Howard. Howard was an ardent climate change denier. Australia, like the US, has one of the highest per capita carbon emissions rates and was the only other industrialized nation not to sign the Kyoto Protocol. They were also in the middle of a long, severe and unprecedented drought. Not only did McHarg drive around the van, but he took out ads in major newspapers mocking Howard and created a successful YouTube video which argued “Planet First, Howard Last.” And luckily, his efforts had a real impact in changing the election. Australia elected Kevin Rudd and one of his first actions was to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Bill McHarg had a climate change “conversion.” He felt an intense urgency about the situation and terrifying understanding of the severity. A lot of people working on climate change have had similar moments as well--where all at once the true depth of the situation hits them. Climate change is so different than any other challenge we have faced that it takes a different kind of conceptualization. It's good for us to talk about similar experiences and collect these stories. It is especially important because our understanding and "conversions" must fuel a radical change in the way we live.


To read more about Bill and his adventures:

"Climate was right McHarg's political foray"