Anna Berthelsen – Mother to Huon

Anna and baby Huon

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family

I am a marine ecologist who lives in Nelson with my partner Cam and daughter, 15-month old Huon.  I was born in Tasmania, where I spent much of my childhood exploring the great outdoor environment.  I also spent some of my early teens living on a boat in the Pacific. We came to New Zealand in my late teens where I have lived ever since, although I did travel the world competing as an adventure racing athlete in my early 20’s.  I currently work full time and Cam cares for Huon and works for the ambulance service. Huon’s name comes from Tasmania and is inspired by the Huon Pine tree, a special tree with highly prized timber that can live for over 2500 years.  We share our home with two rabbits and a chicken, and we also have a big vege patch and are planting an area of native trees.

The impacts of climate change have been more obvious in recent years  – how have you noticed climate change impacting on your community and your family?

The Nelson fires were unprecedented in the region and this summer’s drought also had a massive impact.  The fires were scary, especially knowing that more frequent and bigger fires are projected to occur as climate change worsens.  We could see the fires from our house, so it was really close to home for us. On the nearby West coast there has recently been unprecedented flooding, and large storms caused a lot of damage to our coastline last year.  There are already so many impacts in our region alone. I often feel grief knowing how climate change can affect our future and life on the planet in general, particularly as a scientist who has a lot of knowledge about the natural world. I also feel devastated when I think about the low-lying islands I visited when sailing around the Pacific – I know many of them will likely not exist soon.

What drew you to volunteer with 350 Aotearoa?

I felt an urgent need to do something about climate change.  I want to take action to increase the chance of Huon and ourselves to have a future on this earth, and when I tell Huon about climate change I want her to know that I didn’t just stand by and do nothing.

What 350 actions have you been involved with and how have you involved Huon?

Initially, I went along to a protest organised by 350 and from there I became a member and started actively participating in protests and meetings.  At the moment we are focussing on the 350 Aotearoa banks campaign, where we protest the lending of money (many billions of dollars) to fossil fuel companies by banks and encouraging banks to go fossil fuel free.  I supported the School strike for climate and am looking forward to the next protest (co-organised by multiple environmental groups) highlighting the 1 meter sea level rise mark through central Nelson city using blue banners held by members of the public. Huon has come with me to all of the protests in my front pack.  She loves the vibrancy and attention she gets at the protests, and really enjoys interacting with members of the public and a dog that often comes along with a 350 member.

Family life is busy – how do you make time to get involved with activism?

I have to be careful not to overcommit and I bring Huon along to protests.  At the moment she will happily join in the protests, but we may have to reassess this as she gets older and more active.  My partner looks after Huon when I go to meetings so I couldn’t do it without him. I prioritise this work in my spare time over other things. I often think of, and am inspired by, the people involved in other movements historically who had to fight for what they believed in to achieve things for the greater good.

What would you say to other parents who are thinking of getting active around climate change?

This is such an important cause, so go for it.  It’s not necessarily easy, as it takes a time commitment and you can face criticism from people who do not understand the devastating consequences of climate change. There are a lot of different ways you can make a difference and be part of the movement, for example, if you aren’t able to attend meetings and protests, you can exert consumer power, make lifestyle changes, donate to activist groups, or sign petitions online.

If you could get it done tomorrow what is the one thing you would want to see happen right now to address climate change?

Ultimately things can be changed if we act soon and if there is political will and public support – so that is what I would make happen tomorrow if I could.

Inspired to join a community of passionate changemakers like Anna?

Get involved with the 350 Aotearoa whānau here.

Interview by Julia Lindesay

Julia has been concerned about the environment ever since she visited the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour when she was 13.  Her career has been dedicated to empowering communities, organisations and individuals to take action to preserve the life-supporting capacity of the planet.  Julia is a mother to Morgan (11), and Penny (8) and will soon be returning from a 2 year sabbatical in Berlin, Germany to live in Auckland.