Getting to know - John Petheram

John P 2012Getting to know our volunteers –

 John has been involved in BREAZE from the start and has participated in a range of activities, from community engagement and bioenergy sub-groups to the literature group, and to promoting urgency and ideas for action through Smart Living Ballarat shop-fronts and workshops.

Q&A by Tarn Kruger with John Petheram

Firstly, where did you grow up? Tell me a bit about your childhood.

John: I grew up in Rhodesia which is now Zimbabwe. Following work and studies in agriculture, education and ecology I came to Australia in the late 1960s to a job in the Kimberley range lands in WA. That landscape in many ways is similar to Zimbabwe. As a farm adviser I worked with landholders and vegetation, and this led on to moving with my family to work in SE Asia for CSIRO and for FAO on small scale farming. After completing a PhD on farming systems I moved to universities – first James Cook University in Townsville and later Melbourne University at Longerenong and then Creswick campus, which is how we came to settle in Ballarat in 2000.

  1. What is the one best thing for you about living in the Ballarat region?

John: I didn’t think I would end up in such a cold place as I prefer the warmer tropics, but we now really like the social side and the arts scene is great. And as an avid bush walker it is ideally located for access to the Grampians and coastal walks, and we are close to the city, the train to Melbourne is easy.

  1. Tell me about your involvement in BREAZE and the main activities you have been involved in over the years?

John: I became involved in 2006 following a ‘Walk for Warming’ around the Lake. At the start BREAZE ran ‘brainstorms’ to prioritise groups and activities and I opted for the Community Engagement group led by Mel Woolcock. It seemed so important to enable people to understand the challenges and solutions ahead (not much has changed). I had worked with Laurie Wilson at Creswick and we helped organise two major Climate Forums in Ballarat with the Community Engagement group that attracted over 700 people. The Literature Group helped us understand valuable research on climate and communication.

  1. Have you a favourite national park, or place? Tell me about why it is special to you?

John: I love being outdoors. I am involved bushwalking trail maintenance and in Canadian Forest, which has been renamed Woowookarung Regional Park. As for a favourite place, I love the Grampians but the most favourite would have to be ‘Mana Pools’ on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe.

  1. What about a favourite colour and why?

John: That is a difficult one, perhaps it has to be green!

  1. What have been your hobbies or interests over the years and what are the main ones now?

John: My main hobby or interest is bushwalking and exploring landscapes. Over the years I have done a lot of walking and mountaineering, rock climbing both dry and ice. When we lived in Horsham for 10 years, on the weekend it was great to open the front door and have so many choices – to head to the Grampians or Arapiles, it was wonderful.

  1. If you could choose any person in the world, who would you most like to meet?

John: Barack Obama, such an amazing man and what he tried to do.

  1. What environmental issue do you feel most passionate about?

John: The climate is pivotal to everything we do and the planning has to consider this and what it is going to be like in 10 or 20 years and what species will be under threat, including ourselves.

  1. What is most rewarding thing about volunteering for you?

John: I really value the companionship and being with people with similar views sharing the workload. Without this support, it’s too easy to become environmentally depressed.

  1. Finally, if you could have ultimate say about the future of the planet, what one action would you like to make happen?

John: There has to be major acceptance and action on climate and it will be disastrous if we and politicians continue to ignore it. We really need evidence based planning and research on what will change peoples’ actions.

Thanks to John for sharing his stories, interests and perspectives.