Sustainable Change – Retreat to Lady Elliot Island, June 2018

Kayaking on Lady Elliot Island

This year in June, the 2018 Global Change Scholars embarked on a four day retreat to Lady Elliot Island, a coral cay located at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Situated within a highly protected ’Green Zone’ the island is a sanctuary for over 1,200 species of marine life and is known for its abundance of manta rays, turtles, amazing array of spectacular marine life and unspoilt coral reef. In addition to direct wildlife encounters, the scholars had a unique opportunity to meet a team of dedicated individuals working in harmony with nature for the benefit of future generations. Among other accomplishments, the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort has reduced energy consumption and carbon emissions by introducing a combination of solar and gas technology, water desalination and various strategic behavioural adaptations on the island. In conjunction with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Lady Elliot Island has developed the first dedicated Climate Change Trail and Tour around the island to highlight the impacts that climate change could have on a coral cay eco system. 

Reflections from the ScholarsA handful of coral on Lady Elliot Island

Jessamine Hazlewood

“Friendship, interconnectedness and wonderment; these key terms summarize my experience at Lady Elliot Island. This trip presented unique opportunities to challenge ourselves, to appreciate the beauty of the natural world, but also to reflect on our own research projects and to see how our projects fit into the big picture. However, most importantly, this trip to LEI provided me an opportunity to connect with the other global change scholars and to form friendships and memories that I will cherish forever. 

Importantly, the retreat facilitated interdisciplinary communication and exposed me to different perspectives and ways of thinking. From stargazing on the shore, to intense games of foosball to gracefully losing at Pictionary, I feel like I have formed stronger bonds with my GCSP cohort and it has reinforced that I am not alone in the pursuit of scientific understanding….”

Rafaan Daliri

“….I was reminded that resources are limited and renewable energy is both possible and reliable. I was educated on the need for collaboration, empowerment and responsibility. I was encouraged to reflect on the volatile, uncertain and complex nature of the world we live in and galvanised to promote sustainability. Lady Elliot Island managed to teach me things that 12 years of schooling and three degrees at university had neglected. And so, with Lady Elliot Island as the spark that has incited my passion for transformative education for a sustainable future, I continue my journey. A journey in pursuit of ‘purpose’, in the hope to find my role and my place within the perfect design of our natural world and to encourage others to do the same.”

A group of eleven Global Change Scholars on Lady Elliot Island

Niclas Lundsgaard

“…The island provided a bonding experience like no other, and at times I swear I felt a tangible presence in the air as thirty bright minds came together and shaped thoughts and ideas that no single mind could – a collaboration that is only possible because every individual in that room was as passionate as the next, and all selflessly gave their time in discussions that were not planned and were not scheduled and were not compulsory. Because we all genuinely believe in creating change for a better tomorrow. LEI was a poignant reminder to us all of what we have to lose if we don’t act now, and in that sense it catalysed those passionate group discussions we had. It was a touching experience, one that I will not forget.”

Anna Hickling

“It was inspiring to sit back and listen to my peers critically evaluate global problems. Our reflections on how we can contribute to improving global outcomes were meaningful and provided a foundation for projects moving forward. It is very rare to have a group of individuals from all over the world, specializing in different disciplines, to come together and collaborate on how we can tackle the biggest problems in the world.” 

Shastra DeoTwo Global Change Scholars wading through ankle deep water on Lady Elliot Island

 “…Hearing from Peter Gash cemented the fact that Lady Elliot Island’s legacy is built on narrative and memory-making. Though we’d heard a great deal about the processes and difficulties that went into making human life sustainable on the island—the desalination and water-treatment processes being of particular interest to me—I still wanted a “why” that countered the simple human desire to live near and swim in the reef. What Peter spoke of was stewardship. Throughout history, Lady Elliot Island was a site that people took from, with no regard for the health and sustainably of the creatures who lived there, let alone the island itself. Now, Peter claims, he and his staff give to the island, and the island gives back in turn…

…If, as author Michael Joyce claims, “[e]verything can be read, every surface and silence, every breath and every vacancy, every eddy and current, everybody and its absence, every darkness every light”, then we must speak and write the language of Lady Elliot Island—through which it speaks its history, its needs, and its potential future(s)—and the language of all things on this earth, in every possible dialect: the historical, the scientific, the poetic, the photographic, and so on. That is a part of stewardship.”

Beautiful sunset on Lady Elliot Island


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