Before doing the interview, I decided to do a little research on this woman and my goodness! Intimidated and astounded do not even begin to describe how I felt as I saw organisation after organisation and world leader after world leader praise this environmental scientist and activist.
“Dr Tara Shine has dedicated over 20 years of her life to the pursuit of fairness between people and between people and the planet.” This woman has founded her own sustainability consultancy called Change By Degrees, has travelled all around the world presenting nature documentaries alongside the likes of Stephen Hawking and she has worked as a climate negotiator at the UN for over ten years. She has also written a book called “How To Save Your Planet” and has a corresponding podcast, which provides small yet effective changes you can make to be more environmentally friendly. If you cannot afford the book (available in most online bookshops), I would highly recommend the podcast. Each podcast episode takes a different room in your house and gives a few ideas on how to make it more sustainable. However, if I was to list out and explain every fantastic thing that Tara has done, we would have no room for the actual interview! So I would really urge you to check out her website here.
Between her many different roles and responsibilities, I was interested to know what a typical day looked like for her. “On a weekday, I like to get up and do some exercise, I love swimming. Then I have breakfast, walk my kids to school and then I work in my office on Change By Degrees. My office is in my attic, so I don’t have far to go. My day is varied, I could be planning workshops, writing proposals, or out meeting clients. Work finishes at around five and then I’m back on duty minding my kids. I’m into making dinner, taking the kids to activities, going out, and getting a walk.” This was her typical day pre-coronavirus but has said these days she is just as busy, but she has more time for the great outdoors.
Dr. Tara Shine has worked with a plethora of organisations, all of them with important and worthy causes so I wanted to know which one was the most personally rewarding for her. “It wasn’t with famous or well-known or highly influential people but what I have found most rewarding is the work I have done with frontline communities affected by climate change. Helping to amplify their voices and make sure they are heard. Working with people and helping to inspire people and businesses to take action has been something I’ve really enjoyed.”
As somebody who is trying to figure out what to do with my life, I am often very curious about how other people view their careers, so I asked her if she viewed her career as a job or vocation. “That’s an interesting question. If people ask me, I say it is my job but then when I start talking about it, it becomes clear that it’s a vocation. I do not do this job to make money, I do it because I really want to affect change in the world. I do it because I think there’s a better way of human beings living. Really, it is quite a vocation.”
Her book is all about the different ways an individual can make a difference and I wanted to get her perspective on what she thought the biggest way to achieving that. “One is information, it’s not that there’s a lack of it but it’s very complicated and can be quite contradictory. So, I think access to good information that’s appealing and relevant to you would erase that barrier. I also that for too long we’ve branded all this as eco-green information that only interests a small number of people so a big barrier for me is how we can expand the conversation on sustainability so that this is something that’s interesting for everybody.”
The term “sustainability consultancy” was one that was quite unfamiliar to me so I asked her what type of businesses would contact her and why. “Our business Change By Degrees” provides advice to all kinds of businesses who want to really make sustainability part of what they do. It might be a small business like a hotel, it could be a big company like Musgraves, and we work a lot for the public sector, as government departments. We help small businesses to be more sustainable in their operations and in their strategy but then also right up to what this means in terms of government response.”
With so many young people so passionate about climate injustice, I was interested to hear what advice she would give to someone passionate about activism and wants to make a career of it. “Always start by figuring out what your passion is. I figured out in secondary school that my passion was around the environment that led me to believe that I wanted to study environmental science and at the time that’s all I knew and that’s enough to know. Just know what your passion is, don’t worry about how to translate it into a paid job. You can do so much more than you’re able to do. Quite often my reality exceeded my expectation by a long way and that’s a lovely feeling. Just know that if you’re creative, if you work hard, if you follow your passion, you’re free to do almost anything.”
And what a way to end an interview.
By Libby Marchant