Lisa McLaren—Fighting against climate change

A farm girl from the Wairarapa, distinguished alumna Lisa McLaren remembers conversations around the dinner table with family friends where climate change was dismissed as a “greenie conspiracy”.

The climate change activist, who completed a Master in Environmental Studies with a climate change education focus at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, says attitudes have changed. Most people now acknowledge climate change is an issue and she is “quietly hopeful” for the future.

“Personally, I don’t know how you can learn about it and not want to change it.

“I come at the climate change problem from a very academic sense. There’s a lot of privilege in that. There are so many people around the world coming at this problem because their life is on the line, their families, their livelihoods.”

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Lisa says it was her university studies that motivated her to take action, seeing her become national convenor of the Zero Carbon Act campaign for Generation Zero.

“That led to me knowing more about the problem and ultimately wanting to tell many, many other people about the problem so they can have the same nightmares I have at night. Unfortunately, that’s the curse with this role, that you have to share that horrible tale but also try and share hope.”

Lisa says stress and worry about the future is a major issue for young people working in the climate change area and as part of her doctorate she wants to look at how to prevent burnout.

“My Facebook feed is full of climate change, the news is now full of climate change, the discussions around the pub table are now climate change. It’s a continuous barrage of information and a lot of that information is heavy and sad. This coping mechanism, this need to take action, is really prevalent. We are seeing it with a lot of young people coming through. It’s how you take a pause on that and say, ‘what am I doing to make sure I am an ok human at the same time?’”

Lisa is currently studying towards a PhD at Massey University, about the science of extreme citizen science.

Lisa speaks to Professor James Renwick, from the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences as part of the distinguished alumni podcast series.