We chatted to Australian long jumper Lizzie Hedding about her path into the climate movement and why she's optimistic about the challenge of combatting climate change.
After spending my childhood in gymnastics, I fell into athletics at the end of high school as a way to stay fit and make new friends. After trying out hurdles and heptathlon, I figured out that I was pretty good at long jumping and started focussing on the event in 2017. My proudest sporting moment was finishing 8th at the World University Games in Naples in 2019 after a challenging season that saw me move from Melbourne to Sydney 7 weeks out from the national championships. As cliché as it sounds, there's really nothing better than stepping out onto the track in the green and gold.
I've been interested in climate for as long as I can remember - as a kid I would meticulously monitor our family water bills and develop and implement water saving measures during the drought of the early 2000s. More recently, I (like many Australians) was shocked back into action following the devastating 2019/20 bushfires. The smoke that blanketed so much of eastern Australia, and left me unable to train on several days, was an omnipresent reminder of the future of life on an overheated planet.
Following the bushfires, I started trying to learn more about what was going on with climate change and what I could do to help. Project Planet started out as a way to share what I was learning and has since grown into a small team of content creators and activists. Our goal is twofold: to make climate information more accessible and to create a digital toolkit that effectively connects climate organisations, activists and everyday Australians.
As a former economics student, I find the research from groups like Beyond Zero Emissions about what a renewable future could look like hugely exciting. A couple of years ago we were still framing climate discussions as 'sacrifices' to be made but it's become increasingly clear that, in Australia at least, we actually have an opportunity to create a more prosperous and equitable society while addressing the huge climate challenge ahead of us.
I would firstly say that I don't always stay positive - there's definitely days where I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge ahead of us. That said, I find action to be the best antidote to fear and, much like in sport, it's best to focus on what you can actually control.
I've always felt I have a responsibility to use my opportunities, skills and privilege to make our world a better place, and right now there's no more pressing issue than climate change. In that way, I suppose I'm motivated by the understanding that there's no other option: whatever I can do to help, I can and must do.