Walk for Climate Change Action

At the time of this walk in 2014 I was 69 years old. In those 69 years I had seen quite a lot of change, but a person born in 2014 will see devastating changes in the next 69 years unless serious action is taken on climate change. We will lose our coral reefs, many low-lying and densely populated areas will be made uninhabitable by rising sea level, millions more will be forced to migrate because of changes in rainfall and snowfall, millions of species will become extinct; the list goes on.

Climate change is indeed the greatest moral challenge we are facing, and it was because the Australian Abbott government was totally failing to face up to this moral challenge that our small group walked from Melbourne to Canberra to deliver a petition and a message to our parliamentarians and our government.

The walk started on Sunday September 21st 2014 and ended on Tuesday October 21st.

Climate change has worried me for at least thirty years. At the time of the walk I was studying it with a MOOC (Massive Open On-line Course) run by the University of Melbourne.

Written 2014/08/26, last edited 2023/07/31
Contact: David K Clarke – ©


Why accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change (ACC)?


Thought 1

Stick a pin in a map of Australia and chances are that you will find someone there who will be sufficiently concerned about climate change that they will be willing to host a group of half a dozen total strangers who are campaigning for climate change.

Give this a bit of thought. It really is a pretty remarkable thing, but Alan Cuthbertson proved it to be true when he organised this walk. He chose the route he wanted to walk, decided roughly where it would be good to stop every night, and then asked local people if they would be willing to put a small group up for the night. He found hosts for most of the nights of the walk.

Thought 2

Why was I willing, even keen, to walk from Melbourne to Canberra? There are many answers to that question, here is one.

At the time of the walk I had two granddaughters, by 2018 I had three. In thirty or forty years it will be obvious to even the most pig headed and ignorant climate skeptic that climate change is a huge disaster. I would like my granddaughters to be able to say "my granddad walked 740km back in the olden days to try to get serious action on climate change". I would like to think that they would be proud of what I attempted, even if I achieved nothing. Also see my letter to my great-grandchildren.

Thought 3

So far as I know the reality of anthropogenic climate change (ACC) is recognised by every government in the world, every scientific institution, every scientific organisation that has any interest in climate, and more than 99% of climate scientists.

Yet there is a significant proportion of Australians who believe it is not happening or it is not caused by mankind, and while our government (particularly the Abbott and Morrison governments) does recognise ACC it is steadfastly supporting the fossil fuel industry, not supporting renewable energy and doing very little to reduce Australia's exceptionally high rate of greenhouse gas production. Under the circumstances, opposing action on climate change and opposing the introduction of renewable energy are crimes against humanity; indeed, crimes against the whole biosphere.

Some photos of the walk


A very small part of the 20 000-strong crowd in Melbourne for the Climate rally – the Climate Walk started at the end of the rally.


The Climate Walk begins...


First night
Some of the walkers and hosts of the night following the first full day's walk. Hurstbridge Community Co-op School

For those who don't know me, I'm the one on the left. Other long distance walkers in the photo are Margot Meredith near the front to the right of me, Martin Hengeveld behind her, June Norman by Martin's elbow and Alan Cuthbertson with the turtle on the right.


Second full day
Some of the walkers of the second full day: Wattle Glen to Kinglake.

Again, that's me with the white beard. Margaret Hender of CORENA had complained that there were not enough photos of me! This is one of Alan's shots.


The Mountain
Martin and June taking a very short break from climbing 'The Mountain'; the winding, but fairly gently rising, road to Kinglake. Kinglake is at an altitude of about 550m.


The family who hosted us at Kinglake and the walkers at that time.

The lady at the rear-left is Angela; her two sons are behind her. They were our hosts for the previous night, and they made us feel very welcome.


About to walk through the tunnel on the rail trail. Approaching Molesworth; Jim in the foreground.

We walked a total of about 90km along the Great Victorian Rail Trail, which was one of the most pleasant parts of the walk (because of the lack of vehicle traffic); although there was no part of the walk that I did not enjoy.

While the walk on the Rail Trail was very pleasant for us, the disadvantage was that we weren't seen by many people, so we were not 'spreading the word' so much as when we walked on public roads.


June and Jim practicing some dance steps following a short break from walking.

The two vehicles were used throughout the walk, Martin's is on the left, Alan's is on the right.

This is a public road that crossed the rail trail.


Horse and tree
This horse and tree on top of a small rise made a nice photographic composition.


Jim and Margot (on the left) about to leave us after walking with us for the first week. Next to Morgot is Alan, Martin and June.

Alan, Martin June and I did the whole walk from Melbourne to Canberra. Several other people joined us for some parts of the walk.

Early morning waiting for the bus that was to take Jim and Margot home; at Bonnie Doon.


Misty morning
A misty morning on the rail-trail, east of Bonnie Doon.

June and Martin.


Roadside rubbish

Picking up rubbish
We decided to pick up some of the roadside rubbish while we were walking. Of course we could not collect anywhere near as much as was there, but we did collect it from small sections along the way.

Alan is the one picking up the rubbish, next to him is Martin, and on the right is Don Nicholson (who walked with us for almost a week).


Also see Clean-up, my page on my efforts to clean up local roadsides, and more on the conceptual connection between roadside rubbish and greenhouse gasses.

A break
Relaxing for a short break between Bonnie Doon and Benalla.

From left to right, Don, June, Martin and Alan.


On the road
Approaching Benalla and getting close to the bridge over the Hume Highway.


Dead trees
Winton Wetlands, previously Lake Mokoan. The dam that created Lake Mokoan flooded this area and drowned all the trees. This is a very small part of the dead forest; there must have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dead gum trees.

We walked beside Winton Wetlands for about 18 kilometres.

Recently the dam has been breached because it was decided that the storage was of no value. This shows, yet again, how our environment can suffer from the ill-considered operations of humanity.


Winton Wetlands from Warbie Range
Winton Wetlands
This image gives a better feel for the huge number of trees killed by the creation of Lake Mokoan.
We walked over a saddle in the Warbie Range after leaving the wetlands on the way to Wangaratta.

Bogged in a muddy gutter.

The rest of the road was very firm, but there was deep mud in the gutter.

We had two back-up vehicles at this point in the walk, Martin's van pulled Alan's out of this bog with little difficulty.


Near Wangaratta
Approaching Wangaratta.

From left to right: Don, Martin, Alan, Jacquie, Cassandra and June. Jacquie and Cassandra joined us for most of the day's walk.


Straight road
A straight section of road between Wang, as the locals call Wangaratta, and Rutherglen.

When I first heard the others talking about going to Wang I had no idea what they were talking about.


I had a chat to these cattle. They shared my concern about climate change.


About to cross the Murray from Victoria into New South Wales


New South Wales

Approaching Burrumbuttock. In spite of the odd name it was a very nice little town and the home of a wonderful Environmental Education Centre which included wetlands and many labelled native plants.

Early in the walk June insisted that we walk carefully keeping well on the right side of the road. Further into the walk we all were pretty relaxed about exactly where we walked on a quiet road, although we usually walked on the right side. We could, of course, hear a car approaching from behind well before it got close to us.

In regard to how we walked this walk was much more relaxed than the Walk for Solar Power that I had done two years earlier with a much bigger group. The Walkers for Solar Power were more controlled in exactly where they walked, reasonably so for a bigger group of generally much younger people.


Right: A small part of the attractive, informative and interesting Burrumbuttock wetlands and Wirraminna Environmental Education Centre.


Education centre
The Education Centre building

A home for the bees
Right: A home for the native bees at the Environmental Education Centre at Burrumbuttock.

Each piece of wood has a hole drilled in it and the native bees use these for their breeding.


A home for the bees
The discovery centre building has solar power and a display of the amount of CO2 that has been abated in the life of the centre

Martin found this old chair by the roadside. He couldn't resist setting it up in the middle of this quiet road, west of Holbrook, to wait while Alan and I caught up to him.


The Oberon class submarine at Holbrook. On the submarine, holding the turtle, is June. Beside the sub, from left to right is Alan, Martin, me and Harry (who joined us on the previous day).

There is a story to the shorts I am wearing. I neglected to bring any with me, but found the weather to be a bit warmer than I was expecting. I bought a pair at a goodwill store, but then left them behind at one of the many places we stayed. The shorts I am wearing in this photo are cut down jeans.


Great view
A view from the first stop of the day. It was a lovely day, some cloud on the higher hills in the early morning, but a clear sky all day.

I only walked about 11km on this day (and not at all on the previous day); my feet, particularly the right Achilles tendon, were giving trouble. From this point my feet slowly improved.


This blister popped up on the heal of my left foot on about day 16. You would think if there were no blisters in the first week or so, there would be none at all, but no. Now, perhaps 3 days later, it was causing little discomfort.


Silhouetted trees
Silhouetted gum trees in the early morning near Lankey's Creek


Lankey's Creek
Morning mist on the river valley at Lankey's Creek.

My feet were giving trouble at this point so I drove the car ahead to wait for the other walkers. So I watched how the appearance of the landscape changed as the sunshine came and went and the morning mists gradually lifted.


Down the hill
The walkers go down the last big hill on the Tumbarumba road to Tumut.

This area was perhaps the most attractive country of the walk, but there were many beautiful places along the way.


Tumut landscape
Some of the beautiful country south of Tumut.

My feet gave me an interesting day on this stretch.

We typically broke the day's walk up into five sections: two 8km sections followed by three 5km sections. Usually lunch follows the first 5km section.

On this day my feet were good on the first section, gave me quite a bit of pain (right Achilles tendon) on the second section, were fair on the third section, I skipped the forth section, and they were good on the last section. Odd, don't you think?


Alan (on left) walking back after driving the car forward had collected another bag of roadside rubbish. At the same time (not shown on the photo – he was behind me) Garry had collected another bag of rubbish. Martin and I later picked up the bags as we drove back to pick up Martin's van.

Garry and exchange student Daniel (from Denmark) joined us for two days from Tumbarumba. Garry McClelland, his wife Dianne and Daniel hosted us one night in Tumbarumba.

Walking on the road was Harry, who joined us at Culcairn, and Martin next to him carrying the flag.


Wet day
There was only one wet and cold day on the whole walk. This was it. The temperature did not rise above 9 degrees and it rained lightly almost non-stop the whole day. The only good thing about the weather was that there was no wind.

We were between Tumut and Wee Jasper, in very sparsely settled country. With great good fortune we came across a little church that had a sheltered porch around lunch time. (I drove over the same route a few years later and placed a photo of the church on a page written about that trip.)

Harry, Martin, June and Me. Alan took the photo.


Wee Jasper
Having a short break from walking in the forests of Wee Jasper.

It was a much nicer day that the one before.

The road from Tumbarumba to Canberra was fairly hilly. The highest altitude we got to was about 1040m between Tumbarumba and Tumut.

Most of the traffic heading toward Canberra from Melbourne seems to go via Holbrook and Gundagai to Yass and then turns down southward to Canberra. The way we went, through Tumbarumba, Batlow, Tumut and Wee Jasper (see the map of the walk) had far less traffic and was more scenic. It is also a good road to drive if you want to enjoy the country rather than just getting to Canberra as quickly as possible.


Canberra turn-off
This is one of the first sign-posts we saw that mentioned Canberra. It gave the impression that the people who put up road signs in NSW don't really want to recognise the existence of the national capital.


Australian Capital Territory

Flag pole
Our first glimps of the final objective, the big flag pole on top of Parliament House, Canberra. Seen from about 12km away.


At Canberra arboretum
We have arrived at Canberra Arboretum!

From the left: walkers Harry, Martin, Alan and June. On the right is Bill Gresham who lives in Canberra, is a veteran of the Port Augusta to Adelaide Walk for Solar Power, is a good friend of mine, and who came to meet us (in his electric car if I remember rightly; it must have been pretty new then).


Parliament House: the end of the walk

View from the top
On the last day we walked from the top of Mount Ainsley to Parliament House to deliver the petition asking for serious action on climate change.

Perhaps readers will not be surprised to learn that PM Abbott was not on hand to accept the petition (of six hundred names and signatures) from us. He probably was busy kowtowing to some coal industry mogul.

This photo is looking from the top of Mount Ainsley toward the objective, Parliament House. The flag pole is visible in the distance.


Starting the walk down the mountain.

On the right, with the sunlight nicely picking it out, is the Canberra city centre.


Anzac Parade
Walking along Anzac Parade.

Old Parliament house in the middle distance, the new one on the rise behind it.


The group
The group who took the petition (and the turtle) to Parliament. Left to right: me Martin, June, Daniel, Winiater (who walked with us on the two last days), Alan and Garry.


Alan, our leader, handing the petition to Senator Janet Rice, Australian Greens Senator for Victoria.

It seems that the Greens are the only political party who are particularly interested in the future of the planet.


Old Bill
Old Bill coming to get us?

They looked a bit intimidating, but were very polite and simply needed to know what we were doing.


In front of Parliament House, our immediate objective achieved.

From left to right, Senator Janet Rice (Australian Greens) with our petition, June, me, Alan, Daniel, Garry and Martin.


The walk

Map credit, Alan Cuthbertson

Alan Cuthbertson is the man who did the huge amount of planning that was needed for this walk, I was a late comer.

Who were the walkers?

Those who did the whole walk were:
  • Alan Cuthbertson was the leader;
  • June Norman;
  • Martin Hengeveld;
  • and me, David Clarke.
In addition to these, Margot Meredith and Jim Cunnington walked for the first week, Don Nicholson did most of the second week, and Harry Twining did the last two weeks.

Others joined in for periods of a part of a day, a day, or several days; In particular Garry McClelland (of Tumbarumba) and Daniel (from Denmark) walked with us on the two days between Tumbarumba and Tumut, and then joined us again on the last day's walk from Mount Ainsley to Parliament House.

What was achieved?

  1. We delivered a petition of around 600 signatures to the federal parliament asking for serious action on climate change;

  2. We spread awareness of the climate change problem to many people along the way;

  3. We placed a seed in many people's minds; When they saw us walking they were given a nudge toward thinking that they could, and perhaps should, take some action too;

  4. We spread awareness through the Internet. Many people followed our progress on the Facebook page, the main Climate Walk page (no longer available), and through this page;

  5. Local media reported on our walk along the way;

  6. Interest continues: just the day before writing this (2014/10/30) I was asked to write a piece about the walk for the Crystal Brook Chronicle (the monthly paper in my home town);

  7. The record of our walk will remain. People will continue to read about it and think about the climate change problem.

Some good news

Coal is in decline

The coal industry is facing a terminal decline which cannot come soon enough if the planet is to be spared terrible damage from climate change. However, there is so much money in the coal industry that many people in Australian politics, and not just on the right of the political spectrum, are pushing for continued support for the coal industry. They are backing a dying horse.

This paragraph added 2020/12/04

Gas was in decline by late 2020

By late 2020 the fossil gas industry was also in decline in spite of the best efforts of the very dishonest Australian Energy Minister, Angus Taylor and the Morrison government to keep it going. The federal government (and the federal Labor party) seem not be be able to see beyond fossil fuels, but in late 2020 the states are all moving quickly toward renewable energy.

One of the Canary islands shows what can be done

El Hierro's energy system
El Hierro's energy system
Image credit The 20/20 Roadmap
El Hierro, one of the Canary Islands, has apparently achieved 100% renewable electricity. Article by Kristopher Stevens.

If it can be done on a small island in the Atlantic, surely it could be done in a large nation like Australia. We have many more options.

It would not be cheap or easy, nor could it be done quickly. Something like 80% renewables would be much easier than 100%, but even 100% is possible in the long term.

SA is showing what could be done

The SA experience has shown that Australia could get rid of its coal-fired power stations and replace them with renewables such as wind and solar. SA went from near zero renewable electricity in early 2003 to close to 40% renewables by 2014. In fact 43% of SA's electricity was generated by wind alone in the month of July 2014.

In the short term gas-fired power stations could be used to 'fill the gaps' when renewable energy was not available (gas has about half the greenhouse emissions of coal, and produces far less other air pollution); in the longer term Australia could change to 100% renewables-generated electricity.

Mid North SA, the first greenhouse negative region in Australia

Not only is SA leading Australia in the development of new renewables, but my region of SA, the Mid North, is leading SA. It is probably the first region in the country to abate more greenhouse gasses than it releases.

Fossil fuels

Burning fossil fuels causes climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise. Even worse than fossil gas and oil is coal; not only does the burning of coal release large amounts of greenhouse gasses, millions of people die each year from the air pollution due to burning coal. It could be said that with Australia's coal export industry, we are exporting death.

The September 2012 Walk for Solar Power

This was a walk that I took part in two years earlier than the climate walk. It was about 325km, started at Port Augusta and finished in Adelaide. The aim of the walk was to press for the replacement of the coal fired power stations at Port Augusta with solar thermal.

The over 50s on the Walk for Solar, September 2012
Old walkers
Note the smoke plume from the Northern (coal-fired) Power Station on the left.
From left to right: Margaret Henda (of CORENA), Pete Gorton, John Bowman, Marty O'Hare, Gaby Jung, me (with grey beard), Bill Gresham and Les Webb.
Les, in his 50s, was the only one of the eight less than 60 years old. All the other walkers were less than 40.

On the steps of Parliament House, Adelaide, at the end of the walk
There was a rally at the end of the walk.
The people with the blue shirts are some of those who did the walk. There were around 50 who were involved for the whole walk.

More photos of the 2012 walk are in a Flickr album.

Climate change impact near me

Spring Gully Conservation Park
Red stringybark
Climate change is already having an impact near my home. The photo on the right shows Eucalyptus macrorhyncha impacted by an exceptionally hot and dry summer in 2007/08. More on another page.

What can you do?

This section was written at the time of the walk, it is somewhat dated in 2017.

You, the reader, might wonder: what can I do to help in the fight to minimise climate change? You might well feel that you are powerless. You are far from powerless. A few suggestions:

  • Support any renewable energy development that is proposed near your home.
  • Take your savings away from the Big 4 Banks who are lending it to businesses that are mining coal and wanting to build coal-export ports on the Great Barrier Reef. There are smaller banks and building societies that do not make unethical loans. Tell your bank why you have taken your savings from them.
  • Lobby organisations to invest their money ethically. (Sydney University did have money invested in coal mining. On 2014/08/29 it announced that it had removed that investment, following pressure from the public.)
  • Write to politicians, letters to editors, etc.
  • If you know anything about wind or solar power, spread your knowledge. There is a huge amount of disinformation out there.
  • Study renewable energy. Study climate change. You can do some excellent free courses known as MOOCs (Massive Open On-line Courses); look up Coursera, for example.
  • I've written many more ideas in What should be done.
It would be very useful if you asked the cross-bench senators to press for strong action on climate change.