My Warm Table ... with Sonia

EarthMAD with Christin Smith

July 25, 2023 Sonia Nolan Season 2 Episode 7
My Warm Table ... with Sonia
EarthMAD with Christin Smith
My Warm Table ... with Sonia +
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Show Notes Transcript

Christin Smith is an award winning earth scientist with qualifications in geology, natural resources, sustainability and environmental management, and education.  

She's the founder of EARTHMAD - an acronym which stands for Everyone Acting Responsibly Today Helps Make A Difference.

Christin found herself leading the charge in her Mandurah coastal suburb to protect her local beach from coastal erosion and with the support of 1200 petitioners she started a movement for change!

Link to EarthMAD:  https://earthmad.com/

Warm thanks to:
Sponsor: Females Over Forty-five Fitness in Victoria Park
Sound Engineering: Damon Sutton
Music: William A Spence
... and all our generous and inspiring guests around the warm table this season!

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My Warm Table, translated into Italian is Tavola Calda. These were the words my Papa used to describe a table of good friends, good food and good conversation. I always aim to create a tavola calda in my life and I hope this podcast encourages you to do so too!

Sonia Nolan:

Welcome to My Warm Table. I'm Sonia Nolan and Season Two of this podcast about passion and purpose is brought to you by Females Over 45 Fitness (FOFF) in Victoria Park.

Introductory Voice Over of Previous Guests:

INTRO voiceovers: My name is Kate Cheney. My name is Bonnie Davies. My name is Madeleine King. My name is well Valerio Fantinelli my name is Lynn Beasley, Hi, my name is Sharon Todd My name is Lucy Cook and I'm the CEO of SpaceDraft. I'm the first Aboriginal female funeral director. I'm a psychologist and a professor in psychology at Curtin University... and you're listening on Sonia Nolan's warm table ... just sharing a yarn with her.

Sonia Nolan:

We West Aussies love our beaches and many of us have grown up enjoying fun freedom and family among the sand and waves. But along some coastlines, those carefree days are almost gone with a stark and urgent realisation that we need to care for our coastal areas. Large scale development, severe storms and climate change have exacerbated coastal erosion, degrading dunes, making access unsafe and threatening the many activities we might have taken for granted over the years. Like walking our dogs or running along the beach, safely swimming, or even you know that spot where the swell used to break on the reef and it was perfect for surfing or fishing? It's happening right before our eyes. But rather than sit and watch it happen, Christin Smith decided to take action to protect a precious part of her coastline in Mandurah before it's too late. In three months, Christin passionately and purposefully activated her community, educating and encouraging almost 1200 beach goers and residents to sign a petition, which she then presented to her local council demanding a commitment to protect and preserve this stretch of Mandurah coastline for future generations. Christin is an award winning earth scientist with qualifications in geology, natural resources, sustainability and environmental management and education. Christin is also a mum of three sons, who hears and feels our children's concern for the future of the planet. And today, she is our guest around My Warm Table. Welcome, Christin.

Christin Smith:

Thank you, Sonia.

Sonia Nolan:

Christin, let's start with what inspired your passion to rally 1200 signatures for a petition on coastal erosion.

Christin Smith:

In August last year, what we saw was some very severe storms hit the coast. A lot of roofs were taken off along the coast from Rockingham down to Mandurah. And on our little patch, the erosion was significant right up, cutting in under the car park and right up to a little platform that had been built by the council. And all the access stairways were washed away, they're actually lying on the beach, all the pieces of wood. So even if you walk along there now you can see how the whole dune along that system from Robert Point down to Blue Bay especially, was just chopped into. So that was the start of it. And for weeks, we would walk along there and just think wow, this is amazing. Like what, we couldn't hardly get onto the beach, we had to cut round and get down to the beach. People were ringing the council people were very concerned. My neighbours on all sides and people I knew in other streets. I live nearby very close by and I was just watching and observing, waiting, you know, for some some action to happen.

Sonia Nolan:

Waiting for someone to do something. Yeah. And then we come to that realisation that you know what? We've got to do it. It's got to be us. Is that what happened, Christin?

Christin Smith:

Well, the funny thing happened that particular day, it was completely unplanned. I had a text actually from a neighbour who was so concerned about the beach, please go down to the beach and have a look. And as I say I live I live very nearby so I went down to the beach I was looking there and it was pretty amazing. You know? Because at every point I was thinking something will be done. The council will actually do something soon and the cutting under the car park I was standing there looking at all these contemplating and these people came down and they said what it you know those so distraught. And I said 'At what point is something going to be done?' Everyone's been ringing people have been down to the counter and so on. So, because I just finished the sustainability course I was thinking 'Well, it's time to step up and do something, we'll do a petition.' And that's how it started. I didn't even think about I didn't know how to, you know what that involved. So I went home. And I thought, well, I've actually said it now, I'm going to have to do something. And I just sat down, I thought, well, what are the main issues? So I wrote down the three main issues.

Sonia Nolan:

And what were the three main points?

Christin Smith:

The three main points that I'd observed on listening to people were these, the beach area, and the access ways was severely eroded and needed urgent, immediate attention and to to repair them, so we could actually get access but to also prevent pedestrian injury, and further collapse of the dune to the car park. That was absolute priority. The second point was a greater budget, and staff priority for the beach. And I know all the beaches in Mandurah are important, and along our coastline. But I just felt we needed to give it focus because it was actually a real hotspot. And it turns out that in the CHRMAP (Coastal Hazard Risk Management and Adaptation Plan) Report, it is a hotspot and recognises it as a priority area. I didn't know this at the time. And the third thing was an urgent independent scientific review, to actually look at the Coastcare programme, and especially the sand bypassing operation, which local residents feel is impacting negatively impacting this the area from Dawesville through to the channel.

Sonia Nolan:

And that's because of all the large scale development that's happening in the area. Is that Is that what that's related to?

Christin Smith:

Well, what that sand bypassing had to be put in when the Cut was put - the Dawesville Cut. All right, yeah. So to maintain the coastal flow the sediment from Bunbury through, they actually have to pump it at pyramids, through to across to the Falcon area. And then they do that in summer. And in winter, they come up to the Mandurah channel in Halls Head and pump it from Doddies Foreshore, like Doddies area across to the Seashell on you know, so it keeps flying through. And there was a bit of history there that that was originally meant to be a temporary thing in Halls Head just to build up the Seashells beach there. It was meant to be for five years, but it's been over 20 I think we're getting on to 30 now

Sonia Nolan:

Time flies Christin we're not even gonna go there! But so there were three main areas that you really wanted some action on, and that was part of your petition. So you you just you put it out to the universe. Well, okay, let's do a petition. You went home and you had to think about what are the main areas that you wanted people to rally around you to present back to council. And and then you and others manned. Ah not manned, womaned - woman power (!) sat in and got the signatures.

Christin Smith:

Well, the next morning,

Sonia Nolan:

What it wasn't that easy?! Come on, Christine. This was a good story - it happened just like that! Tell me the story...

Christin Smith:

So the next morning, I thought, Well, how am I going to get people on this petition? I didn't really, like I know people, but you know, so I stood in the car park there at Robert Point. And as people came by, because it was so terrible, people would ask me what's going on? Isn't it terrible? We can't get on the beach. I said, Well, we've got this petition happening. So people were just signing. And they said that yes, we need to do something it really is a very popular beach that's been degrading, and not being cared for. And after a few days, someone said to me, we need to introduce you to some other people. And then I discovered people that lived in my street, a particular lady that I've never met before. And it's terrible, isn't it? The street's not that long! And there'd been a small group approaching the Council for over a decade. And they were basically giving up right? And so when I started, they got really on board. And that was when we went okay - there was a lot of fortunate timing.

Sonia Nolan:

Well, you know, obviously the time was right. You know sometimes it's right place wrong time. And it sounds like it was now Right Place Right Time.

Christin Smith:

Yes. And there'd been a change in staff and the person who was now managing the the beaches in the natural environment was very receptive. And that was, that was fantastic. The other amazing timing of this was the petition started in October, and a month later, the CHRMAP Report was listed on the council minutes for the full discussion. And because of that, I was able to do a deputation.

Sonia Nolan:

I need to know what the CHRMAP Report is, what is that?

Christin Smith:

Okay, so the CHRMAP Report is a Coastal Hazard Risk Management and Adaptation Plan quite a mouthful. And I think one of the frustrating things about the CHRMAP consultation process, which I have pointed out, is that putting a sign up on the beach, and there was just a little sign there on the fence, that there was a consultation process happening is not good community engagement.

Sonia Nolan:

Not enough, isn't it?

Christin Smith:

No, I live, like I say nearby, and I didn't know that process was happening or the importance of it. So they, you know, some councils believe that you've put the sign up. And that's engagement, that is not engagement.

Sonia Nolan:

That's information if you happen to see it.

Christin Smith:

Exactly. And I was only I don't look at signs, particularly. So I was only drawn to understand what the importance of that was once the petition started. And a friend pointed out the sign. So anyway, I did a deputation there at the council about the community concern and the depth of concern, because it was listed at that time, and then we were coming into the Christmas period and one of the councillors

Sonia Nolan:

and summer

Christin Smith:

and summer. Exactly, yeah, we thought rather than present a petition before Christmas, you know, and then people go away, and, and then it sort of doesn't have maybe the importance, we thought it'd be a bit more strategic - so we petitioned through summer, and every few days, we would go down there and it was my friend's idea, you know, to start maybe an email list. And because part of running a petition is that you need to keep the people that sign informed of the outcome. And I didn't know how I was going to do that.

Sonia Nolan:

Yeah. Right.

Christin Smith:

So we ended up with over almost 1200 signatures. And we also did an online petition on change.org. So we had about 300 there. And anyway, that was great. You know, it was, we got to know everyone. So I spoke to so many people, and the depth of concern, and just getting their perspective on what they remembered and how things were and how the beach has changed significantly, was so valuable,

Sonia Nolan:

You really tapped into the hearts and minds of the community and people with deep memories about what they used to do on the beach as children and how they'd seen a change and how they were really concerned about future generations being able to have that same fun and freedom that they enjoyed. And, and I was reading some of the comments on the petition, Christin, and people were saying, you know, as I said in my intro, you know, I used to be able to surf and that doesn't work, you know, this work in that area. And I used to go reef angling - And I can't do that anymore. And so they've been this this almost grief around the change that they'd sort of noticed in years and now there was this this deep urgency, because of the storms, which had really highlighted, something needs to be done because we're about to lose this. We're on the brink. Without being dramatic. You know, we're at that point.

Christin Smith:

Exactly. Exactly. And you're right. People are so attached to the area, because of their the, you know, they've been coming for generations. And then they've settled there the holiday homes and now become permanent homes. And they want their children to have the same. So I think it was just this feeling of powerlessness. They tried, and nothing had sort of got through. So this approach because I come from a community background relations background, I guess and having that science background, I just took more of a pragmatic

Sonia Nolan:

and strategic approach,

Christin Smith:

strategic and we were able to harness the energy of everyone. We presented the petition in January, the Council staff who's in charge of the beach Brett Brenchley, he actually agreed to two resident meetings. And this is where my community relations skills came in. So I organised a couple of meetings down there. So he could hear firsthand what people were observing what their concerns were and why people had the view they had about, say the sand bypassing and the effect on the beach. I also spoke to Lisa Munday, the local member for

Sonia Nolan:

So you've had real traction, haven't you? Based on Dawesville. that, that moment standing in the car park going What am I going to do? How about a petition? I don't really know how that works. But I'm going to find out. And then here you are, where you've got some some traction and the council actually passed the motion, wasn't it for those three areas that you that are on the petition? So they're on board

Christin Smith:

Yes. Unanimous

Sonia Nolan:

amazing,

Christin Smith:

I just wanted to have a shout out to the City of Mandurah. They've been fantastic. Since the first phone call that I made, they have been responsive. And all the people, the councillors, the staff, have been really receptive to the concerns of the people about the beach, and they understand where we're coming from. So I just really want to say that that's been the approach.

Sonia Nolan:

And that's really great, Christin, because, of course, you know, you started the momentum, but you know, then they've got to respond. And they've come to the party, which is fantastic. So yay, City of Mandurah. Well done. But you are, I guess symbolic of, of what you can do when you actually decide to stand up for something that's important. And I dare say that coastline stretch there in Mandurah is not the only coastline being eroded across our beautiful Western Australian coast. And so you know, I'm sure you're really inspirational for others to, to look outside and look at their own coastline and see what maybe can be done there. So well done on that.

Christin Smith:

Thank you. Thank you, we're still still a work in process. But it's

Sonia Nolan:

a start. And that inertia, like getting over the inertia and getting, you know, to do something. And that's not saying the community has has had the inertia because clearly there's been a lot, you know, a lot of goodwill there and action. But the timing has been in your favour this time, which is great.

Christin Smith:

The timing has been very good. And then yeah, the community just coming on board and it just got its own momentum.

Sonia Nolan:

We've talked your community activation hat, right? I'd love you to put your natural resources hat on and your geologists hat and your Earth Science hat on and tell me a bit more about why should we care about coastal erosion? Why is it such an important thing?

Christin Smith:

Well, the coastal erosion is definitely on the increase with climate change, really, and the increase of wave energy hitting the coast. So we're not the only area, the entire coast is under under siege. Really, this is why it's so important that we we really educate our communities, about protecting dunes and moving safely on the beach.

Sonia Nolan:

And it's not just for our us humans, either is it? You know, all the natural habitat. The preciousness of the ecosystems around our coastlines are also really important.

Christin Smith:

Oh, definitely, definitely, with the recent work, we've just had some baby bobtails actually in our garden, which is wonderful to see them. And by preserving our dune, we're protecting the habitat of the wildlife in there. That's so important because we preserve the diversity of our ecosystem. So it's much more than just people using the beach, it's an entire ecosystem that we need to look be looking after. And Mandurah has an unique, it's such a unique area, you know, we have the Ramsar wetlands, we have the dolphins, you know, there's so much diversity there. And it's really important that we keep those things because that's much of the reason why people come to Mandurah for the beauty of it. The natural beauty andI know that it's under a lot of threat now with a lot of development happening. So it's really important to preserve these areas.

Sonia Nolan:

And you're doing a great job with that in your own you know, in your own world and what you can do, like I said, you know if we all do a little bit, and that leads me all doing a little bit, Christin, you founded an organisation or a business called EarthMAD

Christin Smith:

Yes. It's a bit of a passion project at home.

Sonia Nolan:

Tell me about it. I love passion projects. That's what we're all about this season.

Christin Smith:

So yes, I I just was thinking, you know, because of my science background, and I've always been really interested in nature and the geology and so on. And I always, with my children, there's so much powerlessness felt by our younger generation, they feel that Earth is under such crisis, but nothing's being done. Maybe companies and governments can't move fast enough, but I feel that we can all if we all act, just a tiny little thing. It doesn't have to be huge. But if every household every person did something, then that will make a huge impact

Sonia Nolan:

collectively. Yes. So every little bit adds up to it's like, you know, filling a bucket with a drop. Eventually, it'll be filled. So if everybody did something, we can collectively make a difference. So EarthMAD stands for, and I love this acronym. I think you're so clever. Everyone Acting Responsibly Today Helps Make A Difference.

Christin Smith:

Exactly.

Sonia Nolan:

So clever. How long did that take you to think up?

Christin Smith:

Ah, took a while. But I got there. I love word games and puzzles. But it just is in a nutshell,

Sonia Nolan:

it is.

Christin Smith:

That's what we could

Sonia Nolan:

EarthMAD mad for the earth or we're being or mad because the I mean, there's so many things you can do with that, like I'm mad for it, which is passionate, or are mad that the earth not being protected. Or the earth is mad because we're not protecting it. Like there's just so many so many places you can go with that.

Christin Smith:

I say Don't get angry, go MAD, go Make A Difference.

Sonia Nolan:

Nice.

Christin Smith:

That's one little thing. I sometimes say because we can get really angry and burnt up and paralysed. Why isn't this happening? Why is that happening? Why is our temperature going up? Why have we got coastal erosion. But if we all do our own a little bit, and we shouldn't judge others either, you know, we just need to just focus on ourselves, we can do a lot. That's where I come from.

Sonia Nolan:

So do you have some maybe tips of what can we do? Like are there some things because I know on your website, you've got some Sustainability tips, or you've got some ideas about what we can do to make a difference. Starting today, have you got maybe three things that we can take away and and do today?

Christin Smith:

Well, I think in every household, we can reduce our consumption

Sonia Nolan:

that's big isn't? We keep talking about recycling and reusing. But actually reducing is where it all starts, isn't it?

Christin Smith:

That's right, just reduce. I don't think we'll get to zero waste, but it's a good target. So reduce the consumption and think twice about plastic coming in, because that is just long lasting. And they're shown, you know, coming into our body systems now. We can't escape it now. And if we can just make ..use our consumer power, basically to make those choices, then companies will start providing better solutions for us. That's a really big one. I know, it sounds very simple but, it's quite hard to do in reality, Yeah, that's That's very true. I read about

Sonia Nolan:

It is, isn't it? But it's interesting, I started recycling my soft plastics. Sadly, the shopping centres are not the big chains, are not taking them at the moment, I'm gonna say at the moment because I'm hoping they're going to come back and do it. But um, but I was really surprised as I someone collecting the plastic wrapping around their newspaper started collecting my soft plastics for recycling. I was for a year and they ended up with a giant ball of plastic. surprised at how much they was, because you're not conscious of it, if you're just throwing it into a general waste bin, but when you start separating your waste, you actually then can really see how much of a particular product you are consuming, using, not able to recycle or Yeah, so that was a real that was a you know, a moment for me to see that. Shocking when you see it like that. Yeah. So that would be the big one. Just reduce, you know, just thinking when you're buying products, looking for the more sustainable item. Yeah, that's right. Take a moment. Take a moment to look and think

Christin Smith:

the other thing is also looking at toxicity of the products that you're using

Sonia Nolan:

How can we tell that?

Christin Smith:

To get more natural products so you can actually look on on the ingredients. a lot of young Mums may not realise the toxicity of some of the air fresheners and other products they use in the house. So going more natural that's that's a really important thing to do for you own health as well as the environment health,

Sonia Nolan:

I guess anything we're putting on our skin or near our skin near our vital organs. Obviously, the skin is the biggest organ we've got on our body, to try and make that as natural as possible. Yeah, that's a really good tip. I remember going to a one of those Lunch and Learn sessions at a workplace I was at a few years ago, and a woman came in and actually started, she pulled out all of these everyday products Christin that, you know, we've all seen on the shelves, or we've got in our bathroom cupboards. Everything from deodorant, to face cream, to shampoos and conditioners. And she just said

Christin Smith:

toothpaste.

Sonia Nolan:

Yes toothpaste, all of those products, everyday products and she said, you just need to really look at the ingredients on these things. Because they are, they shouldn't really come anywhere near you in a long term fashion.

Christin Smith:

Exactly. Because a lot of these will build up in your body and cause a lot of problems.

Sonia Nolan:

Exactly. And that that was her message that they do - they build up. Yeah,

Christin Smith:

yeah. plastic items, especially with children,

Sonia Nolan:

great tips. So I'll just want to recap on those. So really look at our consumption. And just don't go there. Like if you don't need it, don't buy it. Don't bring it into the house. Secondly, to really think about our recycling and our waste. And you know, where we can, again, it comes back to just, you know, not not buying it in the first place. But you know, when we do separate our wastes, we can actually get a really good look at how much we're actually using. So reducing again, like, I guess the message is reduce, reduce, reduce. And then that toxicity. So looking at what we're actually exposing ourselves to, because that does make a difference.

Christin Smith:

Yes, So with reducing waste. I mean, one of the big problems these days is food waste. So just really, in our house, we tend to eat everything, but what's scrapped with three, three, hungry,

Sonia Nolan:

I was gonna say you've got three sons, Christin, of course, everything gets eaten.

Christin Smith:

Everything get eaten there's not a lot of waste there but but what is, like peels and you know, cut offs and things like that, from vegetables, goes into the worm farm and recycled in the garden, and we make the worm. You know, wee they call it worm wee

Sonia Nolan:

worm wee which is really good for your garden.

Christin Smith:

Yeah. So So and growing your own veggies. That's so good. Because, again, you know, what it's been exposed to what sprays, if you can, so I think that's a great path to explore.

Sonia Nolan:

I'm just sort of thinking, you know, everything old is new again. And I'm just thinking about my parents, you know, their vegetable garden, which, you know, has, you know, sort of nourished, me and my brother and you know, growing up for decades. Yeah. And it is it's going back to those grass roots. Isn't it?

Christin Smith:

Yes, it is. And another great thing to get involved with, and reusing products, and it's actually called in our area, they've changed the name to gifting group

Sonia Nolan:

Ah, it is on Facebook - the buy nothing group. They're fantastic.

Christin Smith:

Absolutely fantastic. And the community in there is so generous. So people who may be down and out that actually need things will also ask, I need this all because of the situation or before I go and buy this.

Sonia Nolan:

Yes. Does anyone have it?

Christin Smith:

Does anyone to have it and they're not using it? So I love that community.

Sonia Nolan:

It's a great community it does make a big difference, doesn't it? And I'm part of our local one as well. And I'm always surprised at the sort of things that people either put on there that I would probably have thrown out. Yes, but then there's someone else who says, Oh, great. Yeah, I needed those paint tins. Okay, or I needed that bit of, you know, cardboard, although, you know, the moving boxes, but you know, there's there's just this fabulous cyclical economy going on there. Which is just so important.

Christin Smith:

Yes, it is. So recently, we had the verge waste day the regular day that the council runs. Some of the things that were on the verges were in perfect condition. So I know there are regulations about removing items from kerbs apparently.

Sonia Nolan:

I don't like that regulation.

Christin Smith:

No. So but what the people in the group would do if you were actually scouting, and going down all the streets and putting photos of the items on the in the group and the address, because

Sonia Nolan:

if you need a new lounge room, here's all the stuff.

Christin Smith:

Perfect coffee tables, wooden beautiful working equipment

Sonia Nolan:

Look years ago, I know someone who found a Weber on the side of the road in one of those collisions and I have these vivid memories of him walking down the street singing that Crowded House song always take the Weber with you. He was so happy that he'd scored this Weber on the side of the road in a collection. So it is incredible what people throw out

Christin Smith:

It is. And so I'm very much for the City of Mandurah, for instance, to have a Tip Shop. So I've just put up a comment on the Waste Education Strategy, I think it was called. So to have a Tip Shop would make so much sense.

Sonia Nolan:

I remember when I went to the tip with my husband, great date that we had - we went to the tip for our date. That's unfair. No, we do go to nice places too. But we had to go to the tip and and I saw the Tip Shop and I thought oh, wow, that's pretty interesting. And there was there was you know, like dining room furniture and there was bicycles. And then there were couches, and so many things.

Christin Smith:

So many. Well, I went on a holiday to Batemans Bay, my friend told me to the tip a few times.

Sonia Nolan:

So if anyone's thinking about their next date night or date day, it's gotta be daytime, doesn't it? Date day go to the tip!

Christin Smith:

It's a very interesting place.

Sonia Nolan:

Well, I think it's also really important for us to see where our waste goes.

Christin Smith:

It is. It is yeah. And I really feel knowing

Sonia Nolan:

very much so. Christin, you've been an amazing that the that the thing that you have that you don't need any more actually has a life somewhere else and is useful. guest around the warm table today. I think we've covered Great thing. I actually really like using things that have been pre loved, because it's got that history. There's something lots of different parts of who you are as a as a geologist and special about the old tea sets from grandma earth scientist, who you are as a mother and who you are as a community activist. So I'm just so delighted that we've reconnected because you and I used to work together many years

Christin Smith:

Yes. I'm really pleased to have joined you here ago. Sonia. It's fantastic what you're doing. Thanks so much for asking me along to have a cuppa with you.

Sonia Nolan:

Thanks for joining me Sonia Nolan around the warm table. Let's grow the community. Please follow My Warm Table Podcast on socials and like and share this episode with your family and friends. My Warm Table is brought to you by Females Over 45 Fitness. Keep listening now for a health tip from FOFF head coach Kelli Reilly.

Kelli Reilly FOFF:

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