The Groundswell Founders On Fighting Climate Change

by: Rosie Dalton | 2 weeks ago | Features

Image: Groundswell co-founders Clare Ainsworth Herschell, Arielle Gamble and Anna Rose with Kyiie Kwong. Photography by Isabella Melody. 

Groundswell is a new climate advocacy group and giving circle, dedicated to accelerating urgent action for our planet. Founded by a trio of amazing women – Anna Rose, Clare Ainsworth Herschell and Arielle Gamble – Groundswell launched just last month and has already attracted over 200 members and donated $50,000 to Emergency Leaders for Climate Action. Here, the three powerhouse co-founders share their mission with WMC. 

WMC: What inspired you to start Groundswell?
Clare: We co-founded Groundswell as three young women, including two young mothers, who are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, want to take action with impact, and to help others do the same. This devastating summer has shown us that we are living on the frontline of the climate crisis in Australia, and that our lives and livelihoods are under immediate threat. 

Anna: The fossil fuel lobby knows that it’s possible to shift power and influence in this country, but it’s not cheap. Our strategy is to build a movement powerful enough to take on decades of climate inaction, and win. We know that politicians only ever aim as high as their citizens demand, and believe that together, we can build a movement powerful enough to force Governments to deal with the causes of the climate crisis, such as coal and gas, not just the symptoms. 

Arielle: Our mission at Groundwell is to accelerate climate action in Australia by pooling our money to fund strategic, high-impact climate advocacy, and to educate and empower a new community of Australians to take action on climate within their own lives and spheres of influence.

Image: from the Groundswell Sydney launch. Photography by Isabella Melody. 

WMC: And how does it all work?
Clare: Anyone can join Groundswell by donating $1000 a year, or $20 a week. Our money is pooled, and each time our pooled funds reach $50,000 we grant the money out to people and organisations tackling the climate crisis, voted upon by all members with the advice of an expert panel. Donations are 100% tax deductible and 100% of grants go to climate action in Australia.

Arielle: All of Groundswell's overheads are covered by a private donor, who is resourcing the organisation to promote philanthropy and make giving to the climate movement more accessible. 100% of donations from our members goes directly into the giving pool, which are then directly granted out to DGR1 organisations working in climate advocacy.

WMC: Can you run us through your respective backgrounds?
Anna: I have been a climate campaigner since I was 14-years-old. My work involves helping ordinary people use their time, talent and treasure in the most strategic way possible, as part of the climate movement. In addition to Groundswell, I’m also a Board member for Farmers for Climate Action, founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, advisor to the Jewish Climate Network, and advisory board member of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and the Australian Geographic Society. We work hard in and out of the public eye to advocate for climate action and to empower others to do the same.

Clare: My work has always been centred around philanthropy and community building in the spirit that “giving" comes in many currencies. You can give your time (for example, taking the time to sign a petition or attend a protest), give your talent (volunteer your skills or resources), or treasure (which is that philanthropic support by donation or in kind). By nature I am a connector, and I love to bring people together and build communities that offer education and inspiration that lead to people actively participating in the change they want to see. I have 12 years’ experience as a Philanthropic Manager for Not-for-Profits, and previously grew the next generation of donors at the Art Gallery of NSW into a group called Atelier. Now alongside Anna and Arielle I am devoted to addressing the climate crisis. 

Arielle: My background is in book design and arts advocacy. I co-founded a national exhibition and impact campaign called ‘All We Can’t See: Illustrating the Nauru Files’ aimed at shedding light on the human cost of offshore detention. The project toured around Australia, raising funds for legal and advocacy support for asylum seekers and refugees. That work, harnessing the powers of creativity, collaboration and collective giving to create meaningful change, led me to join with Clare and Anna, who mentored me throughout 2019 and brought me on to manage Groundswell day to day. 

Image: via the Groundswell Instagram. Image source.

WMC: You already had an incredible response pre-launch. How does this feel?
Arielle: Hopeful, and excited about the change we will be able to achieve together. The fires have shifted things for a lot of people this summer – our understanding of climate change has gone from an abstract idea into a lived reality. Grief can be paralysing, but action is the ultimate antidote to despair. We have had people sign up to Groundswell from rural Tassie, Gulgarmbome, NE Arnhem Land, WA – all over the country. It is testament to how many people are deeply alarmed about the climate crisis and are looking to channel this into meaningful action.

WMC: Where are your first donations being allocated?
Anna: Our first grant of $50,000 was raised and delivered pre-launch as a core-building grant to fund Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, a newly formed group of 30 former senior emergency service leaders with first-hand experience of escalating climate change impacts, pushing for strong leadership on climate. We identified the role of the newly established Emergency Leaders as critical to pressuring state and federal Governments to strengthen policies and deal with both climate change and the dangerous fire conditions, made worse by the climate crisis.

Image: from the Groundswell Sydney launch. Photography by Isabella Melody. 

WMC: Can you tell us about the recent Groundswell event and the incredible people that were part of bringing this night to life?
Anna: Groundswell is fortunate to be connected to an incredible network of scientists, leaders, artists and changemakers, figures whose experience and expertise we want to share with the broader community through our organisation. We wanted to bring our community together for our Sydney launch to reflect and grieve for what we have lived through this summer, and to commit to urgent action, hope and courage in tackling it together. 400 of us met on Gadigal land, at The Calyx in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, with friends new and old showing up to support climate action. 

As of this morning, our membership pool has grown to 201 members, with a joint pool of $91,100 for new climate action grants. Gadigal Traditional Owner Craig Madden welcomed us on to Country and our friend, celebrated contemporary artist, Tony Albert shared his reflections on Indigenous leadership in Caring for Country. Tony shared with the guests the three principles of Indigenous solidarity he has been working on for Groundswell to operate by: Acknowledgement of Country, Acknowledgement of Reparations; and Acknowledgement of Activism. 

Clare: As an organisation, Groundswell is committed to listening to and learning from Indigenous leadership and recognises that these voices must be centred in decision making around climate change. Professor Tim Flannery acknowledged the importance and 60,000-year legacy of Indigenous leadership on land management, and delivered a powerful call to action for our audience:

“Groundswell has to succeed, as we’re getting close to the last chance we’ll ever have to stabilise the climate of our planet.”

And Veteran Fire Chief Greg Mullins (representative of Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, our first grant recipient) shared his experiences from the frontline of the recent fires over summer and reminded the crowd at the Groundswell launch: 

“Politicians listen to voters, so let’s get loud”.

The inimitable Paul Kelly, joined by Alice Keath and Sime Nugent then brought things home for the evening with a performance of ‘Sleep, Australia, Sleep’ – a lament disguised as a lullaby; a song to wake us all up.

Arielle: After the speeches, Tony Albert then guided us in an art making activity. Tony created a giant black canvas, laid down on the floor of the space. Guests were invited to select a native bird image out of a basket woven by his grandmother and, using a white pen, to draw the outline of the bird on the canvas. Over the course of the evening the canvas was filled in with these birds – replicating and standing in solidarity with our native wildlife as it continues to fight, repair and replenish itself and its surrounding inhabitants. Our wine and beer sponsors – Unico Zelo and Young Henrys – are both leading their industries in carbon footprint reduction and sustainable practices, and we were proud to be supported by such great brands. 

Image: award-winning photograph by Tamara Dean, via the Groundswell Instagram. Image source.

WMC: Why do you believe that this is now our final hour when it comes to climate action?
Anna: Our Earth has already warmed by 1 degree, and unless we take drastic action now to reduce emissions and transition to 100% renewables, we are on track to warm 3 degrees by the end of the century. The landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 Report explained in no unclear terms that, unless we cap global warming at 1.5 degrees by 2030, the Earth will reach a tipping point, setting off a chain of warming events which we will never be able to reverse. We now have less than 10 years left to turn this around. The scale and pace of change requires each and every one of us to roll up our sleeves and take committed action.

WMC: How can we individually make sure that it is our finest hour?
Arielle: Groundswell First Nations consultant Lille Madden puts it best: As Australians, it is our responsibility to ensure that Indigenous expertise and knowledge is at the forefront of this fight for our future; to ensure that Indigenous voices in our country and those of our neighbours are heard and respected. Because, even though we are at a crisis point, we have the opportunity to create a more just and sustainable world. There is so much we can each do in tackling the climate crisis, and together, we are powerful. 

Anna: We have made available on our website our Top 10 Climate Actions to begin your climate action journey – including information on listening to First Nations voices, how to divest your money, switch your workplace to renewables and have effective climate conversations – and encourage everyone to read, action, and share!

Clare: The concept of climate change can be overwhelming, confronting and despairing. But I think if we can lean into the discomfort then there’s a real opportunity for us to grow from all of this. To approach it as an invitation. The solutions can regenerate not just the atmosphere but also our connectedness and humanity.

Anna: The outpouring of generosity in the aftermath of the fires demonstrates that, when people work together with a clear and unifying vision, we can surmount huge challenges together — and raise the huge amounts of money required. 

WMC: Finally, what are your goals for the future of Groundswell?
Clare: Harnessing the power of collective giving to create a safe, just and healthy future for our planet. Again, passing the mic to Lille: “Our future depends on our actions now. Together we can, together we will.”

Anna: Our hope is to grow the Groundswell movement across Australia – I think our next launch is in Melbourne! Looking towards 500 members this year, with the aim to raise half a million dollars for climate advocacy and action.

You can find out more about Groundswell and join the movement here.

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