by William Roberts and Robert Bremner
Bryony Edwards’s life revolves around one core ideology: that we need to save the planet before we do anything else.
With the damage that humans have done to our Earth already, human extinction wouldn’t be enough to prevent irreversible climate change, she believes, so it’s quite clear what we need to save the planet from – ourselves.
Edwards isn’t your run-of-the-mill political candidate. She’s had no experience working for MPs and has never joined a political campaign before.
But a wealth of experience in a number of fields and a passion for altering the present to make a better future have galvanised her into action as a candidate for inner-city Northcote in the Victorian Parliament.
Although Edwards has lived all over the world, she says, ‘I was born and raised in Perth’. Even then she was a radical.
‘I used to stick rubbish in the tailpipes of parked cars, thinking I was filtering pollution. But I didn’t think about the engine.’
Mum and Dad didn’t tell young Bryony she must save the planet: ‘My parents weren’t green people, I grew up in a Labor household. My dad worked as an engineer in the mines.’
Growing up, she spent a few years working a few jobs, including the odd one in the disability sector, which she describes as very rewarding. But it wasn’t until she moved to the old Czechoslovakia that her green thumb really started to twitch.
She loved living there, but had to return home after a few years due to sickness in the family. ‘I could have lived the rest of life there,’ she recalled. ‘I absolutely loved it, but at the same time it was great to be able to spend some time with my family.”
It was then that the big buildings and bright lights of New York City bedazzled her: ‘It was between Melbourne and New York, and in the end is chose the US. I had met a lot of Americans in Prague who offered me couches to sleep on if I ever visited which made it easier.’
During her time there, Edwards worked at an organic restaurant while recruiting sponsors to help disabled Americans apply for, and find, jobs, something she has been passionate about all her life.
She vividly remembers 9/11: ‘I was at a military facility in Brooklyn at the time. We were evacuated. I rode my bicycle home and I could see the smoke stream coming over Brooklyn. It was a very surreal experience.’
Throughout her time in the US, Edwards’ confidence grew, along with her irrepressible passion. She would interrupt the conversations of random people on public transport when she felt they didn’t understand national issues.
‘I spent my time in the US trying to understand the us-and-them mentality. I would hear people talking about the government and I would invade their conversations because I would just feel sick if I didn’t.’ Given that sort of behaviour, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she feels well suited to political life.
Later, a love interest lured Edwards to quit New York for quieter Philadelphia: ‘I thad a fantastic job in Philly working for the national peak body in community finance.’ And, although she loved the job, her road eventually turned back to her hometown.
‘It was so refreshing to come back to Melbourne, to be able to talk about topics like gun control in public without creating a storm.’
Once settled, Edwards managed to score a transfer to the Department of Human Services, her current workplace and where she met her current partner, Save the Planet party leader Adrian Whitehead.
‘I worked only 15 metres away from him and I developed a massive crush on Adrian. Then we had a secret office romance that was eventually ruined when I told everyone I was pregnant.’
Adrian Whitehead ran as a Greens candidate repeatedly in the 1990s. He is also a co-founder of the organisation Beyond Zero Emissions, which Edwards credits with spawning the principles that gave birth to Save the Planet – principles such as ‘stationary energy, transport, agriculture and land use.
‘It has already had heaps of support: plenty of universities have already signed up to it,’ the budding politician enthused. ‘If we implement this plan now we can stop emissions.’
It would seem pointless to argue that anything – even food security, a topic on which Edwards could talk ’till the cows come home’ – is more important than human-induced global warming.
‘Climate change threatens absolutely everything. Nothing else really matters when the human race is facing 90 per cent extinction.’
Adrian and Bryony are well aware that their small party is not going to have a huge influence on politics as we know it today.
This was confirmed by the lack of support for it during last year’s federal election, when its most successful candidate, Dean O’Callaghan, garnered just 2.25 per cent of the vote.
They’re not out to win a popularity poll: they’re out to raise social awareness. They don’t do preference deals: they’re happy for supporters to direct their votes to whoever puts climate change higher on their agenda.
‘Preferential voting is something that makes me most proud to be Australian,’ Edwards told UniPollWatch, ‘but I think it’s unfortunate that so many people don’t understand how it works.’
In public appearances for Save the Planet, the most frequently asked question she gets is: ‘Why are you doing this to the Greens?’; the most frequent comment, ‘I’m a Greens voter’.
But, as she says, ‘If you tick Save the Planet you’re really still voting for the Greens, and if you really believe in climate policy then we’re the ones who are really working to make that happen.’
Edwards values inner peace, but knows there won’t be much of that this side of November 29. She may be talking to the voters of Northcote but her focus will be on the entire human race.
William Roberts and Robert Bremner are Bachelor of Journalism students at La Trobe University.