Dr Karl boosts awareness, funds for Tweed green group

18 Mar
Earth Learning's Adrienne Weber presents Dr Karl with a book at the Kingscliff High School event on Friday. Picture: Georgina Stobbie

Earth Learning’s Adrienne Weber presents Dr Karl with a book at the Kingscliff High School event on Friday. Picture: Georgina Stobbie

By Bond University journalism student Georgina Stobbie

Scientific guru Karl Kruszelnicki – better known simply as Dr Karl – kicked off fundraising for a local environmental organisation with a presentation that drew a large crowd to Kingscliff High School last Friday.

The Great Moments in Science presentation raised $3700 for  Earth Learning’s Tweed River and Biodiversity projects, said member Adrienne Weber.

“Most people in the area didn’t even know about Earth Learning before,” said Ms Weber.

“We were really happy with the reception.”

Earth Learning is a community-based organisation that promotes sustainability, biodiversity and ecological awareness in the Tweed and Border Ranges region, according to its mission statement.

The work is challenging for an underfunded community group despite the enthusiasm of volunteers, making fundraising events like this one vital, said Ms Weber.

“You spend a lot of time putting your heart into saying ‘what can we do’ and you have to make a lot of it voluntary to even ask for the funding.

“We would rather be out there pulling out lantana.”

Dr Karl presented the event at no cost and said he was always looking for ways to give back to local communities.

“You do what you can where you can and this is what I can do here,” Dr Karl told Bond Gold Coast News.

Last year’s federal budget saw cuts to scientific institutions like the Australian Research Council and CSIRO that were “catastrophic”, said Dr Karl.

“Engineering and science are some of the best investments you can make,” said Dr Karl.

“The trouble is they don’t pay back in one quarter.”

Federal budget cuts had an impact on community-based organisations too, said Adrienne Weber.

“We’re now going to be relying more on [volunteers] to make a difference on ground because we can’t necessarily look for the funding,” said Ms Weber.

“Previously there was funding for teams of professional s to go out and strategically treat weeds in places where we want to regenerate … natural bushland.

“A lot of that funding has been cut and those people have to find different work.”

The lack of funds put a strain on what the group was able to do, said Ms Weber.

“Volunteers who can only stay for a short time are not as effective as paid professional people doing projects that they can come back and follow up,” said Ms Weber.

Earth Learning recently received a $12,000 Landcare grant towards their project to develop McIlrath Park in Murwillumbah, but Earth Learning fears this grant will be the last, said Ms Weber.

“We spend a lot of hours putting in applications and you only get a small fraction of that; it’s like a dog begging for a biscuit,” said Ms Weber.

With a shift towards grassroots funding and volunteer support, reaching audiences was everything, said Ms Weber.

“It’s a matter of getting the word out there more adequately,” said Ms Weber.

“I would love people using Facebook to help get the message around.

“If everybody does a little bit, that changes the world.”

You can contact Earth Learning at their Facebook page or follow Dr Karl Kruszelnicki on Twitter.

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