It wasn’t until 2017, when she met a group of Swiss ski instructors in Japan who informed her that they’d travelled to Asia in search of good snow, that renowned science reporter, author and TV presenter Dr Jonica Newby found herself emotionally affected by climate change.
As her travels introduced her to more and more people who shared their stories about their favorite places in the world, and their fear of losing them through the realities of climate change, Dr. Newby utilised her scientific investigative skills to research and write a story which offered herself and her readers an emotional navigation through climate change and the mental anguish it causes.
Within weeks of writing the first few pages of her book, Beyond Climate Grief: a journey of love, snow, fire, and an enchanted beer can, in October 2019, her home state of NSW was engulfed by flames during one of the worst bush fire seasons on record. Communities across Northern NSW, including the Clarence Valley, were some of the worst affected areas. More than 160 homes in the Clarence Valley were lost, 90 of them in the rural village of Nymboida and surrounding areas when a savage firestorm swallowed the land. Miraculously, no lives were lost. But many residents lost their homes, their properties, their everything. And many of them wanted to know why.
While researching her book, Dr Newby travelled to the Clarence Valley and met several locals impacted by the devastating bush fires, including Debbie Repschlager and her daughter Shiann Broderick, who tragically lost their home in Nymboida. Following the bush fires, Miss Broderick attended a solidarity sit down in Sydney where she delivered a powerful speech and called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to act on the climate emergency. Her speech earned her widespread praise, and also, captured the attention of Dr Newby who reached out to Ms Repschlager and arranged to meet her and her daughter.
Both women feature in two chapters of her book. “The caring, understanding nature of Jonica made her easy company, and her research on the psychological impacts of trauma and disaster made for enlightening conversation,” Ms Repschlager revealed. “For someone to be on the outside to explain to you what’s going on and what’s natural to feel and do is a comfort.” This week, Dr Newby is revisiting the Clarence Valley to meet locals and talk about her book and what propelled her to write it during a special evening at the Clarence Regional Library in Grafton on June 10 at 6pm.
Ms Repschlager is encouraging locals to attend and meet Dr Newby, and pick up a copy of her book. “There will be more natural disasters and we all need to be prepared for the emotional fallout, for our own sakes and to support family and friends,” she said.
Please visit www.crl.nsw.gov.au to register your attendance on June 10.