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ClimateYou Contributor & Key Supporter Alice Turnbull (1942-2023)

The passing of one of our contributors and most ardent supporters, Alice Turnbull, is a great loss not only to the ClimateYou Alliance but to her community in Port Melbourne, Australia, where she worked tirelessly to revive community parks with eco-friendly indigenous plantings.

Alice was born in Scarsdale, New York, and graduated from the University of Arizona where she majored in history. When there was a call for teachers in Australia, she jumped at the opportunity. It was in Australia that she met her husband John.

She received a Master’s Degree in Landscape and Urban Design from Melbourne University. Her vision was to have indigenous grasses and plantings in and around the city of Melbourne. That effort garnered a new and long-time friendship with Janet Bolitho, a neighbor living on the same street, Esplanade West. This street runs alongside a former saltwater lagoon, land that was reclaimed and that is now known as Lagoon Reserve, a popular urban park.

Bolitho, who was also a representative in local government, shared Alice’s vision and together, with local support, they organized yearly indigenous plantings at the reserve’s edges. The inaugural Lagoon Reserve planting took place in late May 2007, and it has been repeated annually since.

Alice commented on the reserve on Bolitho’s blog, Port Places expressing the significance of indigenous planting in urban environments.  “Although created and carefully maintained, park planting can become iconic, even beloved background, standing-in for ‘Nature’, a platform for restorative, healthy endeavour, contributing memories and identity, appreciated and valued.”

Alice was thrilled to see that the many different native plantings would attract a new diverse bird population as well as assorted species of insects, all of which promote a healthy ecosystem.

Alice, second from the left at a gathering at Lagoon Reserve after an annual planting, 2017

Photo:  Janet Bolitho

Global climate change became increasingly important to Alice, who became an active member of ClimateYou Alliance Board of Directors. Her brother, George Ropes,  ClimateYou Founder and Senior Editor (1944-2022) had been writing extensively for ClimateYou about climate change since 2008. George’s posts deeply inspired Alice to collect them into the recently published book “Waking Up To Climate Change”, an effort involving the ClimateYou Alliance board.

Her two important ClimateYou blogs “Embers of Australian Wildfires 2019-2020” and“Unintended Consequences! Bushfire Smoke Prompts Plankton Bloom”  were written in 2021. They cast a wider net for ClimateYou readers to recognize the impact of climate-change induced bushfires, a seasonal catastrophe in Australia. Alice’s deft descriptions allowed us to fully experience the extreme fallout of the bushfires. For example, she wrote, The enormity of roiling greyness, searing heat, capricious winds, scorched stench, crackling tree-top foliage, roaring house-high flames! Roads blocked, helicopters buzzing overhead like giant dragon flies, fire trucks and heavy vehicles ‘in battle’; the desperate worry, utter helplessness of people in the path of Nature’s fury.”

Alice also wrote about the little-known consequences of the bushfires—huge concentrations of phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean: “These studies by global ocean observing systems illustrate how Australian aerosols and carbon dioxide from major bushfires can viscerally impact on a distant environment.”

For her family and friends, many remember Alice having a sense of wonder and being inspired by the natural world. Bolitho in particular recalls, “Alice felt a responsibility to be a kind of ‘glue’ in community inclusive learning programmes,” Bolitho said. “She often attended these programmes as a friendly presence and supported other participants with their projects.”

Alice’s legacy will live on in the native grasses planted over many years and in the many lives she touched. She will be greatly missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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