Connection to the Climate Emergency ~ Episode 88 ~ My Conversation with Anthony Gleeson

Heart of Connection Podcast
Heart of Connection Podcast
Connection to the Climate Emergency ~ Episode 88 ~ My Conversation with Anthony Gleeson

Connection to the Climate Emergency

Mark [0:00] I’d like to welcome Anthony Gleeson to the World Heart of Connection Podcast. I’m your host, Mark Randall. I’ve known Anthony for some time now. We’ve got a connection via your hometown Koroit.  Anthony is a former teacher and environmental activists, The Sustainable hour 947Pulse Radio a grandfather of five and a radio content producer. Welcome to the podcast, Anthony.

Anthony [0:24] Good day Mark. How are you going? Good to be on.

Our Connection to Koroit

Mark [0:29] Now, our connections goes way back to a small town in the Western District called Koroit?

Anthony [0:37] It does indeed. Yes, that’s where I grew up and played a bit of footy in my formative years, I guess. It was Koroit and it’s changed considerably since.  I always look on it is very much as where my routes started, I guess.

Mark [0:59] I love the connections that the small communities like Koroit have. Everybody sort of knows everybody. They don’t get in each other’s back pockets, but it’s there ~ that sense of community support. It’s always there.

Connection to Koroit Football Club

Anthony [1:18] Yeah, for me, it centred very much around the Football Club, which has been very successful in the last I think it’s five years in a row.  They have won the Premiership.  We weren’t so successful in my day, which is a long time ago now.   It felt very much part of something.  I learned a lot from it. I stopped playing when I was probably in my early 20s, but I had this sense of the importance of teamwork.  There was something to aim for, and you achieved it.  We did this by everyone doing as well as they could.  That’s a lesson I’ve continued to carry right throughout life.  As a kid, we were complaining that there was nothing to people under 18 to do.  It was all centred around pubs and the very good man that was I guess that was nurturing us.  He was part of the youth group, the Catholic youth group and Paul Murchwitch. He was advising us or facilitating us or whatever, or just letting us develop. He just said, “What are you going to do about it”?  That was one to the great thing – to answer that question. We ended up organising this incredible dance. We held it in the picture theatre.  It was for pre-cinema days.  There were people in town, businesspeople that went guarantors for us.  And we’re signing contracts and doing media and I’ll never forget that.  Just from answering that question – like he challenged us, and it wasn’t like, what can I do?  It was what are you guys going to do about it? So, there was probably about a core group of half a dozen or so of us.  And we felt we could produce some magic at the end of it.  It’s feeling that again, that team teamwork that went into that.  And how the town rallied around it – that was really special.

Koroit’s Connection to the AFL

Mark [3:58] And also Koroit, has produced several wonderful AFL players, mate?

Anthony [4:03] Yeah, including one of my brothers.

Mark [4:06] That small town.  There’s not many in it, but I’ve produced some good players out of there.

Anthony [4:12] Yeah. I guess if you play – it’s interesting. Adrian Gleeson was – there’s eight of us we were a good Catholic family and he was number eight.  I guess he had from when he could crawl, he probably had brothers and sisters that were throwing things at him.  So, he certainly developed all those skills. And he ended up playing for Carlton Football Club for many years. But yeah, there are a number of others too. It was just something, it was kind of part of the culture and growing up. And I think an important part of it for me it was.

Men’s Connections to Sporting Clubs

Mark [4:55] How important are football clubs for men’s connection?

Anthony [5:00] Well, that was it at that time. For me growing up that was it. From juniors and you couldn’t get I think it was under 12’s or 13’s was the earliest I could play. But we were always playing in the backyard. We almost had a team between the lot of us – I was number three.

Mark [5:20] The Gleeson family?

Anthony [5:22] Yeah (Laughter).

Mark [5:25] Roll them out?

Connection to Families

Anthony [5:26] There was also a family not too far away that had 12 kids. So, between the two of us, there was always football being kicked around.  Yes, lots of games in the various paddocks we’d mow and stick up some posts and play – have a game of impromptu footy.  That happens all the time. Occasionally Dad would show up in his gumboots and put us all the shame.  Yeah, as you can tell lots of fond memories of that.  There wasn’t a whole lot of in my circle, anyway, there wasn’t a whole lot of sharing with the other players and talking about your feelings. It was – the young man, you didn’t cry. If you were hurting, you didn’t cry. It was you had to tough it out.  That wasn’t a good path but just hanging out with males older, it was very formative for me.

Men’s Connection to Our Old Social Conditioning

Mark [6:35] Men’s connection to themselves ~ the old traditional social conditioning hasn’t been that ~ it’s starting to change.  It hasn’t been the greatest. It’s taught us not to cry. It’s taught us to perhaps repress our vulnerability, our emotional health and our mental health?

Anthony [6:55] Yes. I couldn’t agree more and that has changed.  I think you hear a lot of – Like, I don’t know if this firsthand. But you hear of coaches – I’m a Collingwood Football Club supporter. You hear about Nathan Buckley, but not just him but other coaches who talk about their responsibility to work on – to develop citizens, as well as footballers.  And to encourage their players to get involved if there are issues that concern them that they stand up and take advantage of position on those.  None more recently, then the Black Lives Matter.  And how the whole sport, rallied around that. The big test is whether that is just token or whether it’s taken seriously by the clubs.  What are they going to be doing in six months around that – is just a one-off thing for them?  Players are encouraged to have an interest out of the sport and to develop all aspects of their lives.  The argument here is that if they did that, they’ll be a much more complete footballer. Which makes a lot of sense to me.

My Connections ~ Physically, Mentally, Emotionally & Spiritually

Mark [8:16] Over your journey, Anthony, how have you learnt to connect to yourself physically, mentally, emotionally spiritually?

Anthony [8:25] Well, I guess, role models. I was going to say a lot of role models. But some role models that have shown their vulnerability. Have shown that they’re, it’s okay to cry. For me, I guess it was about 10 years ago, I hit rock bottom. My marriage disintegrated and things weren’t looking all that good on the climate track as well. I spent about two to three months in a psychiatric institution.  It was like a retreat for me, but it just gave me the time as I was spending way too much time worrying about things that I couldn’t change.  I was getting frustrated by that and then my soul was getting destroyed really. And the time that I stayed in that institution I just learnt to take some time out, and it was okay. I did a lot of crying. Yes, I guess I did. That wouldn’t be like just staying in bed all day you had to get up and be part of a programme. So, I guess that comes back to that the teamwork ethic that you had to contribute.  And bit by bit I developed some and was encouraged to develop tools there to get yourself back on track again. That was a big learning for a lot of us, I guess. Yeah, it really developed me as a person. There was a lot of time and a lot of anguish involved. But I grew. I know I grew stronger through that having gone through going through that process. And I worked out what was important and worrying – I guess, I made a promise, if you like, to my self that I was worried about the problem wasn’t helping one little bit. So, being part of it and made the decision made to be part of the solution. And that has made all the difference for me, I guess.

Men Learning not to Connect to Our Emotions

Mark [10:58] I just wonder and just to follow that up a little bit on wondering whether we men because we were emotional beings early in our lives.

Anthony [11:05] Sorry, Mark I didn’t hear that.

Mark [11:08]   As men, I’m just wondering because we’re emotional beings early in life and we’re being taught to suppress it. Whether we then become over-analytical with issues and problems that at an emotional level?

Anthony [11:25] Yeah, possibly.  That makes a lot of sense. I think a lot of men self medicate to suppress those feelings. I chose a long time ago not to do that.  Like, I’m silly enough without putting alcohol in me. I don’t need that. But I think a lot of males do – that’s how they cope is drowning themselves and their sorrows or whatever in alcohol.  I don’t claim to be any better or any worse than any other male because of that. I think its kind of in a way forced me. Plus, the time I head off – the time I just referred to.  To just to reevaluate things.  I’ve lived a bit and I had a bit of life ahead of me and I guess there were choices. Shit was always going to happen. But what my response to it was the crucial thing was there.

Connecting to Letting Go

Mark [12:29] Was there a letting go?

Anthony [12:34] Oh, yeah, very much. It was a different, a completely different Anthony Gleeson, a Tony Gleeson that came out of that clinic, then went in.  There was a letting go of, of the past. Of the grief from a failed marriage.  Not a failed marriage, that puts a negative – it’s the best thing that happened to both of us that we split and went own ways. Yeah, and let go of concern around that and how that would be perceived by others. That I was a failure at.  I remember Mark, that one of the things that and I wasn’t used to this, but when I came home from signing the divorce papers and it was a really an amicable split. I went past – I guess I learnt the value of intuition this day. A went passed this paddock that I drove pasted everyday for be over 10 years.  Every school day – there was this stallion old stallion in the paddock.  Most of the time he’d be asleep or just laying down with no energy coming from him.  But his particular day, you know, that classic stallion poses of pouring at the air on two feet.  The back two feet and the front two feet are pouring at the air. And I thought to myself, I’m going to be alright. So, that was a kind of a signal for me that that – all this was going to pass, and I’d learnt from it and it was going to be okay.

Connection to Others is a Teamwork

Mark [14:31] As you work through it, and it passed and the symbolism of the stallion, how did that then change your connections to others? You’ve talked a lot about the teamwork, did it improve teamwork with others?

Anthony [14:48] I guess the team that I associated with myself when I was working as an action plan.  In the institution, I was in.  Was that I’d become part of the solution. So, I looked for groups or a group that (a) would just focus on solutions. And two, they believed in having a good time while they were doing it. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Like I did a bit of research, it was obvious that this group was one that I would benefit from and I could contribute to.  It just started me on on that journey then led me through further and deeper into climate activism. I made a lot of friends and people I still hanging out with and consider as friends. And there was a lot of males, what’s the word to our guess – de-male went on through that group as well.  It wasn’t about egos it was all about working together.  We all knew that no one was satisfied with the way the world was at that time. It’s still much the same.  There were better possibilities and it didn’t have to be like that. And it was just magic, I built strength through working with these people.  Just reaching out and things lead to things with other groups as well, of locally, nationally and internationally. And just feeling part of something bigger and people working for – they gave a shit about things.  They cared about people and the underdog and were prepared to act on and their conviction.

Connection to Environment was Passion & Purpose

Mark [17:00] In the connection to the environmental movement, did you find a sense of purpose and a passion within yourself?

Anthony [17:07] Oh, absolutely. Probably centering – I always had that.  I’d worked in lots of environmental conservation groups. But this was just focusing on creating this better world, that wasn’t dominated by stolen democracy. That wasn’t dominated by corrupted politics. It was with people-focused.

Mark [17:46] Community focused?

Anthony [17:48] Yes.

People Connection ~ Communities

Mark [17:50] Bring bringing it back to people connection?

Anthony [17:55] Yes.  You just can’t do it by yourself.  When there are other people that have shared values – you can go further together.

Mark 18:13] How uplifting is it, for you to connect to other like-minded souls to feed off each other’s passion and purpose for changing the environment and looking after the environment? How important is that to you?

Anthony [18:26] Everything.  Absolutely everything because that’s wherein a lot of ways with consumerism we’ve lost, to a large extent lost the idea, the idea of the community of working together.  It’s so much more about individuality.  This has not served us well at all and there’s a lot of collateral damage from that.  The climate movement to me is the antidote to that.  Where you feel and you know that you’re valued as a person.

Connecting to Others is Being a Part of Bigger Things

Anthony [19:08] You are part of a bigger thing, a bigger idea, a part of the communities that are prepared to work their arses off for this better planet.  For a safer, more just and healthier planet. That for me is worth getting up. And having five grandkids’ kind of narrows the focus again.  It’s just the whole purpose in life. I’m not existing anymore, I’m growing and thriving each day, I feel.

Mark [19:47] What do you believe is stopping people from connecting to the environment as you’ve connected to it and the other people your environmental collective.  What do you think is preventing people from connecting to the environment like that?

What is Stopping People Connecting to the Environment?

Anthony [20:02] That’s a good question. There are several PhDs in that in that topic and lots of books.  But for me, there are all sorts of things. There is a fear of what other people are going to say. There’s fear that no one else cares as I do. Maybe there are fears of – like, I think at some stage, we’re facing a climate emergency – you must make the decision whether you’re going to be engaged in civil disobedience of the non-violent variety.

Anthony [20:48] Yes. I don’t know.  Our system relies on us not feeling our own personal power.  We’ve all got a driving force within it if we allow it and a lot of people, I think fear that. It’s not that – they’re scared of standing up and it’s a lot easier to be apathetic.

Mark [21:20] Is it a bit like sort of standing up in the classroom as a student? You know, when we’re in primary school, secondary school, we must stand up in front of the classroom and, if we’re not confident or we’re shy.  Not too dissimilar to that?

Connected by a Media Label

Anthony [21:36] No, exactly. It’s – there’s a whole thing being associated with being – I guess our media has taught us a lot of negative things. And one of them is, if you put a label on someone, you can shut them up. So, you’ve called someone a communist or if you’d call them a ‘greeny’ or a ‘tree hugger’, that’s something they’ll be ashamed of.  And they won’t act in a way that gives them that label.  But the people that I associate with, they say, “well, that’s something I’m proud of.”  We’re standing up for this – we haven’t – like the decision to make that are making life worse for us and for generations to come.  And in a democracy, that just doesn’t happen. It’s not supposed to happen. So, let’s reclaim democracy.  There are several groups that are working in that space.  Groups that are working in climate justice. We are getting closer and closer to groups realising how are they similar, rather than how they are different.  Because they’re realising that if they focus on how they’re different, that’s going to cause a division and potential conflict.  And the only one that benefits from that is people who want the status quo.

Environmental Groups Connecting Together

Mark [23:12] So, the groups need to, let that go and connect and the more they connect then there all…

Anthony [23:18] And there’s more of that happening than there has been in the past.

Mark [23:25] One of the questions I ask as we move through this conversation, is the connection to the ‘All That Is.’ When you’re actually out in the environment ~  as a youngster, we used to spend a lot of time hiking through the Grampians.

Anthony [23:40] Yep. Beautiful place.

Mark [23:42] When you’re out in the bush, what happens to your mental health and your well-being?

Connection to Nature my Soul Soars

Anthony [23:49] (Laughter) It just goes a quantum leap.  You just realised that-that is something special.  Okay, I’ll put it this way. I went to church every week for many years and I never ever experienced the spirituality that I do when I’m out in the bush.

Mark [24:16] What happens to your Soul when you’re out in the bush?

Anthony [24:18] It absolutely soars. There’s much malaise that we face as a community, as a society today. And one of them is so many people just don’t get to experience that.  Your soul soaring is the way I’d like to explain it.  But that spiritual that there’s something bigger than us ~ whatever you want to call it. I don’t care but it’s just – you feel it. It’s a feeling that is in some ways is indescribable.  But there are thousands and probably millions of books and poems and songs have been written and recorded about it.  About that feeling and the importance of it.  And it’s been a crucial, crucial part of indigenous wisdom is a connection to the land. That’s not just restricted to indigenous peoples, but it’s certainly – it’s a major part of their, existence and were for the worse for not having that.

Mark [25:23] It’s interesting, isn’t it at the end of our lives, we are part ~ we do come back to we are part of the land at the end of our life’s?

Indigenous Connection to Environment is of Harmony

Anthony [25:43] Yeah, absolutely. And just referring to the indigenous, I’d like to drill down on that a little bit further. We have probably some of the harshest conditions on the planet. We’ve got a group of people that existed and thrive for over 100,000 years. And not by trying to extract from the land or exploit the land but by living with it.  There is a huge lesson for us, in surviving the climate emergency that we’re facing in the way they treated, their approach, their attitude to the land.  If we can regain that and a lot of us have.  If we can regain that, if we can normalise that, we’ll go a long way to getting where we need to be

Mark [26:37] We’re they in spirit, would they be in spiritual harmony with nature?

Anthony [26:44] Absolutely. Yeah, I spend a good part of my time in the city now and it’s something I didn’t ever think would happen. I miss being in nature.  I’m close to Maribyrnong River and that’s as close as I can get. But there are trees there and there’s water, which has been cleaned up and there are more trees that are planted. So, you know, it’s not hard to, wherever you want to experience nature. It just about making the effort, it’s not a bad investment, I reckon.

Connection to the Maribyrnong River

Mark [27:25] And as you spend time down the river, is it like mindfulness reset for you?

Anthony [27:35] Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Mark [27:37] Just a cleansing?

Anthony [27:39] Yeah. Well, mindfulness is one of the things – the tools that are referred to earlier.  I picked up in the clinic that I was in.  Just to slow your mind down and there’s a lot of value in that and meditation. Yeah, just an appreciation for what’s important. For me, that all comes together.  I spend a lot of time just as I’m walking to and fro around Footscray.  There’s a lot of roses and just smelling them. Just smelling those roses. And a lot of them are the old heritage ones.  They’re just such a great experience to do that. And for me, I must take time out to do that. I don’t do it enough. But I must take time out to do that.

Connection to a Pause ~ Smelling the Roses

Mark [28:41] And I know it’s a cliche ~ “we’ve got to stop and smell the roses”. When you stop and smell the roses, do out of your head and come into your body and your heart?

Anthony [28:55] Yeah, very much.

Mark [28:59] Does your body’s sing when you’re doing that and you smell and fragrance of the rose, just the beauty?

Anthony [29:07] Yeah, it comes alive to it.  I cease to exist, and I soar, I guess.  It’s hard to put into words but yeah, guess that’s as close as I can go.  It’s a simple thing but it’s – I guess it’s for me it’s nature maybe it’s because I, grew up in the country and I don’t have access to that anywhere near as clearly as I did then. Maybe that’s my compromise. It’s important and there’s an illness now that’s official that’s ‘nature deprivation disorder’. Those kids that grow up without experiences in nature, struggle and have mental-health issues later because of that.

Mark [30:01] There’s a Psychiatrist that wrote a book called, “Spark” John Ratey.  And in his book, Spark he was talking about in hospital wards, after recovering from surgery. They were putting pictures of nature up on walls in patients’ rooms.  Those that had pitches of nature, healed quicker than those that didn’t.

Anthony [30:25] Make sense.

Connection to My Confident Self

Mark [30:26] Make sense ~ Yeah. If you were to give advice.  I always put this question in. What advice would you give a young Anthony commencing his journey into life at this point in time?

Anthony [30:42] Right. Well, I think the main one be – for God sake don’t waste so much time being shy.  I spent I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in myself as a kid.  I guess I’m making up for that now to a certain extent.  Not speaking up, being a bystander when things were happening that I disagreed with.

Mark [31:14] And as a grandfather, how much loving reassurance from your heart, do you give to your grandchildren?

Anthony [31:26] I’m going all goosebumpy now. I’m going to put that into words too.  Oh, just that they’re special, you know they’re special human beings and I’ve got a role to play.  Contribute to this creation of a better world.

Mark [31:44] Is there anything we’ve missed Anthony in this conversation? Is there anything we’ve missed to add in to draw the conversation to a close?

Anthony [31:58] No, I just appreciate the time Mark, it really helps me to – the questions have really made me think a lot. And yeah, it’s good. It’s good to be able to those questions.  I think males to a large extent, males have been casualties of the women’s liberation movement.  I guess you’re talking about a male liberation movement where, it’s okay to be vulnerable, to talk about your fears, to cry, all those things.  I think that there’s been a lot of collateral damage.   A lot of males have been collateral damage to the women’s liberation movement. I think a lot of and that’s not putting that movement was necessary and it’s still necessary.  It’s left a lot of males lost, I think and they’re not sure where they belong.

Men are Awakening Thanks to the Women’s Movement

Mark [33:04] I wonder whether it’s encouraged us men to awaken to?

Anthony [33:09] Yes.

Mark [33:10] Our inner self and we need to thank the movement for that. To awaken and to redefine what masculinity is truly about. And my belief is that ~ if we’re coming to our hearts, there is pure masculinity in there, that’s not harmful. It’s very loving. It’s very reassuring and it’s very strong. It’s a bit like that stallion that you talk about.

Anthony [33:37] I couldn’t agree more. I think that there they have been I guess rather than overplay the comment about male casualties. There are some that have been. But if this journey is more and more males are going on this journey and are all the better for it.

Mark [34:04] And so will the world be better for it?

Anthony [34:07] Absolutely.

Mark [34:07] Ditto.

Mark [????] Let’s get rid of the male macho ego.

Anthony [34:14] Some countries are actually doing that in terms of electing female leaders.  Prime Ministers, and I think it’s prime ministers in three or four countries. And if you look at what’s happening on the climate front and social justice front, they’re the countries that are leading in those spheres. So, and I think, it’s old white males generally that that have had caused the damage, or allowed it to happen on their watch.

Mark [34:46] It is changing.  As you were talking about that, the New Zealand Prime Minister comes to my mind and the beautiful work that she’s done.  Through a lot of tragedy, she’s been really authentic and full of integrity and without blame.  Let’s work with it. Let’s move on.  All right mate, I’d really want to take this opportunity to thank you for the connection I’ve had to you for many years. I look forward to the continued connection. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing to raise consciousness about the importance of the environment and the importance of saving Mother Earth. And keep up the great work, mate.

Anthony [35:35] I fully intend to mark and you do the same.  I’ve got to acknowledge too, that in my darker period that I was going through that you were considerable assistance to me as a friend and professionally as well. So, thank you very much for that.

Mark [35:54] We’re blessed mate. Thank you.

Anthony [35:56] No worries.

Mark [35:57] Namaste.

Anthony [35:58] For sure.


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