Bob Brown: “It’s not hard being Green”

Bob Brown has covered a lot of turf in his 71 years. He forever changed the Australian political landscape and has fought to preserve our physical landscape, from the Franklin River to his current campaign in the Tarkine wilderness. Bob is a former GP, lifelong environmental activist, groundbreaking Greens politician, author and landscape photographer. In all his pursuits he is determined – feisty, even – which is just the type of character we admire at The Planthunter. For the Man issue this month, we talk to Bob about his greatest personal achievements and lessons learnt from the plant kingdom.

Please tell us about about yourself and what you do.
I am a 71-year-old former GP from Tasmania. I became a campaigning environmentalist when I realised that most of my patients were suffering anxiety-related illnesses such as hypertension, stomach ulcers and a giddy array of rashes. Yet the natural planet is our biggest storehouse for rest and recreation. Why dam a wild river to provide more electricity to build more tranquilliser factories?

What does it mean to you to be a man?
It means to be alive, along with 7.4 billion other human beings, the biggest herd of mammals ever to graze the planet. These are times of impending catastrophe as well as fantastic opportunity.

The question is: Do we have the intelligence to match and overcome our instinctive greed?

What has been your most significant personal achievement?
Helping save Tasmania’s world heritage wilderness, including the wild Franklin River, as well as casting the vital Senate vote to a 40 billion dollar package which saved Australia from recession (and the loss of 200,000 jobs) in the Senate in the global financial crisis of 2009.

What’s your worst habit?
Routinely failing to share enough with the one billion people in abject poverty.

What do you regard as man’s worst habit?

'Paul's Farm, Randalls Bay, Tasmania'. Photo by Bob Brown.

Which female in history or the present day do you admire and why?
Hypatia, in 400AD the world’s leading mathematician and philosopher. Despite repeated threats she stuck to her beliefs until Archbishop Cyril of Alexandria had her carted though the streets and cut to pieces in front of his new Christian cathedral.

If you were a plant, what would you be?
A pansy.

Bright, showy and rendering many a human being to thoughts of love and devotion. Pansies deserve a better reputation.

Is it really a man’s world?
No, we’ve mucked it up. So over to women it is more safely going.

What is one piece of wisdom (a saying, a philosophy for life, etc.) that you learnt from your dad/grandfather?
Don’t be silenced by bigwigs, braggarts or bishops (Dad).

What is one characteristic or trait that you inherited from your mum/grandmother?
Listening carefully to others.

If you had to make a garden with 3 plants, what would they be and why have you chosen each of them?
Tomatoes (unbelievably tasty from the garden), potatoes (fill any empty stomach) and celery (you actually lose weight while eating it!).

What do you love most about women?
At the risk of being sexist, women think more long-term.

Name one thing you couldn’t live without.

What would you be doing in an alternate life or career?
Landscape photography.

What’s one lesson you’ve learnt from the plant kingdom?
Kermit was wrong: it’s not hard being Green.

You can visit the Bob Brown Foundation website to find out more about Bob’s ongoing environmental campaigns. Information about his books and landscape photography can also be viewed here.

The landscape photos for this story are the work of Bob Brown and used with his permission. The portrait of Bob is by Russell Shakespeare.

'Mist in the Grampians, Vic.' Photo by Bob Brown.
Bob Brown. Photo by Russell Shakespeare.