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Indira Naidoo: It’s all about love

Adelaide Festival

TV newswoman turned green thumb Indira Naidoo will be a guest at WOMADelaide to speak about topics close to her heart: edible gardening and food sustainability.

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Naidoo, who recently published her second book The Edible City, will be part of the music festival’s Planet Talks.

She will join Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki and 2015 Young Environmentalist of the Year Amelia Telford in a panel discussion titled What’s Love Got to Do With It?. It will consider whether “winning the battle for our hearts” –  cultivating people’s love for the environment – might be more important than “economics, politics and carbon numbers” when it comes to encouraging sustainability.

“I was excited about the title because I’ve become a walking example of exactly that,” Naidoo tells InDaily.

“Intellectually, I understood the pressures on the environment, but until I started growing my own vegetables, I didn’t understand the love connection.”

Familiar to many Australians from her days as a television news reporter and presenter for the ABC and SBS, having started with the ABC in Adelaide in 1990, Naidoo later worked for consumer advocacy organisation Choice, where she ran a number of national food campaigns, and as a sustainability communications consultant with the International Trade Centre. Her “green” credentials were sealed in 2009 when she did a traineeship with former US president Al Gore to work with the Climate Reality Project.

But it seems Naidoo’s real epiphany came about through personal experience.

Living in Sydney, she says she was one day struck by the sad realisation that she had had no contact with any living plants in an entire day.

On another occasion, sitting on the tiny balcony of her 13th-floor apartment in the suburb of Potts Point, she found herself pondering the densely populated urban surrounds.

“I had this moment of looking out into this amazing dense piece of peninsular with all these people; all these terraces and roofs getting free sunshine and lots of rain. But what was it doing?

“So much of connecting with nature is the food you eat, and what we’re we eating; where is it coming from?

“I realised I could address a lot of these questions. I could grow my own food, it would be chemical-free, it would be where I live, and I would be greening my space.”

That led to the publication of Naidoo’s first cookbook, The Edible Balcony, which recounts her balcony gardening triumphs and challenges. It was followed this year by The Edible City, which tells the stories of a range of urban community gardens she has visited – from a rooftop worm farm at a restaurant, to a school bush-tucker garden – as well as containing recipes and sustainable gardening tips.

One of the questions the Planet Talk session will address is whether increasing urbanisation is leading to people losing their connection with nature and, if so, how this might be changed.

Naidoo certainly believes city dwellers have a strong appetite to learn more about edible gardening.

“When you start growing and cooking your own food, you realise how enjoyable it is,” she says.

“That was the journey for me – coming from a very global intellectual way of looking at nature and our connection to it, to now really seeing myself as an urban farmer.

“I had no idea that the gift of joy of watching a tomato grow would be so great that I almost didn’t want to eat it – it was such a beautiful thing.”

Naidoo says she rarely misses working in news broadcasting. The thing she most loved about her old roles was the communication of ideas ­– and she is still communicating ideas, but through different platforms.

“What I enjoy about my journalism now is that I’m telling the stories I think are important and that more people need to hear about … one of the things mainstream television news has a problem with is that it only tells the mainstream stories.

“I sort of almost see myself as a bridge between these two worlds.”

Describing herself as a “huge fan” of WOMADelaide, Naidoo says she is thrilled to join the Planet Talks panel, where she will be reunited with Suzuki, whom she met while doing the Al Gore climate change training. Suzuki will also be giving the Planet Talks keynote address.

And as to the question of What’s Love Got to Do With It?, the answer – for Naidoo, at least – is everything.

“Now I see those deadened expressionless faces on commuters and I think, honestly, you just need to hug a tree,” she says, laughing.

“You can feel the difference. So for me it really has been a love connection with the environment.”

The WOMADelaide 2016 Planet Talks program announced today also includes American academic and author Naomi Oreskes, Australian science advocates Professor Tanya Monro and Dr Karl Kruzelnicki, cartoonist First Dog on the Moon, and PR experts Dee Madigan and Jane Caro. There will be two workshops – Composting 101 and Designing and Maintaining a Sustainable Garden.

The 2016 WOMADelaide will be at Botanic Park from March 11-14, 2016.

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