The Tipping Points: One Woman’s Inspiring Exploration Of Rising Sea Levels

Liz Courtney

Environmental Expert

10/04/2014

Sydney mum Liz Courtney traded in her corporate life to direct documentary films. Here, Liz shares her exclusive behind-the-scenes story of her six part eco TV series The Tipping Points. Here’s part five of Liz’s journey, Oceans – The Last Frontier. Be inspired…  

Liz Courtney, director of The Tipping Points, and her crew venture to some of the most fragile regions in the world – all ecological tipping points, where the slightest environmental change could impact the entire globe and life as we know it. In the first four episodes, Liz and her team explore Greenland, the Amazon rainforest risks, the droughts and floods occurring in Africa, and the consequences of Methane and CO2 being released in the Arctic. Here’s part five of Liz’s incredible journey around the globe, Oceans – The Last Frontier, in her bid to help save the planet. Follow Liz’s behind-the-scenes journey as she filmed and directed The Tipping Points each week on www.thecarousel.com and tune in to watch the show on Sunday nights at 8:30pm from on Channel 34 (NITV/SBS).

Tipping Points Ocean 1

Director of The Tipping Points docu-series, Liz Courtney, exploring the far southern coastlines of Australia  on the way to the Great Southern Ocean with the film crew.

Deploying an Argo ocean measurement system part of over 3,000units that are now reading, recording and creating a global picture of how our oceans are changing.  

Episode 5: Oceans -The Last Frontier

Oceans – The Last Frontier explores the inter-connected relationship between the oceans and the Climate System of Australia, the second most vulnerable nation to climate change.

In this episode, we follow the journey of climate journalist Bernice Notenboom, as she meets up with two Australian Indigenous climate ambassadors’, Narelle Long and Malcolm Lynch. Their journey takes them across the South Pacific from the Great Southern Oceans to the Tiwi Islands, and across to The Great Barrier Reef. Science and Indigenous wisdom unite to look at Oceans – The Last Frontier, and the effects being felt on a continent surrounded by ocean.

This was a special episode for me to direct, here in Australia. Narelle Long and Malcolm Lynch were two young Indigenous people I had the privilege to take with me on a separate expedition and documentary I filmed in Antarctica in 2010, so it was lovely to reconnect with them. This time we were able to visit their own communities in Australia to investigate if things were changing in their environment, and if so, how and why.

What potentially disastrous climatic changes did you discover?

The oceans are changing, which affects the currents, tides, fishing zones, sea level rise , coastal erosion and bush tucker.  In Oceans – The Last Frontier, we explored the impacts on the far north of Australia and the Indigenous communities across this region – what they have been witnessing, and how these changes threaten the very fabric of their culture and community.

Tipping Points Ocean 2

Climate journalist Bernice Notenboom with local fisherman in Tuvalu.

Tipping Points Ocean 3

Visible impact of sea-level rise and king tides on coastal communities.

Tipping Points Ocean 4

Climate journalist Bernice Notenboom heads to Heron Island Research Centre on the Great Barrier Reef.

How did the Indigenous communities help with climatic change evidence?

We filmed in the Daly River Community, which is located approximately 4-5 hours south of Darwin. We detoured slightly so we could meet Narelle’s grandmother and elders. It was fascinating to hear how their calendar is shaped around their hunting cycles, however, alarming, to hear the changes they are experiencing. For example, their hunting cycles have changed, the dragon flies don’t come to their communities anymore and the long neck turtles are no longer plentiful. They explained how their mother earth is giving them mixed messages and that she is changing.

We also filmed with Malcolm’s family on the Tiwi Islands, which is a group of islands located about 80km north of Darwin, where the Arafura Sea joins the Timor Sea. Again, the elders revealed alarming environmental changes. Like the Daly River Community, their hunting cycles had changed. They also explained how the wattle was flowering three months earlier and that the dugong’s seasonal migration had moved. These environmental and climate changes not only affect their local culture and their ability to live off the land – rising sea levels is a growing concern for everyone, here and in the communities and worldwide.

Tipping Points Ocean 5

Rising sea level and king tides are impacting on the waste storage of this community.

Tipping Points Ocean 6

Oceans are encroaching on community land, but for some big waves are fun!

What about the Great Barrier Reef?

We travelled to Heron Island Research Station where we spent several days filming with the scientists from the CSIRO (The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national science agency). We caught the back end of a cyclone, so the weather was wild, although it was nothing like the ferocity of the far arctic sea.

Tipping Points Ocean 7

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is facing the biggest environmental changes this century.

Tipping Points Ocean 8

Changes are already being noticed on the Great Barrier Reef as acidification and coral bleaching raise the alarm bells. 

What can we do to help save the planet and prevent further climate change?

If we could work to reduce our personal carbon footprint by just 5% then collectively we could make a huge difference and start to turn the tide around. It takes a combination of a collective way of thinking and living that can become a new carbon footprint for all of us to aspire to, achieve and then live. Changing a carbon footprint could include:

  • shopping locally, buying produce that’s grown locally.
  • turning off all power plugs overnight.
  • not leaving lights on during the day
  • using low wattage globes
  • walking to the shops when possible
  • taking public transport where possible
  • purchasing bikes and using them before a car to travel around the local area
  • working on reducing your electricity bill  by 5%
  • recycling clothes with friends rather than always buying something new ( how many of us have things in our wardrobe we have not worn, impulse purchase, or been given and it’s the wrong size or colour)
  • read the labels on clothes and avoid chemicals -synthetics that are full of chemicals take up to 30 years to breakdown in landfill
  • wear clothes more often before you wash them
  • explore solar power panels on your roof and start making your own power
  • explore recycling grey water  for the garden
  • start a community Carbon Zero group and meet quarterly to explore ways you can reduce the carbon footprint in your area.

Take a leadership role in your family, with friends open the dialogue and explore new ideas and ways you can reduce your footprint by 5% and make a pledge to try for the next three months to make a difference. Put out the pledge on Facebook and see how many of your friends will join you on this quest.

Get involved

Tell us how you have tried to reduce your carbon footprint. It could be as simple as turning lights off at night, or limiting your tumble dryer use. Every little bit helps, so let’s start the discussion here and make a difference together.

For more information visit:

The Tipping Points or read about Liz’s behind-the-scenes journey with the film crew on the links below:

1. GREENLAND ICE MELT 
2. AMAZON RAINFOREST RISKS 
3. AFRICA ALARMED – DROUGHTS AND FLOODS
4. ARCTIC PERMAFROST PERIL 
5. OCEANS DANGEROUS RISE 
6. INDIA WATER CRISIS