Environmental conservationist, animal activist and primary school teacher Malin Frick has kicked more life goals in the past few years than most people even get to dream of in their entire life time. Although petite in stature, with flowing blonde locks and a gentle, childlike spirit, she is undoubtedly a fearless and determined warrior of the modern day. I can visualise her clearly, immobilising a fully loaded army tank just with sheer, gritty tenacity, a warm smile and a diplomatic spiel of tact and reason. Luckily, for mother nature and for the children of Sydney her dreams aren’t dwindling and, for her there are plenty more ships to be sailed and plenty more mountains to climb.

Aboard the Sea Shepherd. Photo credit Sea Shepherd

Aboard the Sea Shepherd.
Photo credit Sea Shepherd

Over 70 countries have been explored by Frick with intensive animal rescue and rehabilitation missions spanning from the steamy jungles and scorched plains of Borneo, Cameroon, Rwanda and Thailand to her latest mission aboard the celebrated conservation vessel the Sea Shepherd in the icy white, glacial landscapes of The Artic.

Photo Credit - Sea Shepherd

Photo Credit – Sea Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

She is passionate, committed, kind and inspiring and currently working as a learning support teacher and environmental group leader in Sydney’s Crown Street Public School. Frick talks the talk and walks the walk and has a dedicated herd of children followers who listen to her every word and now regularly take part in environmental rallies and community focused activities. Current classroom projects include the analysing of playground litter and the effects of plastic rubbish on our environment, how to appropriately write letters of environmental and animal welfare concern to members of parliament and how to help injured wildlife.

‘Get inspired, make changes and educate others’

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Malin Frick with Environmental Group member Ava at Crown Street Public School. Photo by Darren J Topliss for Iconic and Vintage 2014

  Heritage History Influences 

I grew up in a small village close to the city Helsingborg in southern Sweden, really close to Denmark. We often took the ferry to Denmark to do our weekly grocery shopping. It only takes 20 minutes and the ferry goes 24/7. The village is small and pretty and the CBD (at the time) was the big horse paddock. It’s close to the coast and I often rode my bicycle down to the ocean to look for polished rocks. The village is surrounded by hills and I often walked the hills looking at tadpoles, frogs and salamanders. Sweden has 4 seasons and when spring comes and you see the flowers and tree starting to blossom again, it’s truly amazing. All schools have competitions who can find the first sign of spring – often a coltsfoot (A beautiful yellow wildflower that comes up through the last snow) – so naturally nature has always been a part of my life.

My grandma gave me a book called ‘All animals and plants in Sweden’ and before I could read, I looked at the pictures and I went out looking for different birds, plants and animals in the wild. For Christmas I wanted animal sound effects rather than the latest ABBA album.

Once I started school I already knew a lot about nature so it was natural for me to continue to learn more. I rescued injured birds, ladybugs and snails and I felt a bond with all of them. My favourite shows on TV was never “The Muppets” or “Sesame Street” – it was David Attenborough and other nature shows.

I started to travel at a young age and I planned my travels around seeing animals in the wild.

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By the age of 23 I had already travelled all through Africa (from north to south) from Cairo to Cape Town to see elephants, lions, cheetahs and many more beautiful animals.

It took me a while to decide what to study at university. I was thinking about a career as a vet but I was worried that I could not cope putting animals down and I have never been a fan of seeing blood either so I decided to rethink my decision.

I started to work as a casual teacher at the age of 19 and before long I decided to get my teaching degree just because it seemed like a lot of fun (and it was) and I thought that the best lessons and most inspiring teachers were the ones who spoke from their heart. You could tell who was just there to teach the curriculum or the ones who made the lessons fun and interesting because they were passionate about their subjects – this lead me to to where I am today.

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Child Crusader

I was 9 years old when I joined the children’s department of Animal Liberation in Sweden. I started to subscribe to their newspaper “Animal Rights” and a whole new world opened up to me. I learnt about factory farming, fur, circuses and leather and my love for animals just grew bigger. How could so many people not care? I decided to do something and teach everyone I knew about animals and their situation – from farm animals to insects to big endangered species.

Teaching Change

I believe in change but no one changes unless they know how to. You can also not except anyone to change if they are not aware of the environmental problems we have on this planet. I have a background in special education and I learnt quite quickly there that the students want to learn more if they are interested in the topic. I make sure that what we learn is linked to the curriculum (science, English, Maths, IT, history, social studies etc.) but I make it as interesting as possible. To teach with passion I believe you need to be passionate about what you teach about. When someone speaks from their heart and talk about their own experiences they seem to mesmerise the audience (in this case the students) more and they become more interested too. I love it when I see that all shark books are on loan in library after we’ve had a shark lesson or how I get letters and notes from students who have studied at home out of their own interest because they have also become passionate about conservation. No homework needed – they do it because they love it!

unnamed-22Significant Moments

One of my biggest memories is from early this year when I was down in Antarctica with the ocean conservation organisation “Sea Shepherd” to stop the illegal whalers from Japan to kill whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. I lived on a ship in Antarctica for about 4 months and our only goal was to find the illegal Japanese whalers and try to shut them down. The illegal Japanese whalers are very persistent “scientists” (as they would like to call themselves) – they threw bamboo spears, screws and other items at us, they tried to destroy our propeller and rudder and on one occasion they even rammed our ship. It’s a very bizarre situation to be in since they are the ones illegally killing whales (claiming it’s for research) and they are constantly trying to make out that we are the bad ones. “Sea Shepherd” is the only organisation in the world who are willing to go down to Antarctica in these rough conditions to reinforce international law and trying to stop this illegal killing of endangered species.

Photo Credit - Sea Shepherd

Photo Credit – Sea Shepherd

Biggest Environmental Concerns

There are many dangers facing animals, from live export, factory farming, circuses, horse racing, dog racing, to loss of habitat due to us humans. If I must pick three issues that I find very worrying that would be:

Palm oil: Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil on the planet, accounting for 65% of all vegetable oil traded internationally. Palm oil is a common ingredient of margarines, biscuits, breads, breakfast cereals, instant noodles, shampoos, lipsticks, candles, detergents, cleaning products, chocolates and ice creams. It’s in most everyday household products. An area of forest equal to 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour in Malaysia and Indonesia. The burning of forests to clear land for palm oil plantations is a major cause of air pollution in Southeast Asia. It releases CO2 into the atmosphere which contributes to global warming and the deforestation for the establishment of palm oil plantations is responsible for habitat loss for threatened and endangered species. Some species impacted by forest clearing are the Asian elephant, tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros and orangutans. In some cases, forest clearance has forced indigenous peoples off their land, deprived them of their livelihoods and reduced essential ecosystem services such as clean water and fertile soil. For example, government data has shown that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades. This either occurs during the deforestation process, or after the animal enters a village or existing palm oil plantation in search of food. Many experts estimate orangutans could be extinct in the wild in less than 25 years.

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Factory farming: While meat consumption has increased greatly, the number of meat producers has significantly reduced. Today, very few animals roam freely on traditional farms. Most animals produced for food in suffer behind the closed doors of large industrial facilities known as factory farms. They are treated like commodities in a production line and their pain and distress is disregarded in the pursuit of profit. Factory farming causes the most suffering to the largest number of animals in Australia – more than 500 million every year. They have no voice, cannot defend themselves and are legally classified as ‘property’.Imagine the number of animals worldwide suffering in factory farms! It’s not only their suffering that worry me – it’s also how their misery contributes to global warming and lack of water for many people. Livestock covers 45% of Earth’s total land. We are wiping out wild species and destroy their habitats so we can keep livestock. The meat and dairy industry use 29% of all the fresh water in the world. This fresh water could be used to grow vegies and feed more people. Livestock and their by-products actually account for at least 32,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (Co2) per year or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse emissions. We don’t need to eat animals to survive. For me, meat is the body of someone who wanted to live!

Operation Relentless.  Photo Credit - Sea Shepherd

Operation Relentless.
Photo Credit – Sea Shepherd

Ocean Conservation: Overfishing (Over 100 million tons of fish are pulled from our oceans every year), dumping of waste, shark finning and shark nets (100 million sharks are killed annually for their fins – that is about 8000 every hour) Sharks are top predators in the oceans and have been around for more than 450 million years. They are essential for the ocean’s ecosystem and we have nearly killed them to extinction. Populations of many shark species have fallen by over 90%. Since 1972 the number of blacktip sharks has fallen by 93%, tiger sharks by 97% and bull sharks, dusky sharks and smooth hammerheads by 99%. About 23,000 dolphins are killed annually in Japan. The prettiest ones caught and sold to different SeaWorlds across the world to be used there for entertainment and the rest are being brutally slaughtered in the cove in Taiji. The migrating dolphins are herded into a cove where they are netted and killed by means of spears and knives over the side of small fishing boats. Illegal whaling is another big concern for me. The Japanese government go down every year to “scientific research” (kill whales) in the international whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica. They set their own quota of killing about 1035 endangered Minkie, humpback and fin whales. They call it research but as soon as the whale is harpooned, the chop it in to meat size pieces and put it in freezers and throw the rest overboard.

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Malin’s Everyday tips to Help Save Our Environment

Eat less meat, but if you insist on it make sure you buy from free-range farms where the animals have been allowed to spend time outdoors.

Don’t wear fur (these animals are severely tortured throughout their lives).

Avoid palm oil (often labelled as vegetable oil) as much as possible.

Take public transport or car pool.

Pick up rubbish and litter.

Look at the amount of waste you have in your household and try and half it. Recycle everything you can.

Pay extra for renewable energy (if you can afford it).

Turn off lights when you are not at home.

Save water (don’t brush your teeth with the tap running etc)

Rescue a dog or cat from a pound instead of insisting of getting a puppy/kitten.

Join an animal organisation, it can be anything from picking up injured animals and taking them to the vet or doing the washing for an animal shelter.

Avoid silly plastic that will only go to the landfill; soy fish containers (when you have sushi), plastic bags, straws etc.

Get a toothbrush made of bamboo. Over 30 million toothbrushes in Australia alone go to landfill every year.

Buy second hand or furniture made of recycled materials.

Buy toilet paper made from recycled paper – honestly do we need to chop down trees for people going to the toilet?

And most importantly – educate others!

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Malin Frick at Crown Street Public School. Photo by Darren J Topliss for Iconic and Vintage 2014

Countries that we can learn from.

You have a country such as Bhutan who has banned all pesticides and herbicides and embraced organic farming. You also have strong environmental movements in Bolivia where now all McDonalds have been forced to close down due to lack of customers. The locals where not interested in eating junk food. If you look at Environmental Performance Index, there are many things to consider and it may not always give the honest perspective of the country. I do believe Australia needs a cash for containers deposit scheme put in place as soon as possible to avoid more landfill and there are countries such as Sweden and Germany who have had these schemes in place for more than 50 years. You can also turn waste into energy. In Sweden, for example, many of the buses run on food scraps from restaurants.

The Sea Shepherd. Photo credit Sea Shepherd.

The Sea Shepherd. Photo credit Sea Shepherd.

Malin’s December Calendar

13th December there is a rally in Sydney at Town Hall between 12 and 1pm to save pigs and educating people about pig factory farming.

15th December there is a free event at Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre showing the very important movie “Earthlings” at 7.30pm. This is a documentary about animals used for food, entertainment, clothing, medical experiments and pets. It’s not suitable for children due to its graphic images.

I’ll also like to promote for you to organise an event. Organise a beach clean up with your friends, invite people over and watch a documentary such as “The Cove”, “Earthlings, “Blackfish”, “Sharkwater”, “Fork over knives”. Spread the message, inspire others!

Malin’s Recommended Charities to Donate to this Christmas

I would recommend people to donate money to the international ocean organisation “Sea Shepherd”. (http://www.seashepherd.org.au/) They receive no government funding and their crew risk their lives every year going down to stop the illegal killing of whales in Antarctica.

I would also recommend “Peanuts Funny Farm”. (http://www.peanutsfunnyfarm.org.au/) It’s a small animal charity in NSW where they bring as many disadvantaged, neglected and abused children and animals together as possible and provide care and rehabilitation for both. They provide care and rehabilitation for many neglected, abused animals, and nurturing for children from dysfunctional backgrounds.

Ocean Care Day 2014 Manly Beach, Sydney with Crown Street Public School pupils Eva and Ella.

Ocean Care Day 2014 Manly Beach, Sydney with Crown Street Public School pupils Eva and Ella.

 Plans for Christmas and Beyond

I’ll be celebrating a white Christmas this year. I was in Antarctica last Christmas but this time I’ll be heading to Sweden to celebrate Christmas with family and friends that I haven’t seen for nearly three years.

In the future, I plan to continue to be the voice for the voiceless (animals) and be an inspirational teacher for my students. I will continue to fight for the future of this planet.

 Iconic and Vintage wishes to thank Crown St School, Principal Craig Neilson, Malin Frick and guest photographer Darren J Topliss.