The Great Climate Comeback: Sport’s Role in Averting Climate Crisis

Title slide for my podcast conversation with Dr Sheila Nguyen, ED of the Sports Environment Alliance

This Black Summer in Australia saw a national T20 cricket match cancelled due to smoke, international tennis players choking on the pollution, and sports facilities burned down around the country. A few weeks ago, Australia’s Federal Opposition leader Anthony Albanese tweeted: “It’s Australian Open time. The eyes of the world are on us. The world is seeing air so toxic that players are collapsing and others are needing medical treatment. We can’t just sit by and accept this as the new normal. We need climate action – now.”


Leaving aside the apparent contradictions in some of Mr Albanese’s other statements, this one well reflects our reality. And while fundraising by elite sport for communities most directly affected by the fires has been brilliant, and sport has been such an effective advocate in other areas of cultural life, the climate and extinction crises continue to threaten the places we love, and the things we love doing, including sport.


So what role can sport play in reversing the trajectory of these crises, and furthering regenerative change?


Dr Sheila Nguyen has been working at bringing together sports from around the country over the last decade or so to explore just that. Sheila is co-founder and Executive Director of the Sports Environment Alliance. Its members range from the biggest clubs in the land, to the smallest – from the reigning Australian Rules premiers the Richmond Tigers Football Club, to the Swamp Rats cricket club with its 20 members down Albany way here in WA, along with local governments and others with responsibilities around sport. It goes by the hashtag #noplanetnoplay.


Sheila was among the 2019 Australian Financial Review Top 100 Women of Influence, and is about to head to London next month to co-chair and MC the UN Sport for Climate Action’s Sport Positive event at Wembley Stadium (this is the UN framework for sports to play a role in averting climate crisis). But as a lonely, overweight daughter of Vietnamese refugees, none of this seemed likely. Until sport changed her life.


Sheila was in Perth late last year hosting an event with the West Coast Eagles Football Club. She kindly asked me along, and the next day we sat down for a conversation about it all. If you fancy a listen, you can tune in to episode 54 of The RegenNarration wherever you get your podcasts, or by clicking here.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Anthony James

AJ is a 5th gen Australian living with his family by the ocean in the city of Perth, on traditional Noongar lands. He is host of The RegenNarration podcast, teaches and talks on regenerative development, plays music and writes a bit. His writing has found its way into The Conversation, World Economic Forum and elsewhere. But when he saw the Almanac, he remembered he wanted to be a sports writer.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    The sporting field will certainly be one area where the effects of climate change will have severe ramifications as recently seen. It’s pleasing to see someone such as Dr Sheila Nguyen take up the mantle in the name of sport. Off to the podcast now!

  2. If we can look at the role of sport,and of course sporting figures, in taking up the struggle against our dangerously changing climate what can we expect from challenging the role of corporate sponsors?

    We’ve seen issues over the last few years, though a bit less so in 2020, of extreme heat impacting on the Australian Open. Roger Federer one of the all time ‘good guys’ on the circuit found himself on the defensive when talking about the sponsorship role played by Credit Suisse, who are heavily linked with the fossil-fuel industry.

    Anthony please jog my feeble old memory when you talk about a national T20 match cancelled by smoke. It was a BBL match ? I’m aware of the impact of the smoke on a Sheffield Shield clash @ the SCG though the match was played to the conclusion.


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