Love and Courage

John Seed - Legendary 78 year old Australian environmental activist

February 20, 2024 Ruairí McKiernan
Love and Courage
John Seed - Legendary 78 year old Australian environmental activist
Show Notes

John Seed is a 78-year-old world-renowned Australian environmental educator, author, activist, artist and filmmaker. A recipient of the Australian government’s Order of Australia medal, John is the founder and director of the Rainforest Information Centre and, since 1979, has been involved in 100s of campaigns and education initiatives that have protected remaining rainforests and helped humanity rethink our relationship with nature. 

John and his family first came to Australia as Jewish refugees who experienced incredible hardship and devastating loss during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. They went on to create a new life in Australia, where John’s mother, Judy Cassab, went on to become one of Australia’s most celebrated painters.  John also has an artistic flair, and he and his mother had an exhibition together during the final years of Judy’s life. 

John has had a fascinating and adventurous path in life.

After a short career in computing with IBM, John joined the hippy trail, travelling overland through Afghanistan and onto India, where he studied meditation before arriving back in Australia and co-founding an intentional community in Bundjalung Country,  and the Northern Rivers ‘rainbow region’ of Northern NSW at Bodhi farm, which still exists to this day. 

It was here that John found his true calling, or it found him. As you’re about to hear, at the time, outside of Indigenous culture, there was little respect or appreciation for the value of rainforests, and they were being destroyed at an alarming rate. John joined locals in blockading the site at Terania Creek and said the experience at the time was as if nature was speaking to him. The protesters succeeded, and John went on to found the Rainforest Information Centre, a pioneering global organisation that has been instrumental in rainforest protection and conversation throughout Latin America, Cambodia, India, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the South Pacific. His work also helped initiate the creation of the US Rainforest Action Network.

John has written and lectured extensively on the concept of deep ecology. With Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming and Professor Arne Naess, he wrote "Thinking Like a Mountain - Towards a Council of All Beings" which has been translated into 12 languages including Korean and Tibetan.

In 1987 he co-produced a television documentary, "EARTH FIRST!" for Australian national television about the struggle for the rainforests. In 2003 he spearheaded RIC's endangered species campaign and made the film "On The Brink" with David Attenborough, David Suzuki, Olivia Newton-John and Jack Thompson. You can find that via the Rainforest Information Centre online, as well as lots of other great videos, including one of John in conversation with Ram Dass in 1992.

In 2021 – after an arduous and prolonged struggle with life-threatening cancer, John got back in the saddle and jumped straight into action. Some of his campaigning at this time helped lead to Ecuador's Constitutional Court ruling that mining in the Los Cedros Protected Forest is a violation of the constitutional rights of nature and is therefore prohibited in the forest. This has created an important national and worldwide precedent.

More recently, John was involved in the Rising Tide blockade of coal ships leaving the world's Largest Coal Port in Newcastle, NSW. 3000 protesters gathered, and John was one of over 100 people in Kayaks arrested as part of a collective stand against Australia’s continued investment in fossil fuels.   

I should add that John is also an accomplished songwriter and has produced 5 albums of environmental songs, as well as numerous other environmental films.