Jeanette Fitzsimons, who died this month, didn’t know me. But I certainly knew her.
She was my lecturer for the Environmental Science paper I did as part of my degree at Auckland University and she filled our heads with the urgency of global warming – that was in the early 1980s. Her ability to give us even the most complex science in digestible bites, without dumbing it down, meant her lectures were always well attended. She often arrived at the lectern as if straight from her organic farm, wearing a dress and muddy gumboots; it was obvious that she walked the walk. She went out of her way to sort out a course clash I had when no one else would, with patience, firmness and kindness.
As co-leader of the Green Party, she spoke at a meeting in Whangaparāoa in 2009 that I reported on. I saw her at the airport last year and we exchanged a smile. None of this amounts to much, but it was a valued connection. As tributes flow in from across the political spectrum, it is clear that I am among so many others who valued her intelligence, commitment and mana. A mighty totara has indeed fallen.
Photo, Hibiscus Matters, 2009.