Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Vale Frank Fisher

with 16 comments

Frank Fisher, environmental educator, academic and theorist, electrical engineer, understandascoper, social constructionist, constant cyclist, chronic disease sufferer and friend died yesterday (August 21, 2012). His is a great loss to us all. His contributions to what we might call deep social learning, where environmental issues are solved not by learning about environmental loss, but by learning about the social constructions that led to that loss, are invaluable. He also taught and understood the wisest lessons about behaviour and habit. If a person wants change, they have to live it.

On June 25th the Understandascope, one of Frank’s major projects was launched at The Edge in Federation Square Melbourne where the above photo was taken. It wasn’t the Crohn’s Disease that got him; diagnosed with a brain tumour late least year, Frank was affected at the launch, but still quietly defiant, as he has always been when faced by what seem like insurmountable obstacles. Kate Auty, a former student Victoria’s Commissioner Environmental Sustainability, wrote a brief tribute after the event (she’s far left in the group photo).

The top photo is how I will remember Frank, his look: kind, curious (quizzical) and pained. For those of you who didn’t have the privilege to know Frank, have a look at the Understandascope, read his latest book Understand Ability. His work will be carried on by the many people he taught, by those who were his colleagues and his friends (and so many were all three, including Anthony James, convenor of the Understandascope and Fran MacDonald appearing with Kate and Frank in the group photo).

Update: A public memorial service for Frank Fisher will be held at the Edge Theatre, Federation Square on Saturday 15 September, from 11am. Further details.


Written by Roger Jones

August 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm

16 Responses

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  1. Let’s be Frank. Truly. I looked out of the train window today but I didn’t see him on his bike today and I never shall again. Never in too much of a hurry to stop and chat and talk about really important stuff. It was a surprisingly warm day and as the sun set, wandering up Collins Street I could not help thinking the cyclists were a sign that Frank’s work here was done. Its our job to keep it up.


    August 22, 2012 at 9:24 pm

  2. Frank lived near me when he was in town. Our paths crossed occasionally on various sustainability-related issues. I heard he was seriously ill a couple of years ago. Now I’m sorry to hear he is gone. Hopefully in the end he was satisfied with his life. He was a pioneer who made pretty good use of his time here.

    Douglas Evans

    August 23, 2012 at 8:55 am

  3. Frank had me for two years doing his unique systems theory subject as part of my enviro science masters at Monash. He was a kind and generous teacher, truly an original and inspiring human being. It’s a real loss.


    August 23, 2012 at 9:30 am

  4. Relentless, objective, philosophical, generous, imaginative, insightful, honest, dedicated, friendly – all while grappling with a series illnesses, any of which would have floored most people. That was Frank
    Many people have now lost a lot.

    Graeme Lindenmayer

    August 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm

  5. Yes, it’s a great loss to Victoria and to the world in general.


    August 23, 2012 at 8:18 pm

  6. Thanks very much Jen, and how heart warming it is to see the succession of comments. A timely gift as we come to terms with the loss of our friend. Yes, i too, think it’s “our job to keep it up,” to probe a little deeper, and broader, and see what liberating possibilities we continue to find. Thanks again.

    Anthony James

    August 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm

  7. It has been a privilege to have know Frank. In his humble and non-judgemental way he has taught me so much.

    Linda Condon

    August 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm

  8. In early May this year, over 100 of Frank’s Science and Systems students gathered to hear him speak about the passions that have driven throughout his career. A celebration of his teaching and his humanity, he drew lots of laughter when he said”, “Of course it wouldn’t be a lecture without a handout.” Even though he was sick then, he was still riding his bike so typical of his commitment. Frank, your battle is done but the wheels you started in motion all those years ago will keep on turning.

    Andrew Tytherleigh

    August 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm

  9. There will be a public memorial for Frank at Fed Square (Edge) on 15 Sept at 11am.


    August 28, 2012 at 9:53 am

  10. I studied under Frank at Monash about ten years ago, and have crossed paths various times since. A truly inspiring person; he helped me wire my brain differently. But more importantly, he helped me realize not to get frustrated at ‘the battle’- to realize I am part of something bigger and to take comfort and energy in the other like-minded people all slowly pushing in the same direction.

    Nick Alsop

    August 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm

  11. We had a great night at Transition Banyule’s transport forum listening to Frank talking about DODO, etc, so I wanted to organise him to come to Murundaka Cohousing Community to talk to the people about Sustainable Transport issue but it never happened. It was my privilege to know him and we will miss him very much.
    A few wks ago, a few volunteers who heard that he was expressing his dismay for not being able to attend his planter box wicking bed in his car park, weeded and planted with his favourite greens to welcome him home, it was organised as a surprise for him when he gets discharged from the hospital, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it.
    It will be our job to turn more car parks into the vegie gardens.

    mikoto araki

    August 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm

  12. […] His is a great loss to us all. His contributions to what we might call deep social learning, where environmental issues are solved not by learning about environmental loss, but by learning about the social constructions that led to that loss, are invaluable. He also taught and understood the wisest lessons about behaviour and habit. If a person wants change, they have to live it. ~ Roger Jones […]

  13. I connected with Frank, through a telephone line, in a hospital bed, in another state. We never met in person.Linked via a mutual friend, Frank rang me several times a week, for the lengthy stay and was ‘frank’ which was a relief in the maze of diagnosis and treatment; a mentor, providing references for reading about the value of illness and transformation, practical tips for surviving the system, chronic disease and more. Needless to say that phone call out of the blue, from a kindred spirit, was a lifeline to me at the time. Another example of the ripple effect of Frank’s integrated social activism, environmental perspective and life.

    Anon ChronicDiseaseSufferer

    February 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    • Thanks so much for the continued massages here. And I am so glad for what Frank was able to do for you – and your reaffirmation of Frank’s response helps us all to remember that kind acts are very rarely wasted

      Roger Jones

      February 9, 2013 at 12:46 am

    • It is lovely to see messages still flowing here, as our loss doesn’t become any less as the months pass. I relate to your message Anon. When i first met Frank, studying at Monash, i became very ill with a ‘mystery’ set of symptoms much like he experienced when discovering he had Crohn’s. And i was about the same age as he was when that happened to him. I was in Monash Med Ctr for a week with extreme abdominal pain, when the call came. This lecturer i barely knew, Head of School and all, tracks me down in hospital and relates. This was nothing terribly extraordinary for him, once he had come to understand the socially constructed nature of reality. Much like riding his bike ‘to the end’, it was just clearly a more fulfilling, healthy, caring and coherent way to live. To choose otherwise would have been to consciously opt for a lesser life. Indeed Roger, kindness can never be wasted.

      Anthony James

      February 9, 2013 at 8:28 am

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