Bridge protester’s painful past ‘at hands of climate change’

HIS climate change stunt today turned heads and stopped traffic.

But the "dangling man" who harnessed himself from Brisbane's Story Bridge is more than just an "activist", he says.

His name is Paul Jukes, a 49-year-old engineer, currently working in construction and living on farm land near Airlie Beach in North Queensland.

He is a widower with three daughters and a 30-year passion for rock climbing.

Extinction Rebellion activist Paul Jukes during his Story Bridge protest. Picture: Peter Wallis
Extinction Rebellion activist Paul Jukes during his Story Bridge protest. Picture: Peter Wallis

The climate message he holds so dear, however, is the culmination of a long and painful journey.

"When I was a young man back then in the late 80s, early 90s, I was bushwalking in Lamington National Park with my then-girlfriend, who became my wife and the mother of my children," Mr Jukes said.

"We enjoyed our time so much in Lamington National Park that she said upon her death - unfortunately she passed away - and she ask that her ashes be scattered in Lamington National Park.

"A memorial was made, with a wooden chair, at Binna Burra. Binna Burra burnt down."

Mr Jukes blames this loss on climate change and he has also seen it impact his farm near Airlie Beach, he says.

Extinction Rebellion protester Paul Jukes is taken into custody. Picture: Peter Wallis
Extinction Rebellion protester Paul Jukes is taken into custody. Picture: Peter Wallis

Mr Jukes grew up in Brisbane and gained his degree in Toowoomba in the 1980s.

Last year, rainforest which has surrounded his home for years went up in flames during a significant bushfire that Mr Jukes believes was brought on by climate change.

"I'm now looking at that national park seeing a fire. I'm seeing my whole life and livelihood going up in smoke because of climate change," he said.

"My daughters don't have that connection with their mother that they had. They were very young.

"That was on of the remaining connections (to their mother). 

"They used to go up every year with her side of the family for the last 17 years. They were going to go up this year and it's not there. It's gone. It's burnt."

 

Paul Jukes planned to spend days hanging from the Story Bridge as part of Extinction Rebellion’s week of disruptions in Brisbane. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt
Paul Jukes planned to spend days hanging from the Story Bridge as part of Extinction Rebellion’s week of disruptions in Brisbane. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt

The trained engineer has completed two masters degrees, he says, and hopes his action will encourage others to take a stand.

But he has urged people not to endanger their lives in the process.

"I've been rock climbing for 30 years. I know what I'm doing," Mr Jukes said.

"But I would encourage other people to take the action that they know how to."

In preparation for his day of action, Mr Jukes made a vegetable curry and portioned it to last up to a week.

He cooked rice to go with it and had fruit, chocolate bars and several litres of water.

If nature called, he said he would use bottles and bags to go to the bathroom.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would not be responding to Mr Jukes' request that a climate change emergency be declared in Queensland.