The Trojan prophetess Cassandra's words fell on deaf ears. No such misfortune for Cassandra Sundaraja, the PhD student who won the University of New England's Three Minute Thesis competition for the second year in a row.
Ten doctorate students competed in the UNE heat of the nationwide competition on Wednesday. They had to explain their research - including elder abuse; food loss and waste in Africa; cross-cultural research barriers; and internet brands - to a general audience in three minutes.
Ms Sundaraja, in the second year of her environmental psychology doctorate, took first place with a passionate yet logical presentation. Her research is about encouraging people to buy sustainable palm oil products, sourced without deforestation, while maintaining the livelihoods of those who depend on it.
"Human consumption is no longer just about meeting needs," Ms Sundaraja told the audience. "It's expanded to convenience and surplus. As responsible consumers, you and I have the power to keep our earth green, one sustainable purchase at a time."
She will compete in the Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition finals at the University of Queensland next month, with a chance of winning a $5000 research travel grant.
"I feel very strongly about my research, and this is a platform to talk about it to a whole wide variety of people," Ms Sundaraja said. "It's a really important issue, and all of us have a role to play."
Palm oil, Ms Sundaraja told her audience, is found in more than half of supermarket products (mostly packaged convenience foods) - but clearing land in developing countries to grow palm trees causes large-scale tropical deforestation, destroys biodiversity, and results in greenhouse gas emissions.
Conservation scientists, sustainability experts, environmental journalists, and activists told her that avoiding palm oil entirely was impractical, and could harm producer countries' economies. Convincing people to make ethical purchases was the solution.
A clinical psychologist in her native India, Ms Sundaraja wanted to do something more than counselling and therapy. The 2016 climate change documentary Before the Flood, featuring actor and UN climate ambassador Leonardo di Caprio, inspired her to study a doctorate in environmental psychology at UNE.
The film was when palm oil first came into her radar. "I hadn't heard about this issue before," she said, "but climate change and wanting to do something for the environment struck me then. I thought maybe I should see what I can do as a psychologist with respect to these larger environmental issues."
She hopes her research will establish a process to tackle a wide variety of environmental and social issues, by understanding motivations for and barriers to acting in the most beneficial way.
"A lot of times, people underestimate the power they have as a consumer," Ms Sundaraja said. "Perhaps they think it's just a small action buying something, but a lot of people buying or not buying a particular product will have ripple effects down the line. It's important for people to know and believe they are empowered as consumers."
UNE students have competed in the 3MT trials for five years. It creates opportunities for candidates to enhance their skills, and share research across disciplines, event organiser and PhD co-ordinator Dr Philip Thomas said.
"We use it as a training exercise in communication. There's lots of ways you can communicate nowadays. One of the lost arts is the performance presentation. This is an exercise in that.
"It's also an exercise in delivering a very quick succinct message that has to hit home and to a broad audience. Often in universities, it's very focused on the academic. You're talking to discipline members and they appreciate what you say; but when you're trying to get a broader reach impact on your research, you need to be able to communicate to a broader audience. And this is practice for that."