“This time was going to be different; we were prepared. I felt proud as I witnessed the entire CBD packing up, lifting things to above the 12.12m flood record, ready to brace for what happened just under five years ago. We all had our flood plans. But this time was different: it broke all records, and it has broken our town…”
These are the words of Lismore residents - an Australian town recently ravaged by climate-related floods; it’s second natural disaster in five years. It has stunned the nation and added fuel to the fight for climate action.
This past week, those same residents dumped pieces of their homes and other precious, yet ruined, toys and belongings destroyed by the floods, outside of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s official Sydney residence as they demanded not just emergency relief, but action.
Just as the carnage was landing outside the PM’s home, so the violent push-back against the Australian government continued a few miles away outside the Federal Court. Standing proud, an elderly nun, flanked by eight teenagers, were vowing to fight on. They had just lost a landmark case.
Together, these teenagers and the octogenarian were seeking an injunction to prevent the Minister from approving a proposal by Whitehaven Coal to expand the Vickery coalmine in northern NSW, arguing she had a ‘duty of care’ to protect young people from the climate crisis when assessing fossil fuel developments.
The Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, had successfully appealed against the high-profile court decision that found she did indeed have a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis when assessing fossil fuel developments.
This Federal Court ruling found that the duty of care should not sit solely on the minister’s shoulders and that the court process was unsuitable to determine matters of public policy.
Yet here were some of Australia’s youngest activists, pledging to take their fight all the way to the High Court. Surely, they argued, their government had a moral obligation to protect future generations from harm?
While clearly devastated by the judgement and “So, so angry…” the leader of the action, 17-year-old Melbourne student Anj Sharma, said:
“It will not deter us in our fight for a safe future… we will not stop in our fight for climate justice. The world is watching.”
Let that sink in a bit. Aussies, young and old, victims of climate change, fed up with lip service, are laying remnants of their homes at the foot of what many would call the altar of inaction. Citizens, fighting the Government in the highest legal halls of the land, are determined to have them take responsibility and adopt a more rigorous stance against the greatest threat the planet currently faces.
Activism is reaching an important crescendo in Australia and the message to Governments as they square off is clear
While predictions and models are powerful indicators of potential strife to come; the Lismore protestors show us: this is what a climate crisis looks and feels like.
The Vickery coalmine case highlights Government deflection of accountability; but instead of protest, citizens are prosecuting. And they have the energy, determination and will to take the fight all the way to the top.
65% of Australians think climate change is more critical now, or just as critical, than ever before; and they won’t stop calling on the Government to take the same stance.
The UN, too, has joined the fray with The United Nations secretary-general António Guterres calling Australia a ‘holdout’: "A growing number of G20 developed economies have announced meaningful emissions reductions by 2030 – with a handful of holdouts, such as Australia," he said.
As citizens rally to be heard; signs and placards have been replaced by flood debris, while open letters are being bolstered by legal action.
This climate war is entering a new phase. Denial is no longer the enemy. Deflection is. So, the gloves are well and truly off. Citizens are fighting like our lives depend on it… because when you think about it, they do.
The growing desire to take real, lasting action against climate change is percolating through every aspect of society. There’s a role for government, businesses and for citizens. We all have to act.
Me? I’m on a mission with Cogo to empower hundreds of millions of customers and businesses across the world to change the way they consume and reduce their impact on the planet. It’s the most credible, large-scale solution I could contribute to right now.
You can join us at Cogo, whether in one of the many roles currently available or as a partner, to help us enable millions of people to take action by measuring and reducing their carbon emissions. This is how we're dealing apathy a blow.
But, while collective individual actions absolutely matter, this alone won’t do it. We need large corporates, the heavyweights of the business world, to weigh in and, right now, we need changes to public policy too. Changes of this magnitude will only ever follow the level of public outrage described above, so my hope is that, in some small way, this post not only helps bolster that message but acts as a rallying cry to others.