Everybody loves an epic light vs dark battle – this one’s happening right now in our backyard! One reignited ex-activist talks about his return for ‘the fight of our generation’.
For me, if the climate movement was a sci-fi movie, what’s happening right now in Australia feels a bit like Star Wars; The New Hope or, better yet, maybe Return of the Jedi – because, let’s face it; that’s when, with the odds against them and things looking bleak, the little guys step up and really stick it to the man/empire/multinational coal mining giant. But I’m getting ahead of myself….
I’ve always considered myself a caring, considerate human (don’t we all?). But aside from a bit of RSPCA volunteer work in my youth (which had the cute fluffy animal drawcard), and attendance at the global 2003 peace rally (which I joined upon the suggestion from my partner when we stumbled across it in the street), I’m not sure that, up to that point, I had ever really been particularly concerned with, or lifted a finger for, anyone or anything outside my immediate sphere.
There’s nothing like a big relationship break up to make you pause and take a good, hard look at yourself in the mirror. Youthful looks aside, I didn’t really like what I saw. So in the midst of this soul searching that spanned most of 2005, I happened to pick up Naomi Klein’s brilliant book, No Logo. Quite simply, this book changed the trajectory of my life. Perhaps it was just my time and another book would have done the job, but I’m giving Naomi the props here. It’s an insightful and inspiring call to action against the deeply disturbing damage that insidious big corporations are doing to our communities and our world at large.
It’s funny but no coincidence that she got me fired up about social justice and now we’re both big into climate change. You don’t have to look very hard to see huge overlaps between the two issues.
Simmering below the surface
In 2006 at age 32, I found myself back at uni studying IT and working in a bank – could I BE any more regular corporate Joe? I was still generally doing very little for anyone or anything outside my immediate sphere. The inspiration from Naomi was simmering just below the surface but had not yet fully materialised into focus or clear direction. Luckily, that’s when I started hanging out with young, passionate, idealistic uni students hell-bent on saving the world. Although I was looking for a social justice group to join, I stumbled upon the campus enviro group first, which piqued my interest. After rocking up to a few meetings, I felt compelled to do some reading about this ‘climate change’ business.
So it was, that one sunny April afternoon, on a computer in the La Trobe University library, I was casually reading some reports and news articles on climate science, when I had what is known in climate activist circles as my first “OH F#@K” moment. That moment when the penny drops. That moment of deep realisation and horror of just how catastrophically dangerous climate change is for all life on the planet…(yay!)
Into the fray
It quickly occurred to me that if our planet were a neighbourhood street, humankind was acting like the stereotypical foolish and utterly selfish teenage hooligans, mindlessly trashing the place left, right and centre and endangering ALL species’ futures. On top of the very real threat to future (and current) generations, learning that my own species is solely responsible for creating the sixth major species extinction event ever to occur on this planet was…. Really. Not. Ok. I imagine it was not entirely dissimilar to the tech guy in Terminator 2 who gets told he’s responsible for a future army of robots that devastate the planet, who said something like “I think I’m gonna throw up”.
As the implications swept over me I realised that I couldn’t just stand idly by and watch this global human-induced slow motion car crash unfold. It shook me to my core in an existential kind of way that little else has come close to, save for the revelation that a couple of daily glasses of red wine are NOT, in actual fact, significantly beneficial for my health. (I know, right!) So with this realisation and my newly ignited passion for justice (and the hope of maybe impressing a cute female friend), I threw myself into the grassroots climate movement.
Fast forward to late 2011
After getting in amongst it with university groups, community groups, NGOs and government for almost six years, I found two things. 1) My life is infinitely richer and more meaningful for having contributed, along with many other beautiful, compassionate souls, to a cause far greater than myself. And 2) I was burnt out. Apparently you need to be sustainable in your to approach to sustainability activism… who knew?!
Though I realised that I had to take a serious step back /out of the movement, the experience had been quite extraordinary. I found amazing, grounded, salt-of-the-earth-type new friends. An array of extensive new skills in facilitation, marketing, organising, community engagement, and media communication were picked up along the way. I found the confidence to speak in front of large groups of people, on the radio and in front of TV cameras (not something I want to do again), as well as run meetings, do media releases, spearhead community-government engagement meetings and more.
At one point I was even organising activist stunts and speaking out in the media against the state government’s stance on enviro issues while simultaneously working as a government sustainability officer . . . good times!
All the perks
The benefits of my time volunteering and working as an activist in the enviro field don’t end there. My new friends showed me the empty, pointlessness of materialism and the rat race, the value of op shopping and having a veggie garden, the beauty of more mindful, frugal living and the rich joy of being more connected to self, others and nature. (Also, FYI, if you’re single, greenies are usually a pretty caring, passionate and fit bunch. Probably from all that meditation, cycling and organic food… just sayin’).
Over five years have passed since that incredible time in my life. And in spite of all the rich, life-transforming amazingness that came from it, and all the wonderful friends who are still rolling along, fighting the good fight, I guess maybe I lost the passion for it somewhere. I still attend the big rallies and do the odd volunteer event here and there, but nothing like before.
In that time I’ve had a major change in career trajectory – a “career sea-change” I sometimes call it… from government enviro data analyst to owner/operator of a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage therapy business. You can see the link, right?
Our local and global community
Re-skilling and starting up that biz has been exciting and has kept me pretty busy. But whatever we like to tell ourselves, I think “being too busy” is a choice. If we say we’re too busy for this or that, what we’re often really saying is that we’re not willing to prioritise it. It’s amazing the time we can suddenly find in our busy lives to help a loved one in dire need. Or even just to watch all that TV (when the hell is GoT starting up again, anyhow?).
I don’t believe in coasting through life and just taking what I can from it. I like the idea that we all have an opportunity to contribute, a civic role to play, as members of the local and global community. Especially in a society as privileged as ours. But I guess, post-burn out, I just haven’t felt a strong enough pull to return to the fray; to return to the movement; to again stand up, like Luke Skywalker, for what I believe in, fighting for something greater than myself…. that is, not until now. Not until Adani.
The spectre of Adani
Adani, if you haven’t heard, is an Indian-based multinational coal mining giant (/evil space empire?) preparing, as I’m writing this, to try and develop one of the largest coal mines on the planet. Located in our beautiful Galilee Basin in Queensland, it’s known as the Carmichael megamine. And it’s a monster.
As stated on the StopAdani.com website:
“At the very time the world has agreed to reduce carbon emissions to stop catastrophic global warming, Australian governments are eagerly pursuing Adani’s massive new coal mine [so much so that the Turnbull government is looking at lending one billion dollars for Adani to have its own rail line, which we could be spending on renewables, conservation, health or education]. Approving the Adani project and its rail and port infrastructure would open up the entire Galilee Basin to up to 9 additional new mines of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel….When we need to urgently reduce carbon pollution, this mine takes us in the completely wrong direction.
Climate change will also be accelerated by the land clearing required to build the mine… over 28,000 soccer fields or 200,000 quarter-acre blocks, would be cleared. Over half of the land that would be cleared is mature woodland and bushland – important habitat for many animals including threatened species…
Major heatwaves are a serious health threat, causing more deaths in Australia since 1890 than bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and severe storms combined. Longer, hotter and more intense heatwaves in Australia are being driven by climate change. Research has found that the number of deaths in summer compared to those in winter is increasing, suggesting that climate change may already be affecting mortality rates. Adani’s mine will only make this situation worse.
We are already experiencing the consequences of polluting our air and water and the dangers of the climate changing around us. We must immediately make the transition from polluting coal, oil and gas to 100% renewable energy to stop greenhouse gas emissions reaching even more dangerous levels. The first step is stopping Australia’s biggest coal mine proposal before it gets started.”
Other fun facts:
From allegations of offshore tax dodging to inflated jobs claims and corruption, Adani has a history of shonky behaviour that has wrecked communities and the environment.
Adani will draw billions of litres of water from the Great Artesian and other precious basins. They’ll do this for free, threatening farmers, groundwater and local rivers.
Adani will not be charged a cent for the water they will consume. , while the Queensland government has stripped farmers of their rights to appeal against Adani taking their groundwater.
Adani’s mine, rail and port project will destroy the ancestral lands, waters and cultures of Indigenous peoples in the region. And Adani does not have the consent of the local Wangan and Jagalingou people. Adani have actively worked to divide them, to claim they consent to the mine.
The Wangan and Jagalingou have three times rejected a land deal with Adani since 2012. They have four court challenges underway, yet Adani is pushing on with their plans to begin work in 2017.
State and federal governments have done Adani’s bidding and rammed through changes to both native title and water laws to ensure their mine goes ahead, in the face of Indigenous opposition to the mine. Traditional Owners have pledged to do whatever it takes to preserve their culture, but they can’t do it alone.
This generation’s Franklin River
If this wasn’t enough of a call to action for me already, I learned that former Greens leader Bob Brown is calling this “the environmental issue of our times” and “this generation’s Franklin River”. (Disclosure: I shook Bob’s hand once, so, y’know, we’re practically best mates.) He says; “In 40 years time people will be talking about the campaign to stop Adani like they now talk about the Franklin. Where were you and what did you do? they will ask.” I think my mate Bob raises a good question.
To paraphrase an old quote, it seems to me that the only thing necessary for Adani to triumph here is for good people to do nothing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on taking this one lying down. This is our Franklin River. This is our planet-destroying evil death star. We need to draw a line in the sand – right here, right now.
If you’ve ever wanted to be part of something greater than yourself, something that you’ll be able to proudly and relentlessly tell the story of to your children and grandchildren 87 times, make no mistake; this is it.
So how do we stop it?
With a rebel alliance of course…
Luckily, 13 major environmental groups have already banded together – the Stop Adani Alliance – to tackle this era-defining battle head on. However they need all the people-power they can muster if they’re going to pull it off. That’s where you and I and come in. Right now there’s a rapidly growing groundswell of local Stop Adani groups popping up all over the country. Local actions are happening almost every day. There’s probably one near you.
Being a part of these things can be fun, inspiring AND will feel deeply satisfying when we’ve won! I’m not asking you to give up your first born. Just committing one or two evenings of your time will help make a difference on this. I know you’re busy – we’re all busy – but this is something to make time for. Your voice matters. Your actions matter. Come get amongst it!
To learn about the strategy of the Alliance and join up, check out the inspiring 8 minute video narrated by Missy Higgins. Go to: www.stopadani.com/community_resources. Then find a local group or action in your area (or start your own): www.stopadani.com/join_now
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