On the first of January 2020, as Australia was up in flames, I was caught inside a house near Bega on the south coast of New South Wales that was fringed by wildfires.
I couldn’t see anything but smoke out of the windows. The fires were too close to me that the sky turned an apocalyptic bright orange hue. It looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. A surreal, Mars-like landscape.
My family and me made the decision to drive straight up the highway to Sydney. We drove silently for hours, horrified as we passed stretches of burnt bushland. Others were not so fortunate.
As we all know, the fires that ravaged our country that summer have gone down in history as some of the worst we’ve ever faced and made news headlines around the world.
Although some might try to blame this extreme weather condition on a rare event or poor fire management, this is climate change at play. My generation and the generations that follow me will be faced with far more destructive and intense fires.
Children around the world will experience up to Extreme weather events 24 times more in their lifetimes, compared to older generations, unless we urgently cut emissions. Under the current trajectory of global emissions, children born in Australia in 2020 could experience four times as much heatwaves, three-times as many droughts, and 1.5 times as often bushfires or river floods. This is a frightening reality.
We are not consulted at all by the power holders. In a Plan International survey of more than 1,800 adolescents and youth from 37 countries, an overwhelming majority (84%) of participants said their government’s efforts to include them in policies to tackle the climate emergency is insufficient, while only 6% thought they are about right.
I used to be proud to call myself Australian, but it has been infuriating to watch our Government’s response to climate crisis – the most pressing issue of our times.
From The holiday to Hawaii that our Prime Minister decided to take as our country burned back in that early summer of 2020 the Government embarrassing us on the global stage at COP26 in Glasgow these last few weeks – I feel ready to jump ship.
Australia’s policy response to climate change was ranked last in an assessment of 60 countries released at the climate summit. It was the country that received the biggest score of zero on climate policies. Let that sink in.
We live in such a beautiful country, where nature and the landscape around us is such an important part of our identity – especially for Indigenous Australians. As Aussies, we love to head to the beach, or camping, or hiking, or even out to a nice winery – whatever takes your fancy. And even if we don’t love these outdoorsy activities, we’ve definitely participated in them. All of this is part and parcel of being Australian.
I am so disappointed at our lack of commitment to climate action.
But there is hope. As a young woman, Greta Thunberg’s efforts to combat climate change are inspiring. Even though she is younger than me, it makes me feel like maybe there is a chance that young people will be heard, that we won’t just fall into the cracks until it is too late to change anything.
This is exactly the situation I see in Australia. Young people are coming out in hoards, protesting our right to believe that the world that we and our children and grandchildren will inherit will be a beautiful one, that isn’t tainted by greed and ruined by climate disaster.
Over the past few months, the youth activists at Plan International Australia have been meeting with politicians across the spectrum on why girls’ education is one of the most powerful and simple – yet overlooked – solutions in solving the climate crisis.
Poverty is a major reason why girls drop out of school in many countries. These young girls are wasting their potential. If those girls were able to go on to secondary education or to tertiary study, it would mean a generation of young women uniquely placed to respond to deal with the specific climate issues – whether bushfires or typhoons – that are facing their nations.
Early warning systems and lifesaving responses to extreme weather events can be taught at an early age. This can save lives.
Recent developments include Plan International Australia report detailed, educating girls in STEM, for instance, allows them to develop skills to lead a low carbon economy, drive innovation in climate resilience and green technologies. This could be a huge help to the most vulnerable communities around the globe, such as Tuvalu and Kiribati.
I had the privilege of meeting Zali Steggal, Independent MP. Zali has been a formidable force in the face our seemingly immobile government on climate change. Not only did she defeat Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister, in Warringah but she has been a tireless advocate for climate change since the beginning.
Zali was attentive and respectful to our messages. She also understood that young people can contribute good things to politics and other cultural spheres. Our other meetings showed that politicians don’t take young people’s voices seriously.
The Australian Government must step up and prioritise and invest in educating girls around the globe – and yet, many of the politicians we met with seemed to patronise us.
This year’s COP26 was Australia’s chance to redeem itself, and it has been an epic failure. Our government – This lacks the diversity needed to address the critical issues facing our planet – is not making the right choice for future Australians.
It is alarming that it is so focused on economic gains and not real human existence.
I am a film graduate and sometimes think that everyone in cabinet should be forced into taking a drama class to learn empathy.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic our government is already in deficit by billions of dollars. Both sides of the political spectrum have learned that sometimes an economic deficit is necessary to stimulate the economy and make things right.
They were willing to do it when it was COVID-19’s emergency, so why not now?