Let’s lay the cards on the table. Climate change is not only real, but is making its presence felt in catastrophic ways more often. There’s little doubt that climate change is anthropogenic: 98% of world climate scientists agree that this is the case. There are ample papers and graphs which demonstrate this well and I don’t need to add the links here. The debate was over long ago. Once you agree with the science and accept this premise, it’s time to move down the path of action. If you don’t accept that climate change is either real or does not originate from human activity, you either don’t read widely, are ignorant or brainwashed, or belong to a cult. The Australian Prime Minister, a member of the Pentecostal Church, is well known for his climate change denial stance. It’s a handy belief – that God or nature caused this problem- and underlies his irresponsible stance on climate action, and continued promotion, expansion and subsidisation of the fossil fuel industry. The IMF estimates that annual energy subsidies in Australia total $29 billion, representing 2.3 per cent of Australian GDP. On a per capita basis, Australian fossil fuel subsidies amount to $1,198 per person. As Australian voters, we have a lot to answer for and a lot to change.
I’m not going to write about the heartbreaking and catastrophic fires here in Australia. Others have done so very poignantly in the media over the last few weeks, describing the loss of homes, forests, native animals, ecosystems, and more. I’m attempting to harness my anger and sense of impotence by directing it in a very conscious way towards action. During this sad time in Australia, I’ve been reflecting on hope. Not the nonsensical Hope that goes with Faith and Charity in the old Catholic mantras. Today’s hope is more urgent, real and insistent, driving personal action that leads to a change of the current paradigm.
“Hope is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency”
“When survival is your number one priority, the future you need to solve is today”
So what are the goals that emerge from hope? Below is my list. It’s based on where I live, which is in a rural bush setting, 40 kms from Melbourne, my age which is a few days short of 70 years old, my access to time since I am retired, and my political ideology. My list is also a statement of where I stand at present ( the personal is political, as the old saying goes) and the choices I’m prepared to make or not make. I’ll review these goals in one year’s time.
- Government and leadership. In terms of urgency, it is essential that Australia is led by a government that is ready to embrace climate action by phasing out the fossil fuel industry. The current government is hell bent on expanding it. This is the first goal: to work towards the removal of the present government and simultaneously encourage alternative parties or independents to honestly address this urgent issue as a priority. There are various actions you might follow in order to achieve this. You may write to your local MP, asking what their stance is on climate change and emission reduction over the next 5 years. You can join a group such as Extinction Rebellion, or Friends of the Earth ( there are many other groups) which encourage a variety of activities to suit all ages and level of risk. You can attend a climate protest demonstration event in your capital city. The era of protest is back- and is growing weekly in Australia. I’ve found that by being with like minded others, my hope has grown.
- Boycotts. Primary and secondary boycotts are a useful way to bring about change. This involves a bit of homework. Know more about your bank’s investment activities. Divest funds away from companies that support polluting, especially coal mining, activities. Move your banking and superannuation to companies which support green economies. Boycott companies that are financing or assisting Adani in any way. Secondary boycotts are tremendously effective, so much so, that the current government has moved to make them illegal. Primary boycotts include avoiding all media owned by Murdoch. This includes canceling subscriptions to the usual newspapers run by News Corps Australia, the ‘Australian’ and most of the daily and weekend papers in each state. A comprehensive list of Murdoch owned press can be found here. It includes many popular magazines, websites, as well as Foxtel and Sky News. Murdoch, through his stranglehold of Australian media, promotes climate denial and misleading, if not outright false, information and news. On the positive side, the Australian independent media network includes the following : The Guardian, New Matilda, The New Daily, Indigenous X, Renew Economy, The Conversation, The Saturday Paper, The Monthly, Crikey, Meanjin, No Fibs, Junkee, Buzfeed Oz News, The Big Smoke. Many are free, while others allow you to read a free article or two but require paid subscription for full access. Subscriptions keep independent media alive.
- Cars. Use public transport and leave the car at home. Use a car only when necessary or when there’s no public transport available. An ideal stance would be to not own a car at all. At present, I believe this is not possible for most Australians, given the geography of the land, the spread of the suburbs, and the length of travel time to work. It is, however, quite feasible for inner city apartment dwellers who have access to GoGet cars for hire short term, and who live on major train and tram routes. I live 7 kms from the nearest train station and use public transport as often as I can. My current small and economical Toyota is 10 years old: my mechanic suggests it will keep going well for another 10 years. On average I spend $25 a week in petrol which is going down with more frequent train use. I’ll probably hang on to this car for a while. A huge carbon footprint went into the making of it, which is a factor to consider before letting it go. When I do buy a new car, it will be electric.
- Fridges and electric gadgets. Check the efficiency and environmental star rating of your fridge and air conditioner. Refrigerants contained in older air-conditioners and refrigerators can be extremely harmful to the environment. Many refrigerants, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), damage the ozone layer, while others are extremely potent greenhouse gases. “One kilogram of the refrigerant R410a has the same greenhouse impact as two tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of running your car for six months.” Throw away your old shed fridge- it’s bound to be a major polluter. Also check the star rating of other gadgets. For instance, I have a 90 cm wide oven which allows me to bake two loaves of bread simultaneously or lots of pizzas. But on the average night, heating this large electric oven for a meal is extremely wasteful and inefficient. I’ve noticed a large spike in power usage on baking days. So I’m transitioning to weekly bakes and stove top cooking which uses minimal gas. Don’t use clothes dryers, there’s really no need to do so in Australia, and add your excess boiling water to a thermos. This can be used over the day for tea making. The electric kettle is a huge energy user. Wash clothes only when you have a full load.
- Air Travel. This is a difficult one for most Australians to address. Europeans are able to commute between cities by train, and what an enjoyable way to travel for the tourist too. If Australians abandon air travel, the country will become isolated once again. Having grown up in the 50s and 60s in a country that was suspicious of foreigners, and extremely insular, I would hate to see our country return to this state. The best one can do is to reconsider each trip and limit air travel, especially longer trips to Europe or America. One way to assuage your guilt is to plant trees. Joining a Landcare group is a viable way of getting more trees into the ground. Sadly though, as Australia happily adopted the 20 million tree programme which is about to conclude, the NSW government allowed 58 thousand hectares of land clearing and native forestry removal over the last two years. If you live in that state, demand a halt to land and forest clearing. ( see australia-spends-billions-planting-trees-then-wipes-out-carbon-gains-by-bulldozing-them ) Other States have similar problems with clearing. NSW stands out as having the worst record.
- Diet. Meat eating is not sustainable. “If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after US and China.” The problem does not simply lie in methane gas. Forest and land clearing, water usage and fertilizers also have a huge impact on the environment. I haven’t eaten meat for 40 years. This environmental message is not new. One of the most influential books on the topic, Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé, was written in 1971 and had a major impact at the time. I’m not including dairy in my goal statement here- it’s hard to imagine a world without cheese, yoghurt and milk products from small grazing herds of cattle, sheep or goats. I also eat eggs and raise chickens for eggs- their spent straw and manure is a dynamic component in compost making. I occasionally eat fish and carry an App list of sustainable options when shopping for fish.
- Shopping. Clothing manufacturing has a huge carbon footprint, it currently stands at 3% of all global emissions of C02. ( air travel currently stands at 2%). This goal is relatively easy to attain- don’t buy new clothes, but if you do, make sure it’s a rare event, an annual treat and not a mindless habit. Every 10 minutes, 6 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill in Australia. My approach is to look for second hand clothing in fabrics that I like or those with Australian designer labels. Refashioning second- hand clothes made from fabulous fabric is a creative way to approach the problem. I also keep an eye out for great trims and buttons on old clothes. I’m not alone in this hunt, I’ve noticed. I think the fashion industry is slowly being turned on its head and many are now embracing individual styling, and anti fashion statements. Let’s hope it’s not a passing trend among the young but a lifetime commitment.
- Composting. I’m a great believer in composting. Not only does composting help reduce methane emission from landfill, but the resultant humus enriches the soil and traps carbon at the same time. Carbon farming on a large scale is another great way to reduce emissions. In my own small way, it’s one of my private offsets. “Today there is a revolution in agriculture that recognizes the importance of building healthy soils by replacing the organic matter that has been lost,” says David Wolfe, professor of plant and soil ecology at Cornell University. This new approach is called carbon farming. According to Wolfe, in theory, implementing this method on cultivated lands could slow the pace of global climate change by offsetting as much as one-quarter to one-third of annual increases in atmospheric CO2 for 20 to 50 years, until soil carbon stocks are once again fully restored. Others have argued that a 5 to 10 percent offset benefit is more realistic”. Nothing is wasted in my compost making. I rake mown grass, collect hundreds of buckets of fallen oak tree leaves, collect shredded paper from my daughter’s business and spent straw and manure from the hen house, as well as all food scraps. This is a daily business and often takes hours but it beats going to the gym for exercise. This would not be one of my priorities if I lived in an apartment or house without some accompanying land. It’s not a goal for everyone.
- One of the more unusual things on the lists I have read ( and borrowed from) is the Education of Girls. This often appears as Number 4 on world goals to save the planet, but perhaps it should be number 1. You can change the pattern of unsustainable growth through education. Girls education is the single most important thing in reducing the birth rate: at the same time, educated women have a powerful influence over culture and survival. Find a charity that supports girls education in places where it is most needed. If you know of any good ones, please let us know by commenting below.
- Recycling. I’ve added this at the bottom of my list as it’s still an important goal to improve in this area. I believe most people do have a conscious approach to recycling and are trying hard to manage their waste through sorting into the appropriate categories and limiting their purchase of plastic wrapped goods. I’m not ready to obsess about scraps of waste that end up in my landfill bin. My waste will not fit into a Mason jar. Waste management also needs further work at the state level.
This is my list of achievable goals. Some things I already do, others are works in progress. The ranking is random, except for number 1, government change. Your list may be completely different, because you are a busy mother holding a full time job, because you need to cross the city to get to work, because your job demands that you fly, because you are much younger or older than I am, because you live in an apartment, because you have a disability or have special needs. My list is not meant to sound preachy or self righteous. If it does, I apologise, knowing there’s nothing more annoying and counter productive than those who signal their own virtue. I do encourage you to make your own personal list directly related to climate action and to review it from time to time. Feel free to share your action list or add good, inspiring links in the comments section.
¹ quotes on hope and ideas of list making evolved from some of the papers written by Diego Arguedas Ortiz, on BBC FUTURE, another informative site to dip into.
30 thoughts on “When Anger Drives Resolution. An Australian Call to Action”
Francesca, I love this article/blog. It sums up so much of how I feel , believe and want /need to do. Are we allowed to share parts of this on FB? Acknowledging you , of course.
Of course Jill, please share it in any platform you like. I’m glad it resonates with you.
Thank you for sharing your list, you’ve inspired me to create my own list. We already do many, but there is so much more, and if everyone makes an effort, we will be in much better shape, thank you.
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Thanks Fiona. i would love to hear about your list too. I know you do heaps and offer inspiration in the minimisation of waste. Your approach to travel waste is noteworthy, and I copied this approach last year. xx
This list needs to be posted everywhere, Francesca. Your PM and our idiot in the White House have the same denial about climate change. WTH? Can they not admit they are wrong? Do they not want to change their minds, just because. So many questions. but what is needed is Action. Action now.
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That is so right Lois, two total lunatics with so much in common. I can’t understand why these incredibly ignorant people are in charge, but until we shift that middle ground of swaying voters who believe in lies. we are lost. Yes, action time.
WOW! I had to read your blog several times. We had two fridges that were 35 years old. They are now at the recyclers. We researched new ones and bought two replacements. Some had a one star rating, ours are four stars. We cook and bake with gas. We clean everything with vinegar and bicarbonate. We don’t use the portable air ons unless absolutely necessary for guests comfort. So we are thinking local and acting global. You have been such an inspiration in our go green and clean make-over. Our electric bill dropped from $500 to $220 last quarter. We are on the subsidy list in Qld for solar instillation. Instead of $26,000 it’s $4500, with two battery backups for cyclone season. We’re saving everything in order to have it fitted soon. As we use our own water we hope to be off the grid by September.
Thanks again Francesca for all the other info n your blog.
Cheers Peter and Steve
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If only there were more like you up there in FNQ. I have stayed at your wonderful B&B and know how economical you are, using local fruits in season for jams, and living in a rather hot place without resorting to aircon. I’m glad to hear you replaced your old fridges too. I’m afraid our dreams of solar are still in the pipeline. Our quote was something like $14,000 which included the subsidies. It’s one of the goals I forgot to mention. Thanks for your comment Peter.
An excellent list.
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Thank you Fran ! An incredible amount of thought has gone into your post. I found it uplifting to read and have spent a few hours thinking about it. I do not disagree with a single point made but, however urgent matters are, some can be accomplished in the here-and-now but one would lose the whole battle if one forced the total necessary down most people;s throats. Whatever the as yet present tragedies and discomforts, much required is simply untenable for many. We all are individuals as you have pointed out. As for me – as far as political issues are concerned I agree with you 100% and each one of us can do something suitable regarding that. Matters such as recycling, composting, low energy requiring appliances etc are self-evident. Need for cars and air travel for many depend on each person and family . . . any vehicle purchase should naturally depend on the damage it causes. I would not expect the young to buy only second-hand – as a lifelong lover of clothes I do not do that myself, but I do buy just a few good garments which make me feel feminine and sexy and live and love them to death. As a food-loving nutritionist and medico I would never willingly go without meat, but I have always eaten nose-to-tail and of wild animals as much as possible . . . as I said to each their own ! As far as education for girls is concerned I am older than you but was brought up with knowledge of the importance thereof since babyhood. My mother had a top managerial position in her 20s in the 1920s . . . the daughter has followed as have my daughters and granddaughter all with a number of tertiary degrees. My suggestion to all is to subscribe to Global Partnership for Education of which our former wonderful PM Julia Gillard is the Chairperson – daily joy . . .
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Yes Eha, a few special pieces of good quality clothing rather than a truck load of kmart pieces for sure. And as fir girls education, you and I were fortunate but as we both know, girls in developing countries are not. Thank you very much for that link to Global partnership l, I will certainly follow it up.
I may return to safer posts, of cake and pasta recipes soon.
Fran Morgan – don’t you dare go ‘safe’ ! People who have something intelligent to say to make the rest of us deliberate are irreplaceable in my book ! OK – love your pasta recipes too but not at the expense of . . . 🙂 ! Oh, you will find Global Partnership is basically about developing countries . . . one publication which often makes my day . . .
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Grazie Francesca! Your post has something for everyone to think about. Ciao, Cristina
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Great to see you check in. I like this: Hope is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency
The striking number that I knew nothing about: oil subsidies being 2.3% of Australia’s GDP! That could wipe out malaria and dengue! I’m sure there are subsidies in all countries which will not look great when you examine them.
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The subsidies are firvthe fossil fuel industry, that us, coal mining which us the major cause of emissions in Australia. Most of this coal is exported to provide energy abroad, especially in India.
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Of course, this drives the price of coal down and makes everyone more dependent on it. If the subsidy was removed I’m sure we would begin to find alternatives becoming more viable.
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Yes, the as alternatives would be found. The really horrific thing is that the Adani coal mine is about to be built in Queensland, impacting on local water supplies (we are a dry nation, now in drought), as well as contributing to further world emissions. The protest continues, we haven’t lost hope.
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Your post and list, as I mentioned whrn I commented and shared on Facebook is reason-able and do-able. I like how you reassure that someone else’s list might be different but no less feasible. My list is similar but not the same just as our circumstances differ. Sometimes our efforts require balance. We need to travel by car, do so as little as possible on a day-to-day basis but also have plans to do future roadtrips. But we live simply and lightly day-to-day at home and will continue to do so while we travel… to mitigate our ecological footprint. The daunting thing for me is worrying I am not doing, can never do enough. But I am, right here right now and when I look back and see how much in our choices has changed incrementally to accomplish quite a significant shift, it makes sense to just keep doing it step by step. One of our significant efficiencies is water… because we are reliant on our own rainwater tanks we don’t waste it. I am bemused when households on town water complain aboit being placed on restricted use… that’s how we live. Another thing I don’t believe is considered enough is the win-win of living lightly… so many people work to live… to pay for things they buy and use in excess at a cost to the freedom of how they spend their time and quality of life both personal and on earth.
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I use the car in a similar way, trying to cram so much into one big trip across the city to see my mother. Living in a remote village automatically requires car use. I also have only tank water, like you, so our daily water saving measures come naturally. When I visit people in the city, I get quite anxious when their taps run. I don’t think most people on town water get it. Water shortage will continue to become one of the major issues facing cities in the future, alongside over heating and the consequent disasters.
I put together my list to try and encourage others to do the same, to move from where they currently stand , to change or aspire to change. If we believe we’ve got things sorted, nothing will alter. I know that I need to do heaps more. It’s as if I’ve only just begun. Dale, you’re always an inspiration.
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Hi Francesca, there is much to digest in your post – much of the way you live is the way my parents lived in England (i was born in 1947) so, naturally, they are the patterns i follow too – and i’m sure your Mum lived the same way. Life habits aside, i did worry when you gave your list of acceptable news sources and those that are unacceptable. I read widely as i’m sure many people do – i used to read The Conversation until a few years ago when i disappointedly abandoned it. Initially i thought it would be a great platform for conversation, as its title suggested, but i increasingly found the post essay conversations/comments were just a platform for sarcastic, smarty pants comments which were not promoting a useful understanding and exploration of the topic written about. I read the online essays in the Guardian and we read the Weekend Australian, too. Some things i agree with and some i worry at, like a dog with a bone – and chew my more conservative husband’s ear about. However, i know him to be a good intelligent man and i do respect his view points. I also have 3 girlfriends of differing ages and backgrounds with whom i know i can explore my thinking – without censorship from them – and i am ready to adjust my thinking and explore some more ideas. It was that point in your post that halted me – i’m sure – and your Daisy was who i thought of – you would want her to explore ideas and read widely to augment her thinking and not confine herself to the writing/thoughts of people with whom she can be sure she will agree. I also wonder about the costs of alternative energy – the costs in terms of employment as well as the minerals that it will be necessary to source in order to establish workable alternatives. Thinking of India, they have a vast population to bring forward out of subsistence living and who will all need a cheap source of energy – what alternatives do they have. Thinking too, of such things as aluminium, if Australia’s aluminium smelting industry closes down and if, for instance, China picks up the industry, their standards and ‘responsible global citizen’ credentials are very worrying. Now my brain is getting tired – and so is my body – i energetically turned two large compost heaps this morning feeling very happy about the potential for carbon sequestration, but now my body is saying ” what’s your next big idea dingbat”! You in your corner, Francesca, and me in mine – different corners but the same desires. There are so many exciting and interesting avenues to follow as far as renewable energy is concerned – i would like to see more science funding and more wide ranging and respectful public debate- and, yes, i know its a nanosecond from midnight. Stay safe, Francesca.
I always appreciate your well considered comments, Jan, I look forward to them, and know that we are, at times, standing in two different corners of the same ring. I gathered , from your comments made on one of Celia’s posts, that you try to take the middle ground, but lean towards a conservative stance when it comes to climate issues and mining.
With regard to how my mother lived, I inherited some traits from her ( mostly pragmatism and sensible food budgeting) but little else. My compost making, veggie gardening, organic vegetarianism was never part of Mum’s lifestyle. If I carry on about political or environmental things, Mum will intervene with a stern ‘ get off your soapbox’. She loves Foxtel, the Murdoch press, and believes the viewpoints expressed in them, because she doesn’t have access to any other media. And this is my point about the Murdoch rags- their response to the fire situation in Australia has been appalling, from fostering lies about cause, to ignoring or denying the climate crisis. I agree that there is some fine writing available in the weekend Australian, but the views expressed in the daily press is firmly denialist when it comes to climate. And so my boycott suggestion. With regard to the comments section following any story online, you really can’t judge an article or the journalism on the basis of views expressed by nutters. The Guardian has been a leader in climate change reporting for years.
With regard to Daisy, I’m hoping to take her along to another protest march this Saturday. ( and her sister Charlotte), depending on the smoke levels here in Melbourne. Two of my children attend most protest marches and have done so since they were about 8 years old. They have fond memories of their activism.
Given that it is a nanosecond before midnight, and that the development and funding of renewables is absolutely vital, and that we live in a drought riddled country which has become hotter due to emissions, ( graphs available), more denuded due to land clearing, further expansion of the fossil fuel industry in Queensland by Adani and Palmer is untenable and irresponsible.
And , getting back to the gardens that we both love, our bodies might complain but the mind soars, the lungs expand and we know that what we are doing with compost is life giving. Cheers, Jan.
Ah, point taken, Francesca – don’t throw the baby out with the bath water just because there are nutters swimming in it 🤓 the Conversation still comes to my in box so i shall return
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Here in urban North America we aren’t seeing the first-hand disasters, but we can clearly see how important your first point is. Our current leadership is almost daily reversing efforts to clean up the environment, preserve natural spaces, and take long-term steps to regulate industry. Further, the leadership is distracting the public from the support of the worst industrial promotors by starting wars and doing other crazy things. So for us, your point 1 is the most critical one. The others can only follow in priority.
best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com
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Hello Mae, i can fully empathise with your situation in the US. It must be frightening, worrying and constantly confronting to see the damage done in your country-to the environment, democracy, peace, health care, and more. Our resident lunatic is not quite as bad, though he comes close. It’s so strange living in a world that us on the brink of disaster yet these strange autocrats and salesmen seem to hold such sway. The impeachment process looks promising today.
A timely and healthy list – I can only agree, Francesca. And I am doing my bit too, most of your list, even if I sometimes fly. I plant trees too, as you say. Australia is in my thoughts every day, just like the faith of our planet and its inhabitants. Fools rule the world – let’s change that. I believe in strong women, and I believe they are more climate smart than men. Here is an uplifting link https://countdown.ted.com/
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Thanks for that wonderful link Leya, I’ve subscribed to get more updates. Love more international links. And happy tree planting. We must continue to believe and act.
Sorry, I am late getting to read your excellent blog, but I am so glad I did. It is such a passionate and thoughtful list.
Your #1 is such an important one. We are lacking leadership and decent policy, and only get platitudes about how we will be overachieving our targets. I alternate between being really angry and despairing, or cautiously hopeful. Hopeful because I wonder if business and us little people aren’t bypassing the government. There are councils that aim to be carbon neutral by a reasonable date, businesses that aim for the same, and many people that do things to cut down their won emissions. So maybe, fingers crossed!