Words by: Alice Wright Art by: Molly Burmeister
In the past year, Australia was ranked dead last for its climate policy, with no current plan in place to work towards transitioning to renewable energy on a national level. No new policies have been announced to reach zero emissions by 2050, and each and every year we watch on as houses are burnt down and flooded, leaving Australians left with little hope for the future.
Climate change has been at the forefront of my mind for a long time now. It is something that I think about often and I battle with the debate on whether or not I should be hopeful or scared for the future. As a young Australian with many more years of life ahead of me, I am scared to think about what will happen to our beautiful country.
Over the past few years, I have tried implementing more environmentally friendly practices in my life as a way of easing the worry in my mind. I mostly shop secondhand for clothing, eat a heavily plant-based diet, and try to cut down on single-use plastic whenever possible. But as I’ve gotten older, I have come to realise that this probably isn’t enough. It is the large companies and the government who hold the power to determine our fate.
In 2021, it was recorded that three-quarters of Australian companies were creating enough emissions to increase temperatures by more than 1.5 degrees.
From 2013 to 2022, Australia was under a Coalition government that sought to derail climate policy. During this time, the government shrunk the Renewable Energy Target by 20 per cent and increased Australia’s fossil fuel production by 19 per cent. Only $3.6 billion was put towards emission reduction solutions — while in comparison, $176 billion was used for COVID-19 recovery. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency funding was also cut by $500 million.
Researching this information alone made me feel quite uneasy. With the knowledge of these facts, we can only assume the irreversible damage that has been done.
I think it is important to note the lack of trust we have in our Indigenous community’s practices. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have rituals and procedures, like cultural burning, that they have been using for thousands of years that heals and looks after our country’s landscape. Sadly, if we had continued to use this practice, the 2020 fires would not have been nearly as devastating as they were.
On top of this, what saddens me greatly is the impact that climate change will have on Indigenous Australians. When we are building dams, clearing land, mining and furthering urban development, we are destroying the environments they rely so heavily on. Without our Australian land and seas, these communities cannot continue their culture.
I think most of all, when I sit and assess my feelings, I am sad because when I imagine Australia, my home, I think of how lucky we are to have such a unique country. I’ve had the pleasure to travel around Australia and I’m repeatedly left wanting more. I’m enticed by our native flora and fauna, their rare colours and shapes, I’m hypnotised by the never-ending bright blue oceans, and I am completely fascinated by the animals that walk our land and swim through our seas.
To think they will be gone by the time I pass is a heartbreaking thought.
So, I’ve taken the lead and researched ways that we as individuals can help fight this battle.
Firstly, leave your car at home if you can. When possible, walking, biking or catching public transport is a great way to cut greenhouse emissions.
Change your bank. Australia’s largest four banks invest huge amounts into the fossil fuel sector.
Cut down on food waste. Research found that Australians throw out one in every five bags of groceries. Food rotting in landfill creates methane, which adds to emissions. Try meal prepping, planning meals, and composting.
Try replacing a few of your steak dinners. The production of red meat generates more emissions than any other type of meat — five times more than chicken, in fact. If we all reduce our red-meat consumption, this would help massively.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make immediate changes, or follow this advice too strictly. If we all make a few small changes, it will help.
If you are feeling stressed about climate change, talk to a friend, do some of your own research, or take action in a way that will make you feel better. At the end of the day, we are in this together and have to work together for a brighter future.