An image that sums up climate emergency campaigning for me is a dinghy of people in fast moving water heading for a waterfall. One passenger is frantically paddling to avoid the drop. The others look anxious - some even alarmed - but they sit idle and somehow resigned to whatever outcome the single paddler can achieve.
Climate emergency campaigners work really hard. They have sacrificed money, careers, job security, and family time. Some might have ditched the dinghy and swum their loved ones to safety if that were possible but the dinghy metaphor doesn’t extend that far. There’s no Planet B - we’re all in this together.
To be clear, a climate emergency means breaking business as usual to the same degree COVID-19 has broken it and more, but swap staying home, face masks, and hand sanitiser, for green armies, mass retrofits, and technological leaps. Grassroots campaigners forged the climate emergency path, campaigning for what is necessary, not what is convenient.
The climate emergency paddlers swelled 10,000 fold with the rise of Extinction Rebellion and Friday for Future School Strikes since early 2019 but there are still not enough paddlers to change the fate of the dinghy. When the climate emergency campaign gets momentum, opposing forces just pull harder. Typical excuses of those sitting idly by are they don’t know enough - others would do a better job, or they are too busy. I’ve used both of these excuses.
To respond to the first excuse - not knowing enough, there are 1000s of jobs going in the climate emergency sector with every skill required - full-time, part-time, casual, or occasional (Disclaimer: jobs are unpaid). Since you are reading this, you likely have a better grasp of the issues than Scott Morrison. Claiming ignorance doesn’t cut it. Below is a range of opportunities to get your hands wet. You learn on the job.
Join Extinction Rebellion. Extinction Rebellion is a crash course in the climate emergency. Civil disobedience in the face of the climate emergency had to happen broad-scale. Why wouldn’t we break the law to change our horrific trajectory when polite discourse has failed? To find an XR group near you, head to facebook.
Join Fridays for the future. If you are still at school or have kids who are at school you can join 10,000s protesting every Friday outside their national or local parliaments demanding that our elected governments take action on global warming.
Link with climate emergency campaigners and offer your help. Join facebook groups like ‘What I did today to reverse global warming’ and link with people who may need your help, from eye watering admin, proofreading, web skils, fundraising, leafleting, policy writing, sound, media and legal skills, the list is endless. You might have to be persistent and take initiative as it can be time consuming to absorb someone into a focused and urgent effort. See the list at the end of this blog for Australian groups.
Stand as a climate emergency candidate in local, state or federal elections - or help someone else running as a climate emergency candidate. Run as an independent or in Australia contact Save the Planet or One Planet.
Organise a climate emergency talk at your workplace or community group. See the list at the end for those groups well versed in speaking on the climate emergency or try Extinction Rebellion.
Help do the research for the solutions that will save us. Volunteer with groups like Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) to work on their transition plans across every sector - there are lots of openings besides just engineers - but engineers are also wanted. Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration publishes research papers on the climate emergency.
Help write the policy and legislation that will save us. Are you a policy wonk? Try Research and Strategy for Transition Initiation Inc. RSTI produces the foundational legislation governments will need to move into emergency mode.
Join or start a local climate action group or network. You can pester local politicians for a climate emergency response - including local councils, get active at election time. Stage events, leaflet the neighbourhood, post climate emergency billboards and signs. If you’re starting your own group, other CAGs/CANs will be more than happy to mentor you. Make sure any CAG/CAN you start or join calling for full emergency action rather than calling for incremental change or suicidal targets which reinforces non climate emergency action. If your local CAG/CAN is a problem, start a new one focused on getting a full emergency mobilisation by all levels of government including your local government. See CACE for getting your council into emergency mode.
Campaign for a fair media that will tell the truth about the climate emergency. There are many groups making headway - or start your own campaign to write letters to the editor. A more or less truthful media is a pillar of going into climate emergency mode.
And to respond to the first excuse - you are too busy. If you’re really too busy to help then find a grassroots organisation that is making a difference, give them money to do what they do - just do something to help them! (Warning: They probably won’t have tax deductible status). Even small amounts make a difference.
Lastly, if you don’t see yourself in an activist role or don’t mix in circles that would accept you in a climate emergency role, then you are just who the climate emergency needs outside the echo chamber.
Paddling vanquishes despair. And even if we go over the fall you’ll be able to tell your kids you tried.
List of Australian Climate Emergency Grassroots organisations (may not be exhaustive)
Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE)
Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration
Centre for Climate Safety
Council and Community Action in the Climate Emergency (CACE)
Research and Strategy for Transition Initiation Inc. (RSTI)
Save the Planet
Sustainable Living Foundation (SLF)
Victorian Climate Action Network (VCAN)
By Jane Edwards
Bloggers on this page include Adrian Whitehead, Philip Sutton, Bryony Edwards, Andrea Otto, David Lughermo.