Reflections on the National Day of Climate Action, 2013

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30,000 + people attend climate rally in Melbourne – Photo via GetUp!

The 17th of November 2013 will come to be remembered as the day 60 thousand + people rallied across Australia to show support for strong action on climate change. The coordinated event was organised by GetUp! in conjunction with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), the Australian Conservation Foundation and was supported by various other organisations and community groups.

People from all walks of life including families and firefighters, activists and academics, politicians and public servants attended events which were held in every major city as well as many regional centres and rural towns. This was a significant demonstration of public support for climate action and was aimed at showing the Abbott government that Australians are willing to stand up for the future of the planet.

In many ways, the National Day of Climate Action was an effective method of drawing attention to an issue which should be of concern to all citizens and is often seen as controversial. It also provided the opportunity to make networks, catch up with likeminded people and gave a renewed sense of hope and vigour to the movement.

Personally, I attended an event in the regional centre of Albury – Wodonga which drew a crowd of roughly 300 people. This is quite an achievement for a regional area which is typically deemed to be conservative. The event consisted of a large photo stunt and media attention followed by a picnic in the park and the chance to mingle with other climate concerned locals.

Whist I am extremely pleased to have been part of this incredible movement, I am left wondering what the overall impact of the day will be. Will it actually generate tangible ‘action’ on climate change? By this I mean will it lead to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions? Will it change the minds of those who contest the credibility of climate science? Will it save our existing environmental policies? Will it lead to a more sustainable nation? I hope so!

Considering the fact that I drove over an hour and a half to attend the closest event (public transport is non-existent), my personal carbon footprint for the day was higher that it would have otherwise been if id chosen to stay at home. This leaves me slightly conflicted.

Striking a balance between public activism and personal sustainability is something that most climate concerned citizens have to grapple with. This is particularly pertinent for the hundreds of people who have flown from countries across the world to attend the UNFCCC’s 19th Conference of Parties meeting in Warsaw, Poland this week. Will the decisions made during these high level discussions balance out the fossil fuel emissions used to conduct such gatherings? Should these negotiations be held via Skype and social media? Should we all move to a cabin in the woods and cut ourselves of from the rest of humanity?

Although I don’t have all the answers, I believe we need to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of our actions in the pursuit of sustainability. If we fail to do so we may actually risk setting back the cause and doing more harm than good. It is always worthwhile reflecting on our actions and considering how we can create a better future.

In saying this, I am not denying the success of today’s actions. I had a fantastic time at my local National Day of Climate Action catching up with people who are doing amazing work in the community; and I am so proud of the outstanding number of people who attended events across the nation. Overall, it was a chance for people from different cities, ages, backgrounds, religions, and lifestyles to unite with a common message. Australians want action on climate change, now!

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Albury – Wodonga residents demand action on climate change. Photo via Jennifer Duggan

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