In late June, I am travelling to Melbourne to spend three days being trained by the Climate Reality Project to become a member of its Climate Reality Leadership Corps. The project is run by the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. Mr Gore will be leading the training. I can’t wait to meet him and do the training. I am deeply concerned about the climate crisis. I have always had my ‘inner-greenie’ but now it is becoming more overt. I want to use my advocacy skills to work with others to address the climate crisis. As a part of the training preparation, participants have been asked to discuss their interest in climate change and finding solutions. Here’s what I had to say.
By way of context, I find it difficult to separate climate change from general awareness of environmental issues. My environmental awareness began in the late 1980’s when Dr David Suzuki started to get some prominence with his concerns about the environment. They resonated with me. At the time, I was a reporter at Parliament House in Canberra and the Hawke Government started paying more and more attention to environmental issues. It was a major issue in the 1990 election campaign. I was there when Bob announced a plan to plant one billion trees over ten years. Hawke was returned in 1990, largely thanks to green preferences. This got me interested in environmental issues.
A few years later, I worked on Sydney’s bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games. We formed a relationship with Greenpeace to promote the environmental credentials of Sydney’s plan. It was the right thing to do. It was also something the Chinese, who put forward Beijing as its candidate for 2000, was very vulnerable on. We had a simple message – you can’t run if you can’t breathe. We will be the Green Games, we said. We won! Our centrepiece for the Games was Homebush Bay, a toxic waste dump in the middle of Sydney for almost a century. Thanks to the Games, it was remediated. I learned much through this time about remediation, ecologically sustainable development and wider environmental issues.
A few years after that, I worked for the Australian Tourist Commission. It was tasked with promoting Australia as the best place in the world to have a holiday. What’s Australia’s most valuable tourism asset? The natural environment… the forests, the reefs, the great outdoors, etc. What’s under most threat? The natural environment. Sustainable tourism and general protection of this ‘asset’ was a major theme of our work. This again heightened my environmental consciousness.
In the first part of the last decade, my then wife and I brought two beautiful people into the world. A girl in 2002 and a boy in 2004. They are now tweens. As a middle aged parent, I feel a responsibility to these two people to “do something” now and not leave “the problem” to them. Around the same time, I saw a particular movie by a particular “former next president of the United States” (his words, not mine). I always liked Al Gore. I liked Bill Clinton. Thus, I liked Al Gore. Like many, I was hugely disappointed by the 2000 election result. Oh, how the world would be different if a few votes in Florida had gone the other way. Anyway, from the time of the election and the movie, I started paying more and more attention to Mr. Gore. His message was a simple one. It resonated with me.
By the middle of last decade, I believe “we” as a society had a pretty good fix on the threat of climate change. The evidence mounted, the calls became louder, but few did anything real about it. Australia’s failure to sign the Kyoto Protocol annoyed me no end. With the evidence growing and the action not happening, I became more and more concerned. One of Kevin Rudd’s first actions as Prime Minister was to sign the Kyoto Protocol, a major real and symbolic action. "At last!”, I thought. Labor followed this up with the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a.k.a Carbon Tax. This was and remains the right thing to do. Against all international trends, the new government is planning to repeal this tax. The new government in the recent budget has decided to turn Australia from a world leader in addressing climate change to a world pariah. It is shameful. Enough is enough.
So now, I have decided to “do something” and become overtly active on the climate crisis. I applied to join Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps so I could advocate with knowledge and substance. I am so grateful for being accepted. I look forward to working with the organisation, the trainees and the environment movement as a whole in doing something real about the climate crisis.