Australia is already on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Prolonged drought. Flash flooding. Catastrophic bushfires, severe cyclones and heatwaves. But just at the time when we need to ramp up climate solutions, we have elected a Government that wants to open the floodgates to new coal, oil and gas projects that put all of us at risk.
Enter the Global #ClimateStrike, a worldwide student-led initiative which is calling on all concerned citizens to take some time off school, work and study on 20 September, in order to send a serious message to the powers that be.
One of Gold Coast event organisers and unofficial group leader Matt Ross is a social worker and passionate surfer who has been involved in climate action for many years.
Over the last few years he has worked on on establishing a broad climate movement in the city and helping Gold Coast community members to have a way in which they can channel their concern for climate change into action.
“I have a passion for working in regional areas and on the Gold Coast as it is a city with a great community and a lot of potential to have a real impact,” he says.
It’s no mistake the Global #ClimateStrike is set for three days prior to the UN Emergency Climate Summit. Matt hopes the worldwide message will get through.
“In terms of the UN I think we really need concrete targets for each country that are ambitious and ideally much more than what we have now,” he says. “And we need detailed commitments on how to get there.
“I’d love to see dollar figures for communities and industries that need to transition and binding commitments to transition away from fossil fuels and to renewables from the biggest polluters.”
Of course, growing the movement at ground level is also crucial to the cause.
“[We want to build] a people-powered movement at local levels throughout the world that has the power to win major outcomes to solve the climate crisis.
“And critical to this is building a movement that is centred on justice and doesn’t leave anyone behind. We know that the people who have contributed the least to the climate crisis are the ones who will be impacted the hardest.”
Students are a key driving force behind these movements currently sweeping the world. Fifteen year old Gold Coast student Narii Hamill Salmon recognised from a young age that climate change was the most urgent issue for this generation.
“This strike will let these world leaders and our own Government know that young people are still demanding the climate action we so desperately need and that they cannot ignore us.”
And as for naysayers, who tell the kids to stay in school instead of striking, Narii has a simple message.
“We go to school to build ourselves and improve on the things we may find difficult, and I believe being a part of this movement does the exact same. Through striking, I’ve improved my organising, leadership and public speaking skills. I’ve also learnt so much about how politics works and the science behind climate change.
“My schooling would be useless if we weren’t on the streets demanding a safe climate future.”
Matt Ross believes strongly in the power of the collective voice of the people.
“Throughout history tactics such as boycotts, strikes and refusal to participate have been incredibly effective in achieving major social change. If we all down tools and refuse to cooperate until the climate crisis is addressed, the government and major corporations will be forced to do something about the issue.
“I genuinely believe this is a very powerful event that can have a huge impact and on the outcome of the UN Emergency Climate Summit.”
So please, head along to Victoria Park on 20 September from 12pm to 2pm, and add your voice to the peaceful, all-ages rally and march. Visit the Facebook page for updates.
Interviews by Amaya Coburn and Zac Fahey
Story by Natalie O’Driscoll
This event will be taking place on the land of the Kombumerri people of the Yugambeh language-group. Organisers pay respect to their elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded. They stand alongside indigenous people in their fight for climate justice, and are grateful for the huge contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to make to protect our shared climate, land and water.