Published 07 December 2016
In June of this year I wrote ‘the past few centuries have put us on track to such undeniable climate disruption that, in many respects, it is a moral imperative to consider important and dedicate ourselves to improving the environment.’ However, even that moral dimension doesn’t entirely capture the urgency of the climate crisis.
On that point, world renowned author and climate justice advocate Naomi Klein has famously remarked, the climate crisis “changes everything.” This includes both our passivity in contributing to the problem and the speed with which we must react to the crisis.
However it is to be phrased, it’s high time our politics prioritised our own survival and tackled the injustice faced by those around us. Last month, many voices joined our national conversation demanding our political system to adapt to the climate crisis.
On Wednesday 9 November 2016, the Sydney Environment Institute co-presented the panel event ‘Conversations with Naomi Klein: To Change Everything We Need Everyone’ at the City Recital Hall, Sydney. However, the night’s events coincided with the greatest world political shift in recent history.
An hour before the event, the American people had voted into office Donald J. Trump as President-elect of the United States, a candidate who campaigned in denial of climate change science. On the campaign trail, the President-elect had vowed to ‘cancel’ the Paris climate deal. This would mean, at the very least, that the second-highest carbon dioxide emitting economy would not give effect to its reduction commitments. If to change everything, we need everyone, then we had just lost an important friend.
From that Wednesday eve onwards, everyone else would just have to fight harder to get the change we need. The event could not have been timelier. Klein was visiting the country to collect the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize and joined other leading women in the Australian climate justice movement to discuss the way forward.
Moderated by Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor, the event panel included anti-Carmichael coalmine campaigner Murrawah Johnson, climate action leader Maria Tiimon Chi- Fang, Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood and GetUp! human rights campaigner Shen Narayanasamy.
The discussion ranged from prospects of the Australian climate movement in Australia, the threat to Indigenous Australians’ very right to survive near extractive projects and the same for our neighbouring Pacific Islanders who face climate change-induced migration.
SEI very recently held the annual National Environment Meeting, with the theme ‘Hope in the Dark.’ Well now, with major shifts in national and global politics, it’s darker than ever. The SEI will be back after the festive season for a round of exciting, enlightening and energising events in 2017. Events range from a special academic examination of climate change denialism and politics to envisioning an ecological democracy. So watch this space as the SEI will have its events program on the environmental academic and movement pulse, as we take an unprecedented shift into the new year.
As SEI Co-Director Professor David Schlosberg aptly put it, ‘this is not the time to falter’.
To make this big shift in human history and get back on track, it’s necessary to get everyone onboard.
Join us. With hope and action, we can start to change everything. This time, for the better.
Akash Bhattacharjee is a 2016 recipient of the Honours Research Fellowship at the Sydney Environment Institute.
He is a Student Ambassador at the University of Sydney and co-leads international law submissions at NSW Young Lawyers. He was recently a sustainable energy advisor to Pollinate Energy, a UNFCCC-recognised Australian social enterprise working to create viable solutions to energy poverty in India. In this work, among other things, he secured a deal to transition 600 people from kerosene and wood-based fuels to the less environmentally-harmful LPG source for cooking.
His research focuses on the politics behind Australian climate change policy.