Climate Change: Just A Dinner Table Conversation in Wentworth

On keeping cups and throwing out politicians.

If the bystander is by default a perpetrator, then most of us are wolves in sheep’s clothing when it comes to climate change inaction.

As I rush out of the house and hop into my car, several thoughts circulate in my head:

I drive too much.

I shouldn’t have stayed up until 3am watching Netflix.

I wish I gave myself time for breakfast.

I wish I had a coffee.

Dammit, now I’m going to have to buy coffee at uni.

Dammit, I forgot my keep-cup.

And repeat.

Although nothing grinds my gears more than Climate Change inaction, I go through more disposable coffee cups than I can count.

This is almost a daily occurrence, and although nothing grinds my gears more than Climate Change inaction, I go through more disposable coffee cups than I can count. I drive most days to uni even though I don’t need to.

I’m angry about so many things, like the trivialising of sexual assault as Brett Kavanaugh is elected to the U.S Supreme Court, or that, as evident by the latest dispute over the Opera House’s capacity to be a billboard for horse-race gambling, NSW is a state run by radio shock jocks. Religious freedom according to our federal government, means giving schools the authority to expel LGBTI students. These go in my ever-changing list of headlines to use as conversation starters at family dinners.

Behold, my favourite conversation starter from the news over this past month:

Climate data release again delayed by Government, FOI documents show

“A report showing Australia is failing to rein in its greenhouse gas pollution was sat on for nearly two months by the Federal Government, before being released late on a Friday afternoon of a long weekend when footy finals fever and banking royal commission findings were dominating headlines, the ABC has learned.”

Less than a week later, the UN’s IPCC Climate Change Report was released. It prescribes a strategy to globally reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half before 2030, in order to curb the worst effects of Climate Change. This report was written by 91 researchers around the world, citing over 6,000 different studies. Yet Prime Minister Scott Morrison, along with Environment Minister Melissa Price, dismissed the report in favour of coal, as if Climate Change action stood in direct contradiction to their apparent focus of lowering electricity prices.

It’s 2018, and our government continues to act as if Climate Change isn’t a major problem.

I remember in primary school watching the documentary An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. It’s the godfather of Climate Change documentaries. I thought the world was ending. Surely governments would be doing something very soon.

Ten years later, as the Wentworth by-election approaches, I think of how many people I know will unquestionably vote Liberal. These people –  friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances, live cosily in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. They say that they recognise Climate Change as a real problem, that Nauru is a disgrace, that equal opportunity, LGBTI rights, Indigenous rights, and ending a culture of sexual assault are important. Yet they still support the Liberal party despite their abysmal track record on these matters.

I mean, why vote anyone else? Which party is going to look after my investment properties, or minimise the taxes on my business? Which party is going to stop the political correctness ‘frenzy’ from taking over?

Home to some of the most expensive suburbs in the country, the electorate of Wentworth in Sydney’s east has never been won by a non-conservative candidate.

How do we continue to vote for politicians who, with patronising cheer, hold up a lump of coal to parliament and say “Don’t be afraid”

How do we continue to vote for politicians who, with patronising cheer, hold up a lump of coal to parliament and say “Don’t be afraid”? Or who sit on disturbing climate reports for almost two months before releasing it to the public on a footy final weekend?

The sad truth is that while our future promises the disappearance of multiple islands and coral reefs, millions of climate refugees and species becoming extinct, farmers struggling to grow crops through drought, and the outer-western suburbs of Sydney boiling in over 50 degree summer heat, the people of Wentworth will continue to live comfortably in their air-conditioned mansions.

Here I am pointing the finger, but I’m one of them.

When I think about the future, I think of two kinds of futures. One is seventy years from now, a world subject to the unpredictable whims of a climate thrown off balance. In this future I wonder how my children or my children’s children will live, and what they will think of me. What was I doing and who was I voting for when humanity was at the crossroads? What power did I have and how was I wielding it?

The second kind of future is my future… It’s stressing over next week’s uni assignments, daydreaming about a Bali holiday in November, and saving up for a semester of exchange. It’s future internships, a good career and a stable salary, a prospective partner, having kids, and if I’m lucky, buying a house.

There’s my hopeful future, and then there’s our bleak, shared future, and I despairingly search for an outcome where these two kinds of futures don’t ever have to collide.

If I brought a keep-cup to uni, or became vegan, or caught public transport, or voted for a party that actually had a Climate Change policy, or joined environmental groups and attended rallies, door-knocking campaigns and signed petitions, what difference would it make?

To position Climate Change at the top of my list of priorities would be a heart-breaking ordeal. My apathy is partly a consequence of the little faith I have in the power of the individual. I comprehend the emotional sacrifice of really living by my values – and it doesn’t appeal.

Drought will continue, ice caps will keep melting, seas will keep rising and the Adani mine will still be built.  So I choose cognitive dissonance. For many of us, our actions, or our voting patterns, do not actually reflect our values. We believe in contradicting ideas because it’s easier.

This issue is not about the squabbles between conservative and progressive politics.

However, to doubt Climate Change science in 2018 is to be wilfully ignorant. We all know it’s happening, but there are other, more immediate agendas and priorities that take precedence with our disingenuous government.

The government that loves coal and the Adani mine, who saw pollution go up by 1.3 per cent in the year of March 2018 and has no plan of changing the status quo, is the same government that says they believe the science and claim that they have a 2030 emissions reduction target.

Most of us are powerless when it comes to Climate Change. If we aren’t billionaires, or public figures, or dedicate our lives to environmental NGO’s, then our greatest sway over the future lies in a single protest vote in a safe Liberal electorate.

I have no feel-good solutions. Yet as powerless, naïve and over-idealistic students, we still have the capacity to vote according to what is right for our shared futures.

We can talk to our friends, our families, our co-workers and acquaintances. We must create a discourse of zero-tolerance towards politicians and parties that systematically peddle distrust in climate scientists and their findings. This issue is not about the squabbles between conservative and progressive politics.

If our planet is to survive then we must call out the bullshit and mobilise.

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