Last Friday was a day of unprecedented world wide action with people of all ages taking to the streets in countries across the world demanding action to address climate change. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish youngster who travelled on a low-carbon sailboat from Europe to attend tomorrow’s UN Climate Action Summit in New York, has been one of the main driving forces behind the global rise in youth climate activism. Having attended many a climate march before, as I scanned the sea of placards held by passionate faces in central Brisbane on Friday, I wondered whether it was enough (how did I become so cynical?). What will it take for real change to happen, change that will ensure carbon emissions are curbed, climate change impacts are minimised and both vulnerable ecosystems and communities protected?
They say we need system change, change that is pervasive and omnipresent throughout society. What would this change entail? And who’s responsibility is it? Is it the responsibility of global leaders gathered in New York this week, to lead the way and achieve global unification towards action? Or local politicians and law-makers who make decisions to consent coal mines or wind farms or whether investment is prioritised for roads or public transport? Is it the responsibility of business leaders to reduce their company’s reliance on fossil fuels and seek ways of reducing harmful impacts of their operations on the earth? Or, is it the responsibility of individuals, of citizens around the world, to pressure government and businesses to take necessary action and try to tread more lightly in their everyday lives?
My view is that effective and systemic action will require all of these things. Everyone must be involved. We can’t singularly rely on politicians or businesses or non-governmental organisations or individuals to create the widespread change we require. Every layer of society is implicit in climate change (some more than others) and so, all must come together to create a new path forward. For many, change is intimidating or scary, as it will inevitably mean changes to our way of life. However, the possibility of inaction is more daunting, as the predicted impacts (and those that are already occurring) from climate change, will threaten our very existence. Let’s unite and forge change wherever it is possible in our lives. Be it reducing the energy we use in our homes, supporting our children to develop initiatives in their schools, exploring less carbon intensive business practices or urging politicians to take more decisive action: climate action is everyone’s responsibility.
Will it be enough? While attending climate marches is important, only when we consider climate change in every aspect of our lives, will it be enough.