On a Sydney beach in the waning Autumn sun, marine biologist Steph Gardner lays it out loud and clear: “Our government needs to rise to the occasion and replace burning coal with clean energy. Really address climate change.”
She couldn’t be more right. There’s no denying climate damage is changing the environment around us in all kinds of ways, and coal is one of the biggest contributors. Ocean heatwaves have already killed one-third of the reef’s coral. One million fish have died in the Murray-Darling, flying foxes are falling out of trees and we’ve seen the first Australian mammal declared extinct because of climate damage. Incredibly, people under 34 have never experienced a year of ‘normal’ temperatures.
Meanwhile, a movement has been steadily growing across our country as more and more people are prepared to stand up for the climate with their voice and their vote. Health workers, parents, emergency responders, scientists and teenagers — they all know climate is the most urgent issue of our time.
“The biggest thing for me, and our oceans, is to stop climate damage. I care about this so much. I know how important ocean ecosystems are for all of us,” says Steph. “We all need to use our collective voices for this amazing earth. She’s been screaming out to us with droughts, floods, fires. But it hasn’t been in a language that’s made sense to us.”
Steph Gardner knows how important the ocean ecosystems are for all of us. Photo: Tom Greenwood.
Further north, in the sleepy Brisbane suburb of Wynnum, a community of passionate voters are part of a national campaign run by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) which is making this the climate election.
Joining nearly 100,000 other Australians pledging to be climate voters, this Brisbane crew know stopping Adani and investing in renewables is the best way to mitigate climate damage. Working out of a shop space on the main street of Wynnum, they’re urging everyone to put pressure on political parties by signing the petition calling for strong climate-focused leadership.
Lisa Panting is one Brisbane mum committed to the climate election. She’s here every week with her three-year-old Lennon. Her main goal is to get more parents in the community thinking about why they should be climate voters.
“I’m passionate about my kids having a future, and providing a safe environment for them to grow up in. I don’t want them to think I did nothing,” she says. “I think there should be more mums and dads here. It’s important they make a stand on climate change because it’s their kids’ future.”
Lisa Panting and her son Lennon at Australian Conservation Foundation’s Election Hub in Brisbane. Photo: Marian Reid/ACF
And an uncertain future it is. To avoid catastrophic climate breakdown, the world’s scientists say all countries must phase out coal. Australia has the technology to switch to 100% renewable electricity within the next 12 years but we desperately need government leadership to make it happen.
That’s why this climate election is so important. That’s why we’ve made climate such a big issue our leaders have to talk about it.
At ACF we’ve compared the party policies so voters understand where our politicians sit on climate action. We’ve taken the #ClimateElection offline and plastered it across print media and billboards. We’ve door-knocked and run hundreds of community events. To date, almost 100,000 people have committed to being a climate voter and more than a quarter of a million people have taken action to #StopAdani with us. ABC’s vote compass has proven climate is a top election issue that can’t be ignored.
As a doctor, Amita Roy has seen the impact of climate damage on people’s mental and physical health. Photo: Thomas Kinsman/ACF
The climate issue has even made its way into sectors not usually aligned with environmental action. Back in Melbourne, we’ve heard from health workers — doctors, nurses, emergency responders. All of them have seen the impacts of climate damage play out in communities where they work.
As a doctor, Amita Roy sees a lot of mental health issues in people impacted by climate disasters: “Whether it’s bushfires down here in Victoria. Or devastating cyclones up in Darwin. I see stress, depression, exhaustion,” says Amita.
“We need to stop this. We need to follow in the footsteps of other nations who are already doing much better than us. Climate action means phasing out burning coal, and ramping up renewable energy. We can do tangible things to change this, so let’s do it!”
What you can do
This is the #ClimateElection. Sign the petition to show the parties you care. Vote to Stop Adani’s polluting mine, end digging up and burning coal and switch to 100% clean energy. Be a climate voter.