Sydney Harbour Bridge was barely visible through the smoke and amber coloured sky. Men covered in protective clothing sprayed water at the blazing bush. A row of four ducks swiftly waddled their way out of danger.
That was the first time I had seen my new home, Sydney, for over two months. I couldn’t smell or feel the burning heat from the fires but I witnessed the fires and their destructive paths on the TV, the TV inside my Russian prison cell.
Fast forward three months and I’m now sitting at a desk, a desk that I have freely chosen to sit at, listening to the howling winds and the heavy rain drops batter against the windows of the Greenpeace office in my birth country, the UK
The UK is experiencing its most extreme floods in over two centuries. I regularly feel a sense of sorrow and dread as I trawl through the pictures online of water reaching above window sills and the roof tops of houses visible amongst the miles of murky water. I feel sorrow, sorrow for the thousands of people affected by the flooding. I feel dread, dread for the future.
The science is pretty clear. The more carbon we pump into the atmosphere the warmer the planet becomes. The warming climate is not only melting the polar caps but is also linked to more extreme weather events all across the globe.
Science tells us climate change is a problem. The scenes from our own backyard confirm that climate change is a problem but world leaders continue to ignore the warning signs and stick their heads in the sand (or water in this case).
The UK government claims to be the “greenest government” ever. This is quite funny considering UK prime minister, David Cameron, has appointed a man who openly dismisses climate change as the environmental secretary. The man responsible for shaping the UK’s climate policies is the same man who cut flood defences despite warnings from experts that climate change would result in more floods.
It’s just as insulting as the scenes of, Tony Abbott, dressed up as a hero, defending Australia from the fires while stubbornly refusing to accept that we need to take action on climate change. Australia is run by a man who ignores science, ignores the needs of the people and allows coal companies to rip up one of its greatest treasures – the Great Barrier Reef – for more coal that’s causing the fires in the first place. We don’t need Abbot to help out the fire fighters, we need Abbot to stand up to the coal industry and put our future first.
I was sent to prison for taking part in a peaceful protest on the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise. We – the Arctic 30 – were there to stop oil companies drilling for more oil that’s causing the Arctic to melt and putting the climate and the magnificent Arctic environment in danger. I was saddened to see those fires rip through NSW on the news from my cell. I was in a powerless situation at the time but those fires gave me purpose – the world was talking about the melting Arctic and its effect on the climate and that made my time behind bars worthwhile.
Now I’m free and the two great countries I call home are in a state of turmoil. I took a stand but what the world needs is the people who can really shape our future to take a stand. But first they have to accept that climate change is a problem and after all this time I can’t believe we’re still having this argument.