Something stopped me in my tracks
This is a guest blog written by WA Break Free group member Madu Venkatesan
by Greenpeace Australia Pacific
23 August 2019
At the end of last year something happened that stopped me in my tracks. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released, and its message was stark: we had less than twelve years to drastically reduce our greenhouse emissions or face irreversible, catastrophic consequences.
Until then, I had somehow managed to push aside the creeping anxieties of the climate crisis. As a student, I had more immediate problems to deal with. Climate change, while real and important, could wait until I’d finished that assignment or studied for that test. But when I heard that verdict from the IPCC, it all changed.
I decided to change my priorities completely. I took leave from full-time study to share petitions, attend protests, meet with politicians and spread climate awareness throughout my local community. It was a huge detour from the plans I’d made growing up, but the decision was simple: either we act or we cease to exist.
That decision led me to attend a Greenpeace Break Free training 6 weeks ago in Perth, where I was given support on how to engage my local council to tackle the climate emergency. I met a community of like-minded people, and together we started a Break Free group in our local area – Mosman Park. My eyes were opened to a world of opportunities in which I could make meaningful change in my own neighbourhood.
I’ve put my life on hold to fight the climate crisis. And right now, I’m feeling hopeful. From Darwin to Sydney, Hobart to Fremantle, more than 3 million Australians are now represented by a local government that has stepped up and called the climate emergency for what it is.
A climate emergency declaration is a powerful first step to action. To fight the climate crisis we have to acknowledge its scale and urgency. The more local councils that do this, the stronger our mandate to force change from our coal-obsessed Federal Government.
For me there is no choice. People’s lives have already been devastated by the effects of climate change. I can’t stand by and watch while that happens.
I remember a conversation I had with my friend, Carmen, who has been working on this project with me. She told me how she has always wanted to be a mother but has had to make the painful choice to not have any children because she is terrified of the world those children will grow up in. That’s not a decision that anyone should have to make. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
I am motivated by fear and anger, but I’m also motivated by hope. I believe that we have time to face this crisis and come out of it having secured a future with a liveable planet. With every signature I collect on my petition, I want to spread that hope to the people in my suburb. To say, “this is what you can do, and this is why it will make a difference.”
With hope and resolve in the fight for a better future.
Madu Venkatesan and the Break Free team