I sit here with my Rural Fire Service volunteer pack on the desk in front of me. Signing up has been a long-time coming and it is my way of making myself useful. I hope I can, in a small way, help my country in its time of need. I’m talking about helping our wildlife, our ancient forests and of course our people. After seeing all the horror, the images, the pain, the death and destruction, it might feel like the end game, but I will be damned if I’m going to sit around preaching to others while not doing everything I can. The most precious thing I believe any of us really have is time and it’s this that I’m willing to give.
I’ve spent years in silence on these issues of climate change and biodiversity loss and at times it causes me great angst. I’ve studied specifically to help our incredible, unique and diverse wildlife and ancient landscapes. I spent years listening, reading, writing and talking, to become trained in the basics of environmental management. This knowledge is collective and it is learnt. It doesn’t seep through your DNA, you’re not born with it already implanted in your brain. You have to learn it – you have to be quiet and listen.
I’ve been yelled at, told that I’m ‘not a real scientist’, called a bloody greenie and told that my skin colour meant that I couldn’t possibly know. I’ve stayed silent when people looked me in the face and said climate change is bullshit, years before the hashtaggers realised climate change was a thing. I’ve stayed silent when people told me it was crap, just to keep the peace. I’ve watched people preach and tell me their simplistic answers.
Years ago I changed the way I live. I just started to live the change I wanted to see. I went off grid, completely. If anyone wanted to listen I’d talk about it but mostly I’d just keep quiet. On rare occasions I’d talk about managing my own power system, dealing with my own shit and waste. Capturing precious water. But mostly I wanted to live quietly, keep learning and share anything I’d learnt, when asked. There are enough preachers out there already and shit loads of online commentary and I believe we should first change our behaviour before asking others to do so.
I’ve watched on as newcomers to our country try and tell us what we are doing wrong with an almost coloniser attitude. I’ve watched as people use statistics in an attempt to shame us into climate action. As if shaming ever motivated any adult or child to make real changes of behaviour. Second highest per capita emissions in the world – what, utter, useless bullshit! As far as I am aware, we all live on the one planet. The emissions we create as humans is all that counts. We know where most of them are coming from and why. That should be our focus. This is not a game of ‘best nation wins a prize’. I don’t give a shit where your nation is ranked on some arbitrary scale. This game is for keeps and it’s time we woke up to that.
I’ve seen protests and been part of plenty too when I was younger. I’ve seen how useless they are becoming. I’ve witnessed other countries claim superiority when in fact their circumstances are purely by chance and were in no way designed to tackle modern climate issues. I’ve watched people doing what people do – issue opinions as if their’s are new or somehow worthy. It is not the time for opinion. I don’t want to hear what you ‘reckon’.
Facts and specifically those with knowledge of those facts should be the people we are listening to. This country is unique and it’s worth fighting for. Forget waving your national flags and your nationalistic nonsense. Many of us, who were born to this land, understand this following point. I’m from nowhere else on earth and this is my home. This land has been changed over tens of thousands of years due to human activity. Every nation on earth has experienced this to some extent. Aboriginal people burnt this land and altered its vegetation for ever. They burned for various reasons when the land was free of towns and roads and livestock and fences and … 24 million people. Those practices are no longer possible in many populated areas so we must listen and learn and work together and find new ways. We must all listen and learn.
During my time working in the environmental management field I’ve learnt many things. One of the major lessons was that our reserves, our national parks, our wild areas that we attempt to conserve are really only there at the whim of the people. Not purely because of their beauty or diversity of life. Laws can quite easily be changed and as a result habitats can be lost. Vote wisely!
We need to change how we do things but first we need to come together and understand why. We need to be humble enough to listen to those who have spent years researching and gaining greater understanding. Science, indigenous knowledge and responsible landowners should continue to come together – and they alone should guide our decisions. This current crop of politicians need to step aside and allow room for facts. They are employed by us, the citizens and they are clearly not up to the task.
I know after this season of great destruction, change, in some way, will occur. Once we recover as a country, as a nation and before we forget, we might be able to discuss a new way forward. Perhaps we can gain clarity, enough clarity to shun those who promote political ideologies that benefit no one but themselves and call out the deliberate negligence and blatant mistruths of the likes of Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly, et al. To rid ourselves of an inept, so-called Prime Minister. I wouldn’t hold my breath for this to happen, but we need to at least quieten those with destructive opinions by turning our backs.
And perhaps we can lead the world in our resilience and how we come together volunteering our time for our local community in times of adversity and use that energy to set an example for others to follow. Perhaps the example we set can be used for real change. A change that is needed for the wellbeing of our species.