Climate change - do we truly care?

Unless you have been living under a rock, or have been brainwashed by the former Prime Minister’s environmental advisors, you will understand that there is a huge furore around the issue of climate change. It is in fact, the defining issue of our time.

I recently read an article in which Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and now Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, was quoted as saying about climate change:

"This [climate change] is a global issue that affects everyone, but I just don't see the level of citizen mobilisation around this issue that I saw in my relative years around the war in Vietnam, or nuclear weapons, or apartheid. Things change when citizens make it a big enough priority."

Thinking back to all those hippie protests of the 1960s – ‘make love, not war’ – where are the mass demonstrations on climate change? We walked against foreign wars, we walked against racism and apartheid but, when pushed to action, we seem to be relatively ambivalent about the most pressing global issue of our time.

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand - rapidly shrinking as a result of climate change. Photo - Jessica Podzebenko

The answer is thankfully yes - historic mass global marches have recently taken place on climate change. But I know that from brief news pieces, not from images that are etched in my memory from participating or from stirring vision on television. These most recent rallies are the 2000 or so global marches on the eve of the Paris climate change summit in 2015, which together most likely make the largest demonstration of mass activism on climate change to date. Around 600,000 people participated globally.

But did you or I know anyone who actually went along? What is the demographic that cares so much about climate change? Numbers in Sydney were around 40,000 – which is a great start but embarrassingly I didn’t go. London seemed miserly in comparison with about 50,000 demonstrators.

However, I wasn’t one of the Sydney marchers. On seeing the demonstrations on the news that night, I muttered to myself that we had a busy day with the kids that day - wishing I had pulled my socks up and made the effort.

If these are the largest rallies to date, then in my mind the level of engagement is pretty low in proportion to the magnitude of the issue.

A friend recently commented that climate change just didn’t seem relevant - the impacts were too far removed from their life. I think that hits the nail on the head – relevance. How is climate change relevant to our lives and our families’ lives?

Lake Wanaka, New Zealand. Photo - Jessica Podzebenko

For many of us, the issue of climate change seems to be a bit like solving Middle Eastern peace – an issue of such magnitude, of such complexity and for most of us, so far away, that it is often put in the too hard basket.

Yes, our family composts our leftovers at home, we diligently switch off the lights, buy ‘eco friendly’ products (admittedly without reading any of the fine print – ‘eco’ could mean anything!) – but our contribution to saving the planet is fairly embarrassing.

Now that I’m a Mum, I ponder my role as a parent and custodian of the land that my children will inherit. I am cognisant of the responsibility I have in keeping our world intact for my children, and their children to enjoy. I naturally think of my children enjoying their immediate home country for generations to come, as well as my native country, New Zealand.

Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand. Photo - Jessica Podzebenko

My two favourite places in the world happen to be in New Zealand – Wanaka and Whangapoua. Both are both magical, natural environments and their attraction lies in the lack of significant development over the years, apart from a natural rate of development which has left their ‘crown jewels’ untouched – the beaches and foreshore, and in Wanaka – the snowy mountain ranges and surrounding lakes and landscape.

Both of these special places are increasingly threatened by the effects of a changing climate, but only recently did the penny really drop for me. Skiing is my absolute passion, and if you told me that my sons could not grow up skiing at the Wanaka ski fields because the snow had melted long ago, and the mountains were drying up, I would be heartbroken.

Southern Alps, Wanaka, New Zealand. Photo - Jessica Podzebenko

Equally, as we fight the constant battering storms and waves against our family property on the Coromandel Peninsula, we need to plan for the future protection of the sand dunes. But in addition to mitigation against current impacts, we need to dig to the root of the causes and take action in whatever way we can.

Whangapoua, New Zealand. Photo - Jessica Podzebenko

What can you or I do? Make conscious decisions about things which may impact the environment – the cars we drive, the electricity we use, where we buy our fruit and veges from, do we recycle, do we have a compost bin, do we invest in clean technology, will we build a ‘green’ home, how do we teach our children about sustainable living?

Photo - WIx

The website www.beanunfucker.com is a simple, but informative guide on how to make everyday changes to protect the environment and tackle climate change. One simple change we’ve decided to make is buying seasonal produce locally at farmers markets every week – which is more of a pleasure than a chore. What one change can you make to your daily life?

I find it ironic that as parents, and particularly mothers, we are all so focused on the here and now with our children – the activities we enrol them in each term, the mental calculation of how much sugar they have or haven’t eaten in a week, the doctors appointments, the playdates, the manners and the iPad usage…. But do we ever take a step back to think about the world they might live in with their children? Or with their children’s children?

We need to continue to be the best parents we can in the now, but also think about our environment – their environment – from a long term, sustainability perspective. If we don’t, we will have failed as parents, as custodians of the land.

For more information on climate change facts, what the Paris conference was all about, and what the Australian government is and should be doing, go to: www.climateinstitute.org.au.

For simple ways to make easy changes in your life to protect our environment go to:

www.beanunfucker.com.

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