Recently, I attended the Sustainable Living Festival’s Great Debate which was titled ‘Is Environmentalism Failing: Or is it on the verge of creating a transition to a safe climate future?’. Some of Australia’s foremost environmentalists reflected on the successes and failures of the environment movement. The line-up included Clive Hamilton, Ian Lowe, Phillip Sutton, Senator Christine Milne and David Suzuki — a well educated and very experienced panel of experts! This event was also moderated by the wickedly funny host of the SBS TV show “Rock Wiz”, Julia Zemiro.
Speakers presented their case for a way forward for environmentalism in the 21st century. All the arguments put forward were well thought-out and highlighted both successes and failures of the global ‘environmental movement’. Most of the speakers believed that environmentalism was currently ‘failing’ but it wasn’t a ‘failure’. The audience also had their vote and a majority agreed with the panellists. Why do people believe environmentalism is failing? You can watch the whole debate (or just its highlights) at ABC TV’s Big Ideas websitehttp://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2011/03/15/3163439.htm
David Suzuki yet again shifted my thinking on environmentalism. He dreamt of a world where there wasn’t a ‘Greens Party’ but that all parties were green and worked for the environment. He also dreamt of a world where there wasn’t an environmental movement but rather that sustainability was incorporated into every facet of society. Suzuki said that young people should be encouraged to follow their passions and include sustainability within these spheres… there should be no such thing as ‘environmentalists’ or an ‘environmental movement’.
Christine Milne, amongst others, highlighted the importance of ‘getting out on the street’ to help raise awareness, a la Franklin River Dam campaign. She also pointed out that we need to engage people emotionally in the issues of environmentalism. David Suzuki took this one step further and argued that we need to scrap the climate change graphs and start looking at the ‘faces’ of climate change and the natural environment. I was once again reminded of their words at the pro-carbon-tax rally a few weekends ago, standing amongst an estimated 8000 protesters who had gathered to support the prime minister’s carbon tax plan and call for action on climate change.
Whilst listening to Suzuki and Senator Milne, I was reminded of the important role schools play in educating and empowering students to take action for sustainability. And to be vocal about what they’re doing! In particular, encouraging secondary students to become politically active and stand up for what they believe in. Following on from this, I think the most powerful speech came from from the youngest member of the panel Anna Rose, co-founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC). Her speech was so impressive that David Suzuki asked her for a copy of it!
I contacted Anna and she has very generously given CERES a copy of her speech to publish. We have included her speech in full and an abbreviated version will be published in the CERESly Sustainable newsletter. Click here to read Anna’s paper, ‘Climate Movement 2011: Failure, Power and Renewal’.
Here are some websites to help your students link with others and take action:
> Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) — http://www.aycc.org.au
> AYCC’s YouTube Channel — http://www.youtube.com/user/theaycc
> Tomorrow’s Leaders for Sustainability —http://www.leadersforsustainability.com/
> Our Cool School — http://dev.sustainability.ceres.org.au/groups/our-cool-school/
> Up2Me For Kids — http://www.up2meforkids.com.au/
> A great example of a student action team is the Melbourne Girls’ College Sustainability Collective http://www.mgc.vic.edu.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=118&Itemid=178
> CERES Incursions runs a student leadership program called ‘Do More with LESS’. For more information about booking a workshop for your school or council/shire visit
> Grants and competitions are a great way for students to get involved and fund their projects. Visit our Education Resources section for ideas http://dev.sustainability.ceres.org.au/school-resources