Guest Blog: Rachel Watts on the Climate Crisis and what you can do about it
What it means to declare a Personal Climate Emergency
1. Divest your superannuation.
In all likelihood, the biggest investment you make as an individual is your retirement savings, your superannuation, and if that lump sum is in some random account that your employer told you to take out, you don't know what it's funding. Unless a super fund expressly declares itself to be divesting from fossil fuels you might be supporting that industry without realising. The superannuation fund you choose will depend on your circumstances, so do some research. Some options you may like to look up include Future Super, Australian Ethical Super and Verve Super. You can also go to Market Forces, which actively studies super funds and banks for their fossil fuel investments. If you can't change your super fund, you can contact them and express a desire for a fund that does not invest in fossil fuels.
Divesting your super might take all of 15 minutes. It's worth it.
2. Manage your waste, your emissions and buy with the future in mind.
Let me say up front: nothing you can do as a person or a household can fix this problem if big polluters in the LNG, coal and oil industries don't also take responsibility for their emissions. That requires government policy.
There is also a tendency after making individual changes, like giving up your car, that you will feel you have done enough. Studies show that the more people do individually, the less likely they are to support systemic measures like carbon prices. You also have to support these things. We are in peril. There is no such thing as having done enough.
Having said that, I think of reducing my own personal impact as building my resilience. I want to live more lightly on this planet, and learning how to get around without a car is a good way to do that. Composting and reducing household waste are also powerful, and help to foster a regenerative mindset. Gardening and supporting greater biodiversity are a sheer joy to me. These small changes have knock on effects that lead to other changes, helping you live your climate emergency in a regenerative, healthy way.
It's a good idea to buy fewer things. Challenge yourself to go a month without buying anything new, apart from food. Even when it comes to food, you can probably buy less (or no) meat and dairy. If you have space, you could try growing your own vegies. You can fly less, particularly if you fly regularly for work, by holding meetings online. Try not to over-think this, and don't shame anyone for the decisions they make. Everyone's circumstances are different, and remember, we're all in this together.
3. Reach out to your community.
Do you know your neighbours? Building your local network expands your sphere of influence and helps you think local first. A great way to start is to join a Buy Nothing Network, a community garden or a volunteer group. All of these things will be listed on Facebook or your council's website. Start or join a local Climate Change Action group. Share things you can make, grow or do with the people around you. Donate to important causes. Pay attention to your council's climate change policies and apply pressure when they need a nudge in the right direction.
Knowing your neighbours also means checking in to make sure they're okay, particularly during heat waves and emergencies. Take care of the people around you and be part of building up the resilience in your community.
4. Put pressure on politicians and join a protest group.
Collectively, we need to put pressure on State and Federal Governments to take more urgent action. This means voting climate, calling your MP's office to talk about climate, and signing (or starting) petitions.
But many folks have already been doing that for years, and time is running short, which is why you're seeing a surge in protests. And it's why you should join one. This is not a political issue, it's an issue of survival.
You may feel like you’re not that kind of person. But the situation won’t change until a vocal and active majority of people demand it. We need to make noise. Action is also a good antidote to fear, and it helps to build community around the cause. However awkward you feel, please do show up to events. If you can't attend actions, share them on Facebook and support activists vocally. Don't let them be demonised in the media.
Climate Protests Australia lists events around the country that you can attend.
5. Be an accomplice – advocate for climate justice.
I don't list this action last because it's less important, I've put it last because it's truly global. Climate change is a class issue. It will affect everyone, but it won't affect everyone equally. People in the global south are more vulnerable to climate change, as are people with less wealth, and people who are already marginalised in some way. Climate change is also product of colonisation. Advocating for Indigenous rights is a climate change action. First Nations people have been fighting for Country for hundreds of years. Elevate the voices of others and learn to recognise and speak about inequality when you can. Stand with them.
If you're interested in climate justice you can consider joining the Climate Justice Union WA, which aims to create a positive future for First Nations people, for rural communities, for fossil fuel workers, for low-income communities, for people affected by extreme weather, and for all other people impacted by climate change.