By Emily Siggs
Dear climate sceptics,
I’ve studied earth science, and while I’m not an expert in the field, at least I’m not the CEO of a mining company (read: someone who financially benefits from the fossil fuels industry) claiming that climate change is natural and there is no crisis. It’s certainly true that much of it is natural. Volcanoes do put out tons of carbon dioxide, enough to significantly mitigate our efforts at carbon dioxide reduction. The earth does go through ice ages and periods of warming. But what the earth does naturally isn’t why kids are out protesting.
It’s the toxic waste we dump, the air quality in big cities that means thousands are breathing smoke every day and the plastic in the ocean that’s the problem. Because we aren’t protesting what’s natural. We are protesting the things we do that cause controllable and unacceptable harm to other life on this planet. I’ve been writing letters since the age of nine to my local representative, watched the nickel smelter on the Kalgoorlie horizon constantly burning. I always get replies, but I’m yet to see any commitment.
I live in a wonderful country and I am watching it be destroyed. The farmers are weathering worse and worse droughts, more species go on the endangered list every year and the Great Barrier Reef is dying. And still big companies refuse to take responsibility for proper rehabilitation of the land and offset their emissions; seeing it as a burden, not their problem. A huge amount of our revenue comes from mining, but we can still mine sustainably, take responsibility for mitigating the damage we do and not be part of the problem.
The children of this nation are terrified that they will not inherit this country as we know it. We will lose the Great Barrier Reef, and they will ask us why we did not save it. Our children are frightened by the future we offer them, of droughts, extreme weather events and irresponsible corporations. This is not about whether climate change is a natural occurrence; it is. But a lot of the degradation of our natural environment is a result of our actions, including logging and clearing forests, plastic in the ocean that kills the sea life, and acid rain.
I had to watch something horrible in September 2019. I watched a young girl stand up before a group of people three times her age and express fear for her own future. As she put it, ‘I shouldn’t be here’. And she shouldn’t have been. We pride ourselves as parents on looking after our children. This is not looking after our children. This is telling them we know better about a future we will not live to see. That was horrible enough on its own, but the fact that she addressed adults so callous, so disconnected from the situation, that her speech was generally shrugged off or made light of in comment sections, by adults that are supposed to be leaders in the Canadian, American and Russian parliament – that was the most horrible thing. This is not just about responsibility for our surroundings and for other species, but the ability to act with human decency. Who is most affected by climate degradation? The young, the penniless, the vulnerable.
The Amazon rainforest – you know, the one you wrote about in science projects, told to research its extensive and beautiful flora and fauna – is on fire. I have some religious friends who mourn this loss, who pray for it: but prayer won’t change the minds of the companies that have something to gain from the logging. Illegal logging counts for some of this, but we often unconsciously and unknowingly support familiar companies in this endeavour. Some of the biggest industries are chocolate, coffee, beef, soy and palm oil. Please make sure you buy responsibly.
I was in Sydney during the bushfires. The sun was red on the pavement, the air smelt of smoke; I wrapped my scarf across my face and still I coughed. I was glad to be inside, in the air-conditioning, but there were people who had nowhere to go. I’ve seen more records broken than I can remember for the hottest day, for the hottest winter day, over and over again, with increasing frequency in my lifetime. It nearly doesn’t strike me as odd, because I’m quite used to it. Even if we can make no ultimate difference to natural climate change, is it not our moral responsibility to try? Just because our emissions reductions are cancelled out by volcanoes erupting, does that mean we should give up? Just because it’s getting hotter and Australia will burn anyway, does that mean we shouldn’t try to reduce our emissions? Just because the melting of the ice caps is not our fault (which it well could be), does that mean we should shrug and look idly on as our neighbours slip under the sea?
I acknowledge that some of the facts are in dispute between us, but this is not an issue of facts. It is an issue of ethics.