I Took the Kid to

Students’ Strike for Climate

It feels merely years ago that I graduated high school, headed off to uni, did some travel, and was ready to change the world. But it was 17 years ago.

My generation was going to do the fixing. We would be so well informed, so conscientious. We would wrestle the power from the older generation because we knew what was at stake. Now I’m 34. My generation are not in power yet. We are the generation of workers, fathers and mothers. There’s so much work to do. Women of my generation are still busting our guts for equality, and still being killed by our partners weekly. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters are still far worse off than us, and their children less educated and more incarcerated. We are nowhere near being in control of the world; nowhere near wrestling the country from the hands of the middle aged white males who still rule.

So, as a teacher, and a mother, I am buoyed by the actions of students this week. I mean, my generation aren’t doing anything to fix the world, so I sure as hell support them in their endeavours.

With my daughter in childcare, my 8 month old son and I set off for Geelong town. We didn’t make it in time to meet the crew at Richard Marles’ office (damn!) and, knowing the strikers were heading off to the Town Hall at 10am, at 10:08 we were power pram walking up the wrong street (oops), chasing protesters we couldn’t see. When we turned up towards the Town Hall, sweat dripping off my brow and the only activist t-shirt I could find (Girls Just Wanna Have FunDAMENTAL RIGHTS) sticking to my back, we had the strikers in sight. A public servant offered me a “Good morning!” as I pushed my ridiculously heavy infant up the hill towards the flashing police lights and the sounds of some good in-unison chanting.

When I was in Year 10, I participated in the Walk for Reconciliation and when I was 18, I walked in protest of the Iraq war. In the year 2000, my Japanese teacher quietly divulged to us that she wasn’t sick one day – she was off in the city protesting the tax being placed on sanitary items. She was/is still my hero.

These children that my son and I went to support were striking FOR THEIR LIVES. This is their planet, their climate, their livelihood. We listened, happily, inspired to their speeches – one by one, student by student, they got up and explained to the crowd their fears and dreams. From the mouth of a 14 year old, a famous quote: “When the leaders are acting like children, and the children like leaders… you know change is coming.” The moment was lost when a state Upper House member got a hold of the microphone and started banging on about how important it was that students took the situation out of the hands of the 50 year old men in charge… like him. The crowd were confused about whether to applaud or not. “SO WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT??!?” someone yelled from the back. He went into some political campaign rambling. “GIVE IT BACK TO THE STUDENTS!!!” He  acquiesced, to all our relief.

The students break into music and dance. My son bobs around in my arms. So many faces, so much passion. “Maybe it will all be okay?” I look for hope in his little face. He blows a raspberry in agreement.

climate

The Wonderful Land of Oz

Hi. Thanks for coming. Please, take a seat.

Now, I want you to close your eyes for a moment. And imagine that the world we live in does not exist. The politics, the problems, the media, the celebrities and the sport. Not even the history. There is nothing.

Australia is a blank slate.

Now, when you open your eyes you will be are here in Australia again, however it is the blank slate nation. And now, I will tell you some things about Australia. (Remember, everything that you have lived up until now does not exist.) I will fill in the slate of the nation for you.

Every week here in Australia, a woman is killed by her current or former partner. Also, a frightening military force is terrorising parts of the globe, with an army of somewhere between 30,000 and 200,000 fighters. Scientists world-wide have concurred that ocean water temperatures have risen due to human-caused emissions, and this could be catastrophic for weather patterns, ecosystems and species of flora and fauna worldwide. Australia is actually the highest emitter per capita of developed nations! Meanwhile, people in dire need of refuge are seeking asylum on our shores. We turn them away, resettle them in developing nations with questionable adherence to human rights, or lock them away in detention, invisible to the public’s eye. In some sections of our community, suicide rates are 8 times higher than the national average. (Yes EIGHT.) And finally, whilst sexual orientation is understood to be a character element you are born with, people whose love does not fit into the conventional heterosexual category are denied the right to marry.

So that is how things are looking here in Australia, just a few things to get you thinking. How do you feel about these things?

Not great. What is my nation doing about these things?

Well. Your government speaks about TERRORISM as the greatest issue. NATIONAL SECURITY they say. We MUST KEEP OUR CITIZENS SAFE, they say. We must put money into stopping radicalisation. We will spend 35 BILLION DOLLARS on “defence, national security and law enforcement”. This includes intelligence gathering, metadata watching and fighting the propaganda of terrorists cells. You will be happy to know that 750 MILLION DOLLARS will help “extend and expand Australia’s military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.” Good, eh?

But wait – sorry – ummm what about the domestic violence issue? You know, the whole, one woman being murdered each week thing? Is that not something that all that money can be put into? I mean, aren’t the women CITIZENS as well? And also, that suicidal community – wtf? Is my government doing something about that?

Great question.

Well, as I heard a Minister say on the radio this week, National Security is THE most important thing for the government to deal with. I mean after all, all Australians should feel safe and protected. But (now how did he put it…? something like) the Government can certainly chew gum and walk at the same time, so ahh, other stuff like domestic violence etc are certainly major issues but they can be dealt with concurrently.

So billions of dollars are being put into those issues right? … Right? 

Um. Hmmm I will take that question on notice. How about I tell you about the environment? So, your Prime Minister is not a big fan (ha! pun intended) of Wind Turbines. So, they will spin no more! It is all COAL! COAL! COAAAAALLLLL!!!!

What? You said we are one of the worst polluters!? I don’t like broccoli, but sometimes we have to deal with things we don’t like for the greater good!

Nope, nope, nope. No wind turbines, your PM likes Coal. Good for humanity.

That’s crazy! What’s my environment minister doing about this? Surely they are doing something to promote renewable energy? I mean, Australia is a fragile ecosystem we can’t let the oceans rise 2 degrees even – we’ll all be screwed!

Yes, Greg um, Hunt. Yeah, hmmm. You know, funny thing is, I’ve never heard him say anything about the environment. And he IS approving that coal mine in the prime agricultural lands of the Liverpool Plains… But hey – we know for sure that there will be no Carbon Tax ever again!

Isn’t the point of a price on Carbon to help lower the amount of emissions of business as well as the general public? I mean shouldn’t he be arguing FOR the environment and leave finance to the Treasurer and Immigration to the Immigration minister?

You mean Border Protection.

Sorry?

Border Protection. It’s not so much Immigration any more as it is about protecting our borders.

From what? People wanting to live here?

Yes.

You said they are being put in detention? Is the public okay with that? I mean what are these centres like? What happens there?

Well… we don’t really know… You see no one is allowed to report from the centres… But, hey! We trust the government! When they say it’s all fine, it’s all fine! If the Treasurer says tighten our belts, we say how many notches, Gov? Am I right? (Except when I helicopter instead of drive, but hey, we all have our indulgences, right?)

Wake me up I want to leave! Why is my country like this? What is this? 1930s Germany? Communist Russia? 

Hey! Clean slate remember? That stuff never happened!

Why did you do this to me? Why hypnotise me just to enrage me? Why did you do that? I was fine before, just living my life happily, not even caring about all these things! 

 

Oh Dorothy, you’ve always been able to return. But without the clean slate, you never would have realised what was happening in this country – and you never would have believed me if I had told you. Sometimes you need to back away from a situation so that you realise how crazy our world has become. Now my friend, with this rage, maybe you will feel that it is time for a change. And you will do something about it.

abbott wizard

An Anger that’s Hard to Contain

The take-away Wok Noodles are so good. So, so, simply good. Vegetables, noodles, soy sauce, chilli. Also, the price – under 5 Euros. But as I sit here running my tongue around my mouth and lips, savouring every last morsel of Soy Saucy taste, I am looking at the consequence of my purchase. A disgusting, useless, polystyrene container, complete with lid, and plastic fork.

We could have eaten ‘in’, for a full Euro more, and that extra Euro would have paid for the ‘service’ and ‘labour’ related to the serving and washing of one plate, and one fork. It was late, so we asked if we could sit at the tables near the restaurant anyway, so as not to eat out on the street (with the usual suspects you would find in the dodgy red-light district of Frankfurt).

So, in the end, we ate our ‘take-away’ Wok Noodles inside, I folded up the plastic bag they had put our meals in and placed it back on the counter, and then threw out our containers.

I understand that eating inside, especially in Europe, means paying more for what you consume. But is it not just a little strange that we are rewarded for buying foods that come in containers that most of the time, go straight into landfill? Yes, pizza boxes can be recycled (my grand plan is to patent an environmentally friendly version of those plastic three legged things that hold the lid off the goods), but most containers in Melbourne are number 5, unrecyclable plastic. (I am obviously not talking about McDonalds etc that have cleaned up their act with cardboard containers – but I do not frequent them.) Sushi comes in those piddly plastic containers, also destined for landfill, that are literally, used for the whole 5 minutes that it takes someone to eat their two or three sushi rolls.

We can ask for sushi in the paper bags, and we can use our own cup when buying take-away coffee (and get a 30 cent discount!), and we can choose to sit down for Indian food, enjoy good company and a nice place and not use three or four containers which, after use, we basically may as well walk with out to our local park, dig a hole, put them in, and forget about.

But I do love having my Indian food delivered to me! I can have a glass of wine in my own home, enjoy a great curry, and then not move until I shuffle into bed. But it is honestly, not worth the guilt I feel when, after the glorious meal, I consider the mountain of plastic sitting on the kitchen table after 4 guys and a girl have smashed through a few curries and many servings of rice and naan bread. The boys clear it away while I throw up some suggestions of ways we can use them again – but all of these are stupidly impractical, or mainly, just never going to happen, especially since it takes 50 washes to rid a container of greasy curry goodness and I haven’t yet found the time to plant my ‘take-away container herb garden’ yet.

I understand that I am opening up an infinitely filled tardis of worms here – and I haven’t even started on the generally available containers that contain our yoghurt, margarine etc among which most are the dreaded number 5 plastic. How can we save the world when only one type of yoghurt comes in a recyclable plastic? Something’s gotta change.

I watch people in Europe happily (sometimes sadistically!) feed their plastic bottles into the recycling ‘crushing’ machines, and grab their coin refund/reward for this act. I also watch tens of people leave the super market, none of them carrying a plastic bag because – get this – they have to PAY FOR THEM! Please, correct me if this has changed in the last 8 months in Australia, but why oh why are we not yet paying for plastic bags in Australian supermarkets!? (Except of course in Aldi, the German chain.)

Another great service here is the refund for your crates of bottles: you drink, you bring back, you get money, the bottles are reused. BAM! A win for all!

Why are we behind the rest of the world Australia? Why do plastic containers in London say ‘not yet recyclable’, implying that they are at least working on it? The recyclability of plastics vary council to council back at home – but perhaps one day it will be clear to households and individuals what can be recycled, and better still, have incentives to do this. Also, incentives for restaurants to use recyclable, or degradable materials for their take-away containers, and incentives and better awareness for customers visiting big coffee chains and smaller cafes, to bring their own cup, and shoppers to bring their own bags – the same ones every time – not buy a new green bag each visit.

And then my inventive friends, can someone help me with those pizza things?