By Lizette Salmon
Last month Wodonga Albury Toward Climate Health (WATCH) celebrated its 10th year. A decade with six prime ministers and five Border Mail editors. Changes aplenty, but we’re still here.
As a non-partisan climate advocacy group, we began by meeting dozens of politicians from all levels of government, including a Federal and two state Shadow Ministers for Climate Change. It was heady stuff, hoping that discussions of science and solutions would lead to evidence-based decision-making. Ten years on we’re still banging on about credible science but recognise that attitudes to climate change are shaped not only by facts but a person’s values, worldviews and the opinions of those they trust. We realise MPs are often followers rather than leaders. Following their tribe, the populace and, in upper echelons, the diabolical fossil fuel industry which buys political favours with large party donations.
So we looked beyond politicians, encouraging eminent locals to become public signatories to our call for stronger action on climate. More than fifty leaders from diverse backgrounds endorsed our statement, including Lauren Jackson, John Brown, Peter Challis, Nancy Rooke and Andrew Saxby. Many of them continue to advocate in their communities.
We also enlisted the support of a hundred local citizen scientists who agreed to share their observations during heatwaves. From dying chickens and scorched crops to spikes in violence and buckling pavers, we collate and share their powerful, first-hand stories.
WATCH members have established invaluable spin-offs like the Ecoportal website, Renewable Albury-Wodonga Energy, StopAdani Albury-Wodonga and this Living Lightly series.
Personal highlights include scaring off a coal seam gas company planning to drill near Corowa, the rousing rendition of ‘Here come the bribes’ as a coal baroness prepared to marry a politician outside Sussan Ley’s office, and divestment decisions by Albury and Wodonga councils. Also creeping changes, like the local radio personality who, unprompted, has started questioning pollies about fossil fuel subsidies and a family member who finally accepts that Murdoch media blatantly misreport climate science.
It’s a slow journey that often feels like one step forward, two steps back, but we’re here for the long haul. WATCH this space.
This article appears in today’s Living Lightly column, published in the Border Mail newspaper and on Ecoportal.net.au online.