Issue 4

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

Letter from the editor


Dear Reader,


The world we know is changing. The polar icecaps and mountain glaciers are melting, the rivers are drying up, hurricanes and droughts are becoming more frequent, hundreds of animal and plant species are going extinct every day, the sea is rising and becoming more acidic. In short, we are in the midst of a global crisis.


We need to make the political leaders take action on climate change - for example, introducing carbon taxes, preventing the construction of new coal mines and oil rigs, shutting down old ones where possible, funding renewable energy, preserving old growth forests and planting new ones in areas where they have been destroyed.


All hope is not lost. As the next generation, we must take a stand to defend our future. It's not fair, of course, that we are having act like adults. But that's what happens when adults act like children, and vice versa.


In Green Force, we try to do what we can to make the politicians listen to us. Our members participate in the school strikes, and we write letters to influential politicians. To document our action and that of others around the world, as well as the inaction and corruption of world leaders, we have a newsletter, which you are now holding in your hands. This is a special climate-focussed issue, which includes a review of the most watched Australian documentary ever, a profile of an inspiring young climate activist and breaking news about the climate crisis right here in Australia.


From Nicola Allen, the editor (and founder)


 

Review


2040 - Documentary made in 2019 by Damon Gameau, about solutions to Climate Change, told to his 4-year-old daughter, Velvet.

Review by Nicola Allen, Editor and Founder


This year, Australian actor and filmmaker Damon Gameau has launched a ground-breaking documentary of environmental heroism and action. 2040, a movie focussing on solutions to the existential threat of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change, has been called inspiring, uplifting, and a compelling vision… what is it about 2040 that makes people feel so hopeful?

I’ve seen many climate change documentaries – “An Inconvenient Truth”, “Before the Flood”, "Climate Change: The Facts" and “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”. Yes, they are convincing, accurate and terrifying, but although they make me feel the need for urgent action, too much emphasis is nearly always put on the negative aspects of the situation – the fact that we are in the midst of the 6th Mass extinction, with at least 50% of the world’s species under threat, the fact that our politicians, even here in Australia, seem to be going backwards in relation to climate policies, the seemingly insurmountable force of the climate change denial movement, rising sea levels forcing people in Kiribati, Fiji and the Solomon islands to relocate, and the devastation of our coral reefs - so instead of making me feel determined, I simply curl into a ball and try not to break down.


Watching 2040 had the opposite effect. I felt uplifted, energised, and, for the first time in ages, I felt as if we might be able to win this ‘war’.


The documentary is primarily designed as a message to Damon’s 4-year-old daughter, Velvet, in the year 2040. In the introduction, he states that he wants to show her what life might be like for her in 2040, “if we just embraced the best that already exists… My one rule is that everything I show Velvet has to already exist in some form… I’m calling it an exercise in fact-based dreaming.”


There are too many solutions to include here, and even more in "2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration", but I will mention the ones which made the biggest impressions on me.


The first concept that Damon explored was the solar grid home system. In order to investigate this scheme, Damon travelled to Bangladesh to meet Neel Tamhane, a 23-year-old employee of a company called SOLshare. The idea of the solar grid home system is that people in a community, some of whom have rooftop solar, can buy and sell energy with other houses through their “SOLshare box”. First, you get solar panels. Then you buy a battery to store the energy from the solar panels. Finally, you purchase a SOLshare box, which allows you to trade energy with other houses, even if they don't have solar panels yet. This means that once most houses in a region have solar panels, the entire community can be powered by solar, in an enormous network of interchanging renewable energy. In 2040, Neel Tamhane said, "They have their power in their own hands. This is bringing people together."

A computer-generated visual representation of the system
Speaking with 23-year-old Neel Tamhane in Bangladesh
"They have their power in their own hands. This is bringing people together." - Neel Tamhane

Secondly, the concept of educating and empowering girls as a solution to climate change. One of the major factors influencing a lot of environmental crises is population growth. Damon Gameau believes - and I agree with him - that one-child-policies and other kinds of restrictions are not the answer. Too many things can go wrong, as we saw in China, where girl babies were killed because the families wanted to wait until they had a boy. However, one method which has worked in a variety of situations is simply educating girls; empowering them to make their own choices about the number of children they have, instead of forcing them to only have one child. Studies done by UNESCO have shown that educated girls have fewer children. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, girls who receive a secondary school education on average have less than half the number of children uneducated women have. Not only that, but educated women are less likely to die in childbirth, more likely to find a good job and to have children later in life rather than as young girls. In this way, environmentalism and humanitarianism can go hand in hand.

Finally, using regenerative farming practices, rather than traditional ones. One of the methods used in regenerative farming practices is integrating different crops into the same field, so that it doesn't become a monoculture. The organisation Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees, also encourages farmers in developing countries to reafforest their land and do something called "forest farming", where the crops are grown among the trees, or the fruit or nut-bearing trees are planted with the native trees, also to prevent monocultures. The main attraction of these techniques for environmentalists is that they sequester carbon in the soil. However, there are many side benefits as well; they make the soil richer in nutrients, which means that the food that grows in it is healthier; they make the soil hold water better, allowing farmers to save more water and not waste so much on watering their crops; and require no poisonous pesticides.

Although the topic is serious, the movie is full of humour, beauty and overwhelming positivity. Damon shows that the story of the climate crisis doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. Rather, we should see this as an opportunity to unite under a common purpose: to save our home, so that the children of the present and the future can have a better life. “I think there’s room for new story. A story that focusses on the solutions…” he says. I think the reason that it makes people feel so good is that it isn’t just fantasy. Everything we see in the movie is real, and, better still, we discover just how close we are to tipping the balance and setting the world on a course towards a cleaner, greener, healthier and more democratic society.


As I stepped out of the darkness of Govinda’s into the blinding, bright sun, I had to blink several times and rub my eyes as they adjusted to the light. But that was not the only thing they had to adjust to. Looking around at the enormous buildings, bare of greenery, the streets clogged with cars and the few shrivelled trees on the footpaths, I knew that we had a long way to go before we reached the stunning utopia so beautifully illustrated in 2040. But I also knew, as I do now, that positive change is coming. As Damon said, “Not only are there so many people willing to take part in telling a new story, but we have everything we need, right now, to make it happen.” And one day, hopefully, my children and grandchildren will not remember their ancestors as the people who destroyed their home, but rather those who stood together, and saved the earth as one.


So… What’s your 2040?

Go to their website for more information: https://whatsyour2040.com/#

 

Action

Strike


It was a military operation.


At eleven o'clock on the dot - well, not quite - I set down my pen, packed away my Maths books and slipped out the door of the classroom. A few others joined me, friends I had galvanised into action yesterday lunchtime. As I walked along the corridor, I wondered how many people would show up. Twenty at most. Not that our contribution would matter much, I imagined.


I arrived at the Green Gate, the front entrance to my school, and was pleasantly shocked to find my way blocked by at least two hundred girls, seemingly swarming around at random. But gradually I realised that they were all forming into files, and that the Year coordinators were marking each girl off as she left. I joined the Year eight line, feeling exhilarated at the thought of how seriously this was all being taken. My Year coordinator took my parental consent form, told me to check that my uniform was immaculate and warned me to be back by 2:15pm.

As I left, another teacher pounced on me and informed me that I was missing a hair ribbon, which I already knew. I could see that my friends were already outside, waiting for me behind the bars, and yelling, "Hurry up Nicky!" I hastily dashed into the School Shop, bought a hair ribbon on my mother's account and rushed out the gate. The ribbon I promptly tucked into the deep recesses of my tunic pocket, never to be seen again.


So, all roughly two hundred of us traipsed, or rather poured down the hillside, laughing and chattering and generally making a nuisance of ourselves. We burst onto William Street, and several cars honked their horns in a show of solidarity. We responded by raising our posters and yelling. I strode at the front, even though I had no idea where we were going. I commented to my friend with some satisfaction, "Now no-one will ever laugh at me for caring about the environment again!" She merely rolled her eyes.


We entered the park, and saw some scattered groups on the slopes of the hill. Ok, then, maybe people were only just starting to show up. Still, it was unusual… Then we crested the hill and my jaw dropped.


There were people as far as the eye could see, stretching across the entire Domain. An enormous stage had been set up at the front, and there was what looked like a band set up on it, as well as a microphone. I could hardly contain my excitement. Just then, a woman and a man with a camera came up and asked if I minded being interviewed. I accepted at once, allowing her to clip a miniature microphone to the collar of my school blouse, and asked questions later. It turned out to be a private filmmaker and his friend who later posted the interview, along with other clips from the strike, in a video on Facebook. It can be found at "Work by Dom." As my friends gathered behind me, I cleared my mind and readied myself for the questions. Don't mess this up, I told myself. You are representing the strikers. You have to give a good impression of a sensible, informed child. I tried my best.

When we entered the crowd, I, being extremely short, could not see anything. However my taller friends informed me of the events occurring on the stage and even held my poster up higher during the cheering bouts, which occurred even after simple statements like, "There are bathrooms out back". There followed a series of passionate speeches and stunning performances. After that we all started marching towards Parliament House, but not before I had counted at least three news helicopters circling in the sky above.

The September strikes were the biggest climate mobilisation in history. 7.6 million people, young and old, participated, rising astronomically in just 6 months, from 1.6 million in March. There were about 330,000 people in Australia alone, more than doubling from 150,000 in March. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. We will continue to strike. We will not stop until they act on this emergency. We will never, ever give up.

 

Breaking News

Solar Prices in Freefall

Last month, the mining giant BHP announced that they were cancelling their contracts for powering their large copper mines in Chile with coal. This came at a personal cost of 1.14 billion dollars, but the company's Minerals America president said that these new solar contracts will, "deliver an estimated 20 per cent reduction in energy prices," at the two mines in question.


The very next day, more ground-breaking news arrived: India had decided to cancel plans to build 14 megawatts of coal-fired power plants, the equivalent of all coal-fired energy used in the UK. These are also to be replaced by solar. The director of energy finance studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Tim Buckley, said, "India’s solar tariffs have literally been free falling in recent months." He also stated that India was leading the global "energy transformation" and that this "will have significant ripple effects into other transforming markets, as is already seen in the UAE, South Africa, Australia, Chile and Mexico."


These drastic changes should come as no surprise. The science and the economics are crystal clear; burning fossil fuels is destroying the planet, and solar power is the cheapest form of new energy. When the mining companies start using renewables, you know it's getting serious. Just the other day, a new report was released, signed by 11,000 scientists from 153 countries, declaring an international climate emergency.

'The paper, published in the journal BioScience, declares the climate crisis "has arrived" and is "accelerating faster than most scientists expect."
"Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat," the paper said.' - The ABC

The evidence is getting scarily close to home. More than 150 homes have already been lost in the unseasonably hot bush fires blazing across NSW and Queensland. There are at least 70 fires still burning in NSW alone. Three people are dead and five missing. And Australia is far from the only victim. Brazil, parts of Africa, Indonesia, Spain, Greece, Greenland an even the Artic are in flames.


Yet despite this evidence of change, the politicians of other countries continue to cling desperately to the coal mining industry. And yes, I'm talking about Australia. At the Pacific Islands Forum this year, Scott Morrison arrived to find children swimming in tubs of water to represent that their homes were going underwater. The Prime Minister of Tuvalu cried as he begged our PM to pass stronger laws on coal use, but to no avail. The Prime Minister was firm: Australia would not be stopping using coal anytime soon. He verbally attacked school strikers, telling them to go back to school, and that his government wanted to see more learning in schools and less activism in schools.

More recently, he has called us anarchists, indulgent and selfish, said that we were economically sabotaging businesses - by which he means mining companies - and called our tone "apocalyptic". The laws around protesting are already restricted in Australia, but now the PM is threatening to ban boycotts. When you boycott a business, it means you stop using its product and advocate against it because of, for example, unethical practices. So, if boycotts are banned, it will be illegal for people to protest about the Adani mine, the oil drilling planned in the Great Australian Bight and the fracking in the NT, to name just a few campaigns. Boycotting is an essential part of democracy, but our Prime Minister doesn't seem to care. In the same speech, Scott Morrison ironically claimed that "progressivism" was trying to deny Australians their rights and liberties.

As if that weren't enough, on the 29th of October peaceful protesters in Melbourne were pepper-sprayed and violently arrested by police while attempting to blockade an international mining conference, the IMARC. More than twenty extinction rebellion activists were arrested. Police forced people to the ground and dragged them away, described as being "incredibly hostile," and one woman was injured by a police horse and had to be taken to hospital. Not only that, but several university journalists were also sprayed, one in the eye. He said that the activists were being relatively peaceful: "The protesters weren't doing anything violent, they were just resisting a little bit and then to do that [deploy pepper spray] is just a bit disappointing." All of those arrested were strip-searched, including a 17-year-old girl. While Scott Morrison gave a speech about the mining industry providing dignity to thousands of Australians, climate protesters reflected on having their dignity taken from them.


Of course, blockading a general mining conference instead of focussing simply on coal, and spitting at people's faces, is not a generally good idea, because all it does is provoke an angry reaction from members of the public and politicians. The school strikes, in contrast, got a lot less bad press because they were peaceful and positive. And the other Extinction Rebellion Protests have been a lot more successful. But you can see why they do it. The situation has become dire. And it doesn't excuse anything that the government has said or done in response.


Environmentalists are not anarchists, communists or socialists. We are simply trying to turn the tide on fossil fuels, before it's too late. According to the IPCC, we now have a little over ten years left before the climate crisis spirals completely out of human control. We know that change is possible, and the only barrier left is not economic or technological, but political. So now more than ever it is critical that we continue to apply pressure to our government. Australia can be a leader in the renewables revolution, too. And at the end of the day, as Greta Thunberg said, "Change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people."

 

Awareness

Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr Morrison,


Please take the time to read this email and seriously consider what I have to say.


My name is Nicola Allen. I am a 14-year-old Sydney-sider. And I am determined to protect my future at any cost.


You and I are not scientists, but on this I think we can agree. Climate change as we are currently experiencing it is both anthropogenic and an existential threat to humanity. As such, it should be our number-one priority. If you disagree, I refer you to the IPCC's latest report. There, as Greta Thunberg said, "you will find all of our so-called opinions". The polar icecaps and mountain glaciers are melting, the rivers are drying up, hurricanes and droughts are becoming more frequent and ferocious, hundreds of animal and plant species are going extinct every day, the sea is rising and becoming more acidic, people are dying in fires, floods and famines, and our global emissions of greenhouse gases are continuing to rise. In short, we are in the midst of a global crisis.


Now, I know that you have a lot of things on your mind; trying to please both the left and the right extremes in politics; keeping Australia competitive on the global market; trying to make it seem as if your government is addressing the climate crisis under growing pressure from school strikers. But you have to understand that although these things are important in the short term, you are seeing climate change through a fog of other problems. You and nearly all world leaders have been asleep at the wheel. Well, the world is waking up. There is no longer any excuse to continue delaying the transition to renewable energy. There are no longer any technological or economic barriers. It won't kill Australia's economy and you know it.


You say your government is doing enough to curb our own emissions, that we are overshooting our Paris goals, but how can this be true when our emissions are still going up, a fact your government stated itself? The only explanation is that you are managing to overshoot pathetically small goals using carryover credits from the Kyoto protocol. Meanwhile, you are surrounded by people who tell you what you want to hear - not the inconvenient truth; an energy minister who campaigns against wind farms; an environment minister who believes in numerology more than science; a natural disasters minister who has no idea whether or not climate change is even caused by humans; a minister for resources who claims that the science of climate change is "uncertain"; and a chief of staff who is a climate denier.


Although, as you said, Australia's annual emissions could be replaced by China in just six days, we have an enormous responsibility, as a developed country, to set an example for others like India and China. How can we tell them what to do if we aren't modelling best practice? I know that alone we can't stop climate change, but we can inspire other countries to take action. When we have gone to war to fight alongside greater military powers in the past, we didn't do it because our small contribution could change the course of the war. We did it because we wanted to be the sort of country that stepped up, and because it was the right thing to do. So why doesn't the same thing apply for climate change? Not to mention our disgraceful neglection of climate justice. It is clear that rich, developed countries, who have long reaped the benefits of fossil fuels, must curb our emissions first, giving other countries time to install critical infrastructure.


All this is simply unacceptable to my generation, who will have to live with the environmental and economic consequences of your decisions. You are putting me, my sister, your daughters, Greta Thunberg, her sister and everyone else in my generation on a flight with a 50% chance of crashing. Leaving the fate of the world to the flip of a coin. And that's best case scenario. So, quite independent from any political agendas, we are striking. 330,000 people in Australia, and 7.6 million worldwide. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. You haven't seen anything yet.


I heard a speech by you the other day, talking about how you receive many letters from Australian school students who are worried about climate change. You told us not to worry. So - you don't want us to worry? Then don't give us a reason to. Take decisive action on climate change. Get a carbon tax. Declare a climate emergency. Stop the billion-dollar subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry. Stop the Adani coal mine, oil drilling in the bight and fracking in the NT. Fund renewable energy. Ensure the transition to renewables is just for everyone, especially those who have jobs in the fossil fuel industry.


And of course I saw the famous video in which you yelled at Parliament, "Kids should go to school!" And of course we should. But we don't have a choice. We can't just sit around and watch as our house is slowly burned to ashes.

More recently, you gave a speech in which you dropped the sympathetic visage and called us selfish, indulgent anarchists, and promised to ban boycotts. Only a few days earlier police had arrested and strip-searched twenty Extinction Rebellion protesters unnecessarily, including a 17-year-old girl. You should be ashamed of yourself for allowing such a scandal to occur. They say that they were only following protocol, but maybe the protocol should be changed if it allows people to strip-search teenage climate protesters.


If you fail to preserve my future, and you abuse the power you have been handed, then you are betraying yourself and everyone around you.


Sincere regards,


Nicola Allen.


 

Eco Warriors

Greta Thunberg


When Greta Thunberg, a then fifteen-year-old girl from Sweden, first sat down outside the Swedish parliament with just her backpack and a simple black-and-white placard which read "Skolstrejk för Klimatet", in August 2018, no-one could have predicted the events she would set in motion. At first, only a few people began to join her, but once it caught the attention of the media, children all over the world began to strike from school. In just a few months, there were registered days being advertised for school strikes. The first big one was on the 30th of November, 2018. It was dubbed, "The Big School Walkout". The next came on the 15th of March this year. Over 150,000 Australian school children struck that day, with 1.6 million around the world. But the latest one, on the 20th of September, was even more spectacular - being the largest climate mobilisation in history, with 7.6 million globally and 330,000 in Australia alone.


Greta is the unquestioned star, catalyst and figurehead of the climate strike movement, but she's much more than that. Her clarity of voice and mind are captivating. She speaks the plain truth, not sugar coated. She gives a voice to children who, like me, long felt isolated and alone because they thought that nobody else cared. But that didn't matter to Greta. She struck alone, without her parent's permission or support from any friends or groups whatsoever. And because of her courage, children all over the world now have the power to make their voices heard.


But where did she come from, and how did she become what she is today? She actually started out as a shy, introverted girl living in Sweden with a famous opera singer mother and a little sister who took after her and was already becoming famous in Sweden. Greta has selective mutism and Asperger's syndrome, which makes her blunt in speech, when she does speak, single-minded in thought and causes her to see the world in a black-or-white frame of mind. She regards these as superpowers, because they allowed her to see climate change clearly and start the school strike movement.


At the age of eight, after learning about climate change for the first time, she says, "I became very depressed. I stopped eating and I stopped talking and I stopped going to school." After her recovery, she became determined to not allow herself to be a hypocrite about the climate crisis by stopping flying, becoming vegan and not buying any new clothes. And then she set about finding a way to help the situation. After winning a writing prize about the environment in 2018, she was approached by an eco-organisation who, along with other activists, were trying to find a way to bring attention to the climate crisis. I'll let her take it from here, in an explanatory Facebook post.


"… had a few ideas of things we could do. Everything from marches to a loose idea of some kind of a school strike (that school children would do something on the schoolyards or in the classrooms). That idea was inspired by the Parkland Students, who had refused to go to school after the school shootings.


"I liked the idea of a school strike. So I developed that idea and tried to get the other young people to join me, but no one was really interested. They thought that a Swedish version of the Zero Hour march was going to have a bigger impact. So I went on planning the school strike all by myself and after that I didn’t participate in any more meetings.


"When I told my parents about my plans they weren’t very fond of it. They did not support the idea of school striking and they said that if I were to do this I would have to do it completely by myself and with no support from them.


"On the 20th of August I sat down outside the Swedish Parliament. I handed out fliers with a long list of facts about the climate crisis and explanations on why I was striking. The first thing I did was to post on Twitter and Instagram what I was doing and it soon went viral. Then journalists and newspapers started to come."


She has spoken at the World Economic Forum, the European Parliament, Ted Ex, the Austrian World Summit, the U.S. Congress and the United Nations. The combination of a clear, youthful, informed voice and millions of supporters has proven to be the perfect recipe for awareness-raising and action-creating without provoking too much of an angry reaction from the populace.


Of course, she has her haters, as all activists do. To quote directly from an ABC foreign correspondent documentary, "She's been called a puppet, an apocalypse guru, a deeply disturbed messiah and mentally ill." And that basically sums it up. The main negative view is that she is being used by the alt-left to promote communist and/or socialist policies and beliefs, when nothing could be further from the truth. She has clearly stated that she is not interested in the politics, saying in her Ted Ex talk, "Until we start focussing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope."


In the same Facebook post that I mentioned earlier, she says, "Many people love to spread rumours saying that I have people 'behind me' or that I’m being 'paid' or 'used' to do what I’m doing. But there is no one 'behind' me except for myself. My parents were as far from climate activists as possible before I made them aware of the situation.


"I am not part of any organization. I sometimes support and cooperate with several NGOs that work with the climate and environment. But I am absolutely independent and I only represent myself. And I do what I do completely for free, I have not received any money or any promise of future payments in any form at all. And nor has anyone linked to me or my family done so.


"And of course it will stay this way. I have not met one single climate activist who is fighting for the climate for money. That idea is completely absurd.


"Furthermore I only travel with permission from my school and my parents pay for tickets and accommodations."


For me her most compelling statement was this, also from her Ted talk: "Yes, we need hope. Of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come."

 

This is the fourth edition of GREEN NEWS. In the next issue we'll have lots more news, reviews and inspiring environmental action to report.

If you would like to be part of a CUFF (Clean Up For Fun) action or contribute an article or photo to Green News, write to me at green.news.australia@gmail.com

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