“Take more notice of Indigenous knowledge of how to run this country because it’s been successful for tens of thousands of years,” said Mongarlowe RFS firefighter Paul Huntingford during the Climate Emergency Rally, organised by the People’s Climate Assembly on the lawns of Parliament House.
The rally is part of five days of climate action coinciding with the first day of Parliament, where politicians devoted the day to bushfire tributes and commemoration.
Outside on the lawns, Mr Huntingford spoke as an individual who has been fighting bushfires for the past seven weeks.
“We’ve cut down 85 per cent of all forests. They absorb carbon and we’ve kept building factories that create carbon. At what point is the science not relevant?”
Mr Huntingford was one of many protestors Region Media spoke with, from politicians and scientists to Indigenous elders and ordinary people who are deeply concerned about the way the climate has changed.
Adrian Burragubba is the leader of Wangan Jagalingou Family Council, at the forefront of efforts to stop the Adani Carmichael mine in Queensland.
“I think it’s gotten a bit hotter,” said Mr Burragubba.
“All Australians are suffering because of climate change so we want to be able to not only speak for our people but speak for the land and protect the land from further destruction of the environment.
Scientist and radio personality Dr Karl Kruszelnicki hosted the rally. He told Region Media that 30 years of inaction on climate science can no longer be tolerated.
“My position on climate change began in 1976 when the world’s largest insurance company was already factoring the greenhouse effect into its insurance premiums. The scientists had their proof by 1989 and the proof has just become more and more robust since then.
“There have been episodes of climate change before but this particular one is caused by us and by our use of carbon dioxide.”
As an individual, Dr Karl said he makes a daily contribution to reducing his carbon footprint by relying on the “beautiful solar cells” that he first started using in 2007. They cost him $50,000 but are worth about $4000 today.
“The reason I spent $50,000 is that I knew there would be economies of scale, so for every doubling of the number of solar cells being made, the price came down by 10-15 per cent. So I went in there deliberately knowing that I would be an early adopter of this wonderful technology,” he said.
Canberra resident Alice, who didn’t want to give her surname, was one of the thousands with a clear message to politicians in light of the bushfire crisis.
“There are too many who have been told it’s too late to leave, too many people trapped and not taken care of,” Alice said. “I work in science so my position hasn’t changed just because of the events of this summer but it’s a whole different thing when you’re breathing it in.
“I’m also an educator, so I use my role to educate young people to have better methods that help our environment,” said Alice, who mitigates her footprint by not buying plastic and eating only organically produced meat.
David Boden and Julie Robinson of Hackett were dressed for the occasion: Mr Boden sporting a Hawaiian shirt and a sign with a special message for the Prime Minister that said, “This pineapple would make a better PM.”
“My clear message is to stop climate change with long-term emissions reductions for the planet, animals, the lot. I resolve to make a stronger personal commitment, not just as an individual,” he said.
Luke Corby of Wollongong is about to begin a university degree in Canberra. He said politicians need to stop looking out for their own interests.
“They’re here to represent the people and they are taking millions of dollars from people who are denying climate science. It’s the big companies against my generation, who are going to have to clean this all up,” Mr Corby said.
As Aboriginal elder Uncle Bruce Shillingsworth spoke passionately on stage, former Liberal Party leader from 1990 to 1994 John Hewson had a very direct message to the politicians.
“I could be crude and say get off your arse. I cannot believe they have squandered all those opportunities to lead on this debate for the last 30 years,” Mr Hewson said.
“I would like to see a conscience vote in the parliament. It’s about time we flushed out all the senators and members, and find out where they really stand on this issue. The current government is more interested in holding up lumps of coal in parliament than solving problems.”
Wiradjuri woman and ACT Australian of the Year, Katrina Fanning, said it’s time to forget about party politics and get on with saving the planet.
“Aboriginal people, in particular, have been able to manage this place for tens of thousands of years. The answers are there. We’ve just got to listen to them,” Ms Fanning said.