My time at the Climate Reality Asia Pacific Congress
In January this year I was lucky enough to take part in a Climate Reality Project training in Jakarta with Al Gore and over 300 remarkable people from across the Asia-Pacific region
. Last weekend I was in Melbourne for a congress of Climate Reality presenters to mark the five-year anniversary of the program. It was my first chance to reconnect with some friends from that training in Jakarta and a good opportunity to take stock of the year’s events from a wider perspective. The congress left me with two key insights, one that was deeply satisfying and the other something of a wake-up call.
The satisfying note was glimpsing the positive affect that our modest first steps towards climate action in Australia are having around the world. Having been so focussed on getting things done at home, I’d given little thought to the wider importance of our carbon price legislation. On a phone link-up from London, an exuberant Al Gore left us with no doubt that the progress made in Australia is already sending positive ripples across the international community. The second impression was a powerful reminder of the very different and often far more severe and immediate challenges faced by our friends overseas. While climate politics has been all over the Australian media for months, the stories of our Pacific neighbours and of communities from Pakistan to the Philippines who live on the front lines of climate change have seen barely a peep. Hearing presenters from Fiji, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and beyond was a reminder that while we have been quibbling over industry compensation and minor cost of living rises, others have been waking to the day to day realities of rising seas, changing weather and water shortages. Australia too has copped its share of extreme weather. Will we ever forget the floods, cyclones and firestorms of early this year? Though our greater wealth and development means fewer feel directly the full force of climate volatility and those who do are better able to recover. For the world’s most vulnerable, climate change is a real and ever-present reality that threatens to displace entire nations and bring an end to millennia-old ways of life. We have become much better at communicating why action on climate change is good for business, for jobs, for our household budgets and for our health. This was important and key to helping deliver the carbon price legislation. But to build on these foundations and increase the sense of urgency, we must also get better at communicating the raw realities faced by hundreds of millions and our responsibility to work towards a safe climate.
“We don’t solve problems by changing things. We solve problems by changing.”
Paul Hawken The highlight of the weekend was a keynote from Paul Hawken, whose books such as Blessed Unrest and Natural Capital have been an inspiration for many at the Climate Reality Project and Australian Conservation Foundation. Paul echoed one of the common themes from the weekend – the value of traditional ecological knowledge, of the centuries of practical wisdom held by the world’s indigenous cultures. Over an hour and a half, and in his gentle poetic style which felt more like a Sunday walk in the bush than a lecture, Paul Hawken ranged seamlessly from dissolving the human/nature divide, rediscovering the miracle of life, understanding our place in the world and understanding the extraordinary power of the non-government organisations and collectives. There could have been no better affirmation of the importance of projects like Climate Reality, no better cause for hope and optimism and no better inspiration for our next steps. A top weekend!