A new Australia began today.
Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Sydney is arguably the pulse of Australia Inc, and apart from marriage equality and a few other things like, you know, turning our backs on coal as the UN would urge us to do, and, er, chucking out the monarchy, Sydney is generally the first city in the world to usher in something new; the New Year, or indeed any old day of the week ~ after Auckland of course. So as things go, today's highly anticipated Friday School Strike for Climate on the 20th of September 2019 was momentous because it was a legitimate actual world-first, first.
And then there are the numbers...
Not since the demonstrations for marriage equality has the populace of this city come together in such a large demonstration. Approximately 80,000 people gathered in the Domain for messages and then headed for Hyde Park along Macquarie Street in a well organised procession that is to the credit of the City of Sydney ~ which has declared a climate emergency ~ the NSW police, and of course to the SchoolStrike4Climate movement itself.
Reports indicate that Melbourne drew an even bigger crowd of approximately 150,000 people with similar demonstrations set to begin around Australia, even Darwin pulling in 3500 people, and of course for over 120 countries in the rest of the world, similar record crowds are expected during the remainder of the day.
Now looking back at the march a bit more critically, which at 5pm as I write means with only a few hours hindsight, one is struck by the passion of the youth, the many unions marching, media and supporting public, and the clarity of the agenda, but not necessarily to whom it is being addressed. The Australian agenda as proposed by the SchoolStrike4Climate Australia is:
1- No new fossil fuel investments by Government.
2- Full Transition of fossil fuel jobs to renewable jobs by 2030
3- Stop Adani - relevant of course in this context.
These demands did come across more or less loudly, and added to these was a call for universal veganism for the benefit of both us, the animals and of course the planet, and some equally important messages around Australia's First Peoples and what remains of their land. If only 'we' had been a bit more like 'them', we would not be in this mess...
Now call me old fashioned for in my day a belter of a demonstration culminated in a memorandum that was duly delivered to a public official~ often with a splash of violence thrown in along the way~ who would have to publicly acknowledge that the message had been received. The medium is the message and all that...
So should a march of this nature not have terminated at Government House with some kind of clear hand-over? Will Scott Morrison and his "Liberal" Company turn a blind eye and and deaf ear to the incredible images and broad spectrum of disdain and contempt that the youth have for Australia's patent reticence to address the biggest cause of climate change: the government abetted fossil fuel industry?
Irrespective, we can only imagine and indeed trust that these same youth, who will be voting in less than three years time, will remember this day, spurred on by the climate crisis impacts of what is surely still coming, and vote accordingly.
We hope too that the impact of the incredibly lucid Greta Thunberg will grow from strength to strength and that the climate denialists and their greedy backers will take their place in the garbage heap of their making very very soon.
So Mr Morrison, did a new Australia begin today?
Or will it be same old same old?
What is your next move?
Don Albert is a founding member of Climate Change Cities and the design principal of SoundSpaceDesign architects, Sydney.