Following on from John's post yesterday. In the face of frustration at our leaders' half-arsed job on climate change, it is empowering to do what you can at home, where you have control over your immediate actions and can change the world for the better from the backyard out.
I believe that taking political action is equally important and empowering.
I know that there's a cynicism that goes along with the idea of engaging with political processes ("it won't change anything"). There's also the intimidation of not knowing what to say, or all the facts, or at the idea of criticising authority. Somehow it's easier to believe that we have no personal power over the huge global issues, and to knuckle down to making our own lives ethical and sustainable, than to agitate for change.
There are many good reasons people avoid political activity - from our cultural backgrounds, to the disappointment we feel if we push, but don't see immediate results (as opposed to, say, the satisfaction of rigging up a greywater system this weekend, here, now). Maybe we want our leaders to do the right thing without being told. Maybe they've encouraged us to hand over our power to them - after all, if we don't complain, they can do exactly what they want. Or maybe we feel abandoned and alienated from politics and prefer to make our own way.
Here's a confronting realisation - we do have power. Weird as it might sound, if we're going to give things our best shot on the home front, if we're ticking all the boxes for sustainable behaviour in our lives and communities, why not have a go on the political front as well? I see political engagement as part of a suite of positive behaviours - insulate the house, tick, bucket in the shower, tick, go to the farmer's market, tick, letter to the PM, tick.
I mentioned cultural reasons that people steer clear of politics. For people from cultural backgrounds that have a history of state persecution, taking political action can seem incredibly foolish and dangerous. In this regard I know I'm lucky - I grew up being taken to peaceful demonstrations, so the culture feels more familiar to me.
Even so I get intimidated by the thought of calling Kevin Rudd today (or rather, his secretary). I'll feel stupid, it's embarrassing, maybe it's not really "allowed".... And the worst self-inhibitor - it won't do any good. On the other hand, when I save water, recycle, buy my clothes from op-shops, or even write this blog, I don't tell myself that it won't do any good. I think positive things like "that's one more bucket of water for the Murray".
It will help. Slowly. The more people who push at the door will force it to give way.
I was thinking about my Grandmother this morning, and how she told me once about a demonstration against changes in the education system she went to in Sydney. She must have been in her late 70s at the time, and she said how excited she was to go to her first demo.
Check out this photo from 350.org of an Iraqi girl who took part in the global climate protests leading up to Copenhagen last year.
"I'm thinking particularly of that one of the lone girl in Iraq, standing by herself at the Ishtar Gate in Babylon. She walked through security check point after security check point to take that photo, even after her friends went home because they were (rightfully) too afraid to continue."
And here are me and John in the same action, a tiny thumbnail of solidarity among the millions of people who have joined the climate justice movement. It's much harder and less effective to act alone than it is to join an existing movement. If you're interested, there are plenty of groups to join up to online - this just means following along on their websites, or signing their petitions, or joining in on global actions like the 350.org one above. Or there are local groups like Friends of the Earth, Sustainable Communities or Greenpeace you can become part of, that hold regular meetings and plan events and activities that tie in with the global movement.
There's one final reason to call, and to send a letter to the editor. The climate skeptics, and the big business interests, are organised, and not afraid to make themselves heard. They are the ones writing to the papers, and lobbying the government.
Now that's scary...let's call Rudd!
Make a cup of tea while you decide which action you're going to do.
It's a big step to get political for the first time (or even the 500th). If calling seems too intense, an email could be the way to go. On the other hand, if you don't have much time, a phonecall takes a minute or two. If you're in a hurry, use a pro-forma email or letter. If you want to write from a personal point of view, you can draft your own letter. All of these actions help, and while a phone call carries more weight than an email, they all get counted, and passed on. The point is to make contact in some way, today, or as soon as possible.
We're going to join the Friends of the Earth action and call Rudd about his voluntary emissions targets, email Tony Abbott to say we don't agree with his views on climate change, and email members of the Alliance of Island States to tell them we support their position.
We're also going to send a letter to the Advertiser and our local Messenger newspaper.
Everything you need to know to make these calls and emails is here.
Work out what the phone call is going to be about. The phonecall we are making is in response to a callout from Friends of the Earth, as part of a campaign about the targets Kevin Rudd has to bring to a meeting on February 1st, so it has a deadline of ASAP. We're asking him to commit to deep emissions cuts in the Copenhagen Accord. Having a specific ask as part of a coordinated campaign is more effective than a general request to "do something about climate change", to which the response could be, "We are." (If you become a member or follow the big organisations online, you can receive alerts about actions as they come up.)
It's fine to read or ad-lib from a script that you have adapted yourself, or even to read out a pro-forma. When we called Penny Wong's office during Copenhagen, her very helpful secretaries took down everything we said and emailed it to her.
Make the call!
You'll get a secretary, or a switchboard at parliament house, but not the actual politician you're calling. Just ask for their office, and when the secretary answers, ask to leave a message for them.
Give your name and postcode. This proves you are a real person and not the same person from whichever organisation calling over and over. Be friendly. I like to think that the person on the other end is just someone at work, who may well agree with everything I'm saying.
To contact Kevin Rudd's office, call:
(02) 6277 7700
To contact Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Climate Change and Water
(02) 6277 7920
That's it. You've done it!
Tell your friends what you did (via Facebook for example). We made calling Kevin Rudd an event on Facebook during Copenhagen and posted photos of ourselves and friends making the call.
Ok, we're up!
We'll let you know how we went soon!