The smoke haze which had lain over the coast for the last few weeks finally ended in a night of crazy lightning, damaging winds, and hail that smelled of ash. With these events firmly in our minds, it was an interesting moment for the global climate strikes to happen.
The effects of climate change are often dismissed, as if it hasnt happened until we are all living like characters from some dystopian novel like The Dog Stars or The Road. Despite this, a quick glance around NSW alone will show the nations biggest river system on the verge of collapse, prolonged drought, burning rainforests, catastrophic decline of Bogong moths which are a major food source for many animals, increasingly hot summers, towns running out of water, uncontrolled land clearing, nearly 1000 species at risk of extinction, and plenty more for anyone with the emotional fortitude to go looking for it. Whoever believes this to be normal has gone to a great deal of effort to remain wilfully ignorant.
I took the day off work, and we dedicated the day to joining millions of people in all parts of the world marching for genuine action against climate change. In truth, I have no genuine belief that society will be able to adapt itself quickly enough to survive in any recognisable form. Still, the effort needs to be made.
We briefly studied the ideas behind the strike and how it came about. In Australia at least, it has some interesting support, not only from the schools themselves, but also unions, churches and private business. We talked about key messages of the strike, made up our signs and headed off to Bellingen.
Bellingen is a small town of less than 5000 people. As a community, they had really taken to this day. The fact that recent fires were right on their doorstep had added a sense of real life consequences for what is often seen as a fairly abstract subject. Some shops had shut for the day. Others were leaving out baskets of snacks for kids as they marched past. A large group of kids all came from the school. Altogether, around 700 people turned up which, given the size of the town, was proportionately huge. There were little kids, old people on walking frames and all ages in between. We listened to a range of speeches, and then did the march itself which completely overran the town. There was no response from any government representative.
Gradually, everyone went their own separate ways. We played in the river for a little while to enjoy the afternoon, and then went home.
Once we got home, we cut up fruit and hung it in our mulberry tree for the flying foxes. A major forest pollinator, recent events have made things particularly hard for them. Large numbers of flying foxes are dying of starvation all along the coast.
Marching around Bellingen for the day is no more likely to save the planet than feeding a bat for the night will save a crashing population. But to think like that is to miss the point. It is important for the kids as individuals to realise that even in a disturbingly ruthless world, there are people everywhere who care what happens to them. It is important to the individual bat that it lives to another day. They all deserve a future.