Reflections on the Climate Emergency by Dr Laura Brearley

Coastal Erosion at Inverloch

Edited version from Bass Coast Post.

According to the Climate Emergency website, 800 local councils around the globe have declared climate emergencies, 43 of them in Australia. Bass Coast Shire Council recently became one of them. I was one of many community members who attended the council meeting when this decision was made. The room was overflowing with people who were aware of the significance of the vote. We witnessed the courage and foresight of our councillors, led by Cr Michael Whelan, who proposed the motion for Bass Coast to declare a climate emergency. He spoke compellingly of the risks of not taking action, both environmentally and economically.

​In his closing remarks, Cr Whelan named his three grandchildren, one of whom was present in a pram, and identified them as key motivators for his proposed motion.

It was a moment of humanity and clarity at the heart of a formal, political process. In supporting the motion, Cr Pamela Rothfield said “This is one of the most important decisions we can make in this term as councillors.”

I am proud to be a member of a community that is awake to what is at stake. We have joined 212 million citizens around the world (as of August 25 2019) whose jurisdictions have also voted to declare a climate emergency.  We now have the opportunity to be part of conversations and projects about our individual and collective responsibilities and to plan how to most effectively reach identified targets for renewable energy use and zero net emissions…

This call for immediate action is central to the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement and the Climate Emergency Declaration mobilisation and petition which was launched in Australia in May 2016.

In reflecting on the nature of “emergency”, I am aware that it can lead to a sense of being overwhelmed and even paralysed by the crisis. If we are to respond to the local and global imperatives of climate change, how can we avoid being overcome by the enormity of the issues? And what needs to underpin our actions?

I’m conscious that scientific knowledge, ancient wisdom, community engagement, thoughtful consideration and creative expression all have something important to contribute in this space. In my view, to work together effectively on this, we need to take time to come together as a community, to listen to the environment, to each other and to knowledge holders from many different disciplines… 

As a result of the leadership shown by our council, we are now more equipped to respond collectively to this great ethical challenge. We are a strong community and have chosen to live in a beautiful part of the world. We love our children and grandchildren. It’s an amazing time to be alive and to be part of what will emerge from this emergency.