Salutations from the high ground by Geoff Ellis*
Excerpts from an article in the Bass Coast Post
Like the climate emergency itself, the National Climate Emergency Summit in Melbourne last weekend was almost too big. As the nine o’clock opening approached I strode to the end of the queue for the delegates’ entrance. Surprise! The line starts 200 metres around the next corner.
I shuffle into the queue and put my journo question to the first person who makes eye contact. “Where are you from and why are you here?” The couple next to me are from the edge of Torres Strait. Their beaches and their islands are in peril. They had to shift their cemetery to higher ground to save it from the rising tide. I compare the risks to our dunes and Bunurong artefacts. Inundation and development.
We have the same issues at both ends of our continent. Fires and floods in between. What’s the word I’m looking for? Sobering, poignant, critical, doomed – it’s all of that, and more, and the line shuffles forward. Later in the day I talk to a guy sitting by himself, three rows back from the main stage. Geoff’s from Peregian Beach, Sunshine Coast. He’s been evacuated FOUR times between September 1 and December 18 due to uncontrollable bush fires…
Near the end of the two days, I attend a session that includes a presentation by a guy from Friends of the Earth who visited Inverloch. Twice. Don’t mention the Inverloch Surf Life Saving Club, eh? He mentions Bass Coast in his talk and how good it is to see local government represented here. I snap a pic and post it on Facebook, just to return the compliment…
Somewhere in there I was interviewed by 3CR for a summit special to be broadcast from 7-9 am this Saturday. The interviewer asks me why I’m here. Because Bass Coast Shire declared a climate emergency in August and our action plan is about to commence. Here to listen to the experts and the true believers. I mention John Hewson and Zali Steggall.
The summit was full of optimism but if you look at the targets there isn’t much time. The road along Jam Jerrup might crumble into the sea within three years, according to DELWP. But the planning scheme still permits development along that road.
On Saturday afternoon we had a thousand people on the same page. On Sunday morning I watched Insiders and there was nary a mention of climate, action or otherwise. There was a half an hour discussion about leadership tussles in the Nationals. Barnaby. Who?
After the final session, on the way out of the Town Hall, I bumped into Julian Burnside. I had to ask him “What did you think of that?” “It was a great event,” he said politely. I asked him if he was optimistic. “Not while fuckwits are in power,” he said.
*Cr Geoff Ellis and Cr Michael Whelan attended the 2020 National Climate Emergency Summit as representatives of Bass Coast Shire Council. Next week Cr. Whelan’s piece.