Happy Birthday EGCAN by Angela Crunden

What an amazing first year! The birth of the East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EGCAN) came about in an enthusiastic response to the Bairnsdale presentation of Climate activist and presenter Jane Morton. EGCAN formed in March 2019. This non-profit, apolitical organisation has brought together a diverse group of people who want strong and immediate action on climate change. In a year of a newly elected anti-science, climate-change denying government, the time was ripe for a group to gather and become climate champions.

East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EGCAN) is a forum for local people wanting action on climate change. EGCAN advocates for urgent political and community action to address the climate crisis locally, nationally and globally in order to minimise harm to society and our natural environment.

Members accept the science of human induced climate change and agree to guiding values that include respectful listening and behaviour, inclusiveness, non-violence and kindness. Amidst increasing warnings, lack of progress and very loud bells ringing from the world’s leading climate scientists and the IPPC, the group focuses principally on rising greenhouse gas emissions.

To this end the group has been advocating the concept of a climate emergency where urgent action is taken at all levels of government, business and community. EGCAN actions and activities have centred around information sharing, community talks, media messaging and letter writing. Some members have been more visible in the community via ‘die-ins’, rallies, silent vigils and having a regular presence outside our State and Federal politician’s offices.

The group nervously took on their first major action in the form of a “die-in”. They would have been happy with 10 participants but wonderfully, over 50 people were willing to lie in Bairnsdale’s Nicholson Mall pretending to be dead for 5 minutes, only to emerge as living people to the reading from Greta Thunberg’s inspiring speech ‘Our House is on Fire’. Some members have gone on further to form Bairnsdale XR (Extinction Rebellion) enabling participation and actions that join with the global XR movement.

And then, between Christmas and the 2020 New Year, East Gippsland was ravaged by fires that had been flaring since November. Australia was experiencing ‘unprecedented fires’ and the broader community saw the long predicted impact of increasing global temperatures.

EGCAN members, like all members of our community, were devastatingly impacted, losing homes, property, fearing for their lives and those they love, fleeing, fighting and universally being left with feelings of deep grief and an ongoing sense of loss at the massive destruction for animals, ecosystems and ourselves: Climate Change hit home deeply.

A dedicated group of EGCAN members organised a petition calling on the local shire council to declare a Climate Emergency. The petition, signed by more than 1,600 people succeeded in gaining agreement for shire projects to be viewed through the lens of their potential climate impact. The council stopped short of declaring a Climate Emergency.

Amidst what seems an era of failings and collapse, there are many positive signs emerging. EGCAN members are looking to the future and exploring what it is that will help bring a new world into reality; one which is in tune with nature, which doesn’t exceed our planet’s carrying capacity, which is more just, more equitable and more kind. Vive l’EGCAN.