OPINION: The climate is getting worse. Join the climate strike on March 17!

Join the Melbourne Uni contingent to the national climate strike - 12:30pm Friday March 17 @ South Lawn, Parkville campus.

A pink banner with the words 'National Climate Strike, UniMelb Contingent, 12:30PM March 17 South La

One year ago, the city of Lismore in New South Wales was devastated by unprecedented floods. “There is nothing in the record books like it,” declared the Bureau of Meteorology's Jackson Browne. “Biblical” was the other term thrown around, as the town was inundated with yet another “once in a century’’ flooding event.


Looking at Lismore, it is now undeniable that the climate crisis is here, and that it is creating and amplifying disasters across the globe. The problem, too, is clear to many: profits. Fossil fuel companies are making mega profits year-after-year, while the planet is being destroyed and people’s lives devastated.


Even in disasters there are profits to be made. “People like Johns Lyng Group are making a lot of money out of people’s misery, while people are living in squalid conditions,” said one Lismore youth worker to the Sydney Morning Herald, months on from the disaster. Johns Lyng Group is a for-profit ASX-listed company that has been granted the lucrative contract to assess, repair and demolish homes in flood-affected areas.


While many flee Lismore, their lives permanently altered as victims of the profit-driven climate crisis, others are moving there, fleeing the profit-driven rental crisis in the major cities. For many, moving into a flood zone is a necessary risk to take in exchange for slightly more affordable rent.


The situation in Lismore gives an insight into what is in store for us as the climate crisis makes millions of ordinary people vulnerable to catastrophic climate disasters.


You might think, then, that our governments might finally match the urgency of the crisis with genuine action on climate change. Especially given that Labor, not the climate-denying Liberals, now run the federal government and six of eight state and territory governments.


A quick look at the facts proves otherwise. Labor’s 43% emissions reduction target is slightly less shit than the Coalition's, sure, but nowhere near the 75% target the Climate Council deems necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change.


Targets, on paper, mean very little when Labor is overseeing a massive expansion of the fossil fuel industry. Just this past month, new fossil fuel projects in the Lake Eyre basin in Queensland were given the green light. 114 new fossil fuel projects remain in the pipeline, enough to more than double Australia’s current domestic carbon emissions. Just one of these projects, the Scarborough gas project in Western Australia, is expected to produce 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon pollution over its lifetime - over three times Australia’s current annual emissions.


And if that weren’t enough to convince you that things are getting worse—not better—for the climate, cold hard cash might. $105 billion US was invested globally in coal alone in 2021, with an estimated 10% increase on this in 2022. Across the board investment in fossil fuels continues to increase. There is plenty of profit to be made, with the world’s oil and gas producers pulling in $4 trillion US last year.


Such a massive global issue can be hard to comprehend when you're caught up in the day-to-day pressures of student life. But at the University of Melbourne, we have more immediate connections to the climate crisis than we might think. Our university has ties, to the tune of millions of dollars, with some of the world’s most destructive and polluting companies like fossil fuel corporation ExxonMobil and weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.


What can be done? In the words of inspiring climate activist Greta Thunberg, we've heard years of 'blah, blah, blah' from governments and corporations alike. We’ve had too many yearly climate summits that achieve nothing; the next to be hosted by an oil boss from the UAE. We’ve had too many elections that promise real action but merely swap one climate criminal for another. We’ve had too many years of those in power telling us to change the world “one keep-cup at a time”.


The alternative to all of this is mass student protest. In 2019, millions of students across the world marched in the School Strike for Climate to demand real climate action in direct contrast to the denialism and inaction on offer from the rich and powerful. This movement marked the single biggest step forward for environmental politics in over a decade — instead of being the domain of do-nothing global summits, suddenly climate change became something which millions of people could express their voices on, and put serious pressure on governments to act upon.


If we are to achieve meaningful action on climate change, it will be through a mass, radical movement that mobilises on the streets to demand it. But the millions-strong school strikes didn’t start from nothing. For years Greta Thunberg organised much smaller actions to build the grounds for a mass movement. Every protest and action is a chance to mobilise as many students as possible to demand that our futures be put before the profits of the big polluters.


That’s why we’re organising the Melbourne Uni climate strike on March 17, through the UMSU Environment Department. Across the country similar actions will be taking place as part of the National Day of Climate Action organised by the National Union of Students. Thousands of students will be walking out of class and joining protests to demand an immediate end to fossil fuels. You should join them!


Join the Melbourne Uni contingent to the national climate strike - 12:30pm Friday March 17 @ South Lawn, Parkville campus. DETAILS HERE

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