Last Sunday (Feb 27th), I was forced to abandon my home and the reality of climate change had never felt more real.
For the third day in a row, Brisbane recorded over 200mm of rain. Since records began, there have only been five other times this much rainfall has been recorded in a single day. Never have we seen three days in a row with this much rain.
This deluge was on an unprecedented scale. It flooded from Gympie to the Illawarra.
This is a climate crisis and we need to call it out.
The Brisbane River, a raging muddy torrent, sweeping away boats, wharves, ferry stations and all kinds of debris, surged through my backyard. The filthy rising water threatened the block of units I live in, the power had gone out and my street was flooding in both directions. It was time to get out.
Photo: Jason Lyddieth.
I was lucky. I didn’t lose anyone I love, I had a safe place to stay and in the end my building wasn't flooded. My heart breaks for the lives lost, the homes destroyed and livelihoods in tatters.
My street was hit hard, and some neighbours have lost everything. The water has subsided but in its place now are piles of rubbish, mud covered garbage that was once loved possessions stacked high.
Rubbish piled in Brisbane street: Jason Lyddieth. Fence sign: Jo Fraser.
Some of those houses that had been badly hit have a Climate Action Now sign on the fence. It is a powerful statement, and a reminder that not enough is being done to keep us safe.
For 25 years I’ve been fighting for climate justice. I’ve watched as global temperatures rise and rise, breaking record after record.
I’ve watched as extreme weather events grow in fury. “Unprecedented once in a hundred year” floods and fires now seem to occur every few years, the space in between catastrophes getting shorter, communities struggling to rebuild and recover each time.
But I also have hope. It's not too late to turn things around. We need to do three things.
Firstly we need to electrify everything and rapidly transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
We have the sun, the wind and the skills to do this now. Australia has the best renewable energy resources in the world. We can create a thriving economy exporting our abundant sunshine around the world.
In Australia there are many workers, families and communities currently dependent on the fossil fuel industry. We’ve all benefited from the hard work of people who will be impacted most by this technological transition. We must stand by them, treat them with dignity and respect and help them to take part in the opportunities of the transition.
Secondly we need to protect and restore landscapes, from grasslands to wetlands, to help native species, reduce emissions and draw carbon out of the atmosphere. This means more national parks and Indigenous Protected Areas, but it also means supporting farmers to protect and regrow healthy bush, increase biodiversity and create carbon sinks.
Finally we need to build strong resilient communities that are prepared for the kinds of climate impacts we are now seeing.
I have no doubt we can do this. Events like this show that Australia is an amazing country full of courageous big-hearted people who step up in a crisis.
I spent the weekend shovelling filthy mud, cleaning up the devastation — and I was not alone.
Thousands of volunteers joined the “mud army”. They could have spent their weekend having fun, instead they chose to be knee-deep in filth, doing back-breaking work under the hot Queensland sun, all to help perfect strangers.
Photo: Jason Lyddieth.
This kind of spirit shows me that together we can make Australia a world leader in climate action, and create a vibrant and healthy society powered by our abundance of clean energy.
Together we can build resilient communities able to withstand the future extreme weather events that are coming.
The solutions to climate change are here now and the Australian people are up to this challenge.
But right now, big coal and gas corporations are able to exert so much influence over our politicians that they are putting private profits ahead of what’s best for people and planet.
By taking action together we can make our voices more powerful than big polluters.
A majority of Australians in every federal electorate across the country want the government to do more to combat climate change. Let’s make sure our elected representatives hear and see this message wherever they go.
Order yourself a pack of Climate Action Now signs and stickers and get them out to your friends and family.
Join thousands of people across Australia raising our voices for real climate action this decade.
Header photo. Flooding in Gympie, QLD: John Clough.