This article originally appeared in Elle Australia’s ‘The Green Issue’, April 2020
We chat to Professor Lesley Hughes, one of the most prominent voices on the climate crisis, about how we can create systemic change.
There’s no denying the KeepCup movement has been effective. But perhaps too effective, diverting our attention away from making bigger eco-conscious changes. Doing small things can become an excuse not to do harder things. We might think, “Well, I’ve got my KeepCup and I’ve put my recycling out, so I can get in my car and drive a kilometre down the road to buy the milk.” While it’s great to make small and easy changes, we have to think bigger to save the world.
“This past summer focused attention on what is necessary at the political level, and what isn’t being done,” says Professor Lesley Hughes, councillor for Australia’s Climate Council. “The most important thing people can do is get active and make it very clear to their elected representatives that we’re not happy, it’s not good enough and we’ll kick them out at the next election unless they become far more effective. Focusing on the political level and at the community activism level is now a lot more urgent than those actions around your house – even though they’re still important.”
GREEN YOUR ENERGY
“If you can, put solar panels on your house. If you can’t, you can always opt for green power [through your energy provider].”
REDUCE MEAT AND DAIRY CONSUMPTION
“Animal products are a very inefficient way of producing protein. In the next five years, there’s going to be an absolute revolution in products that are far more sustainable from a water, land and climate perspective. In the meantime, eat less meat and dairy.”
JOIN A CLIMATE ACTION GROUP
“It’s overwhelming to sit at home feeling worried, alone and frustrated. So become a Climate Council supporter, join your local climate action group – find the right group for your level of comfort.”
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS
“There are banks, insurance companies and superannuation firms that don’t have fossil fuel investments – you can find out where your money is invested at marketforces.org.au. If everybody switched, the banks would have to sit up and take notice.”
TAKE TO THE STREETS
“Activism does work. The more people marching in the streets, the more we’re giving our MPs the support to speak up.”
SPEND YOUR DOLLARS WISELY
“Buy from companies with good sustainability policies. It might take a bit of research, but every time you send an email to ask the question, you’re sending a message that this is what customers want, which encourages businesses to change what they do.”
OPT FOR AN EV
“We’re going to see an exponential rise in electric vehicles. If you’re planning for your next car, consider a hybrid or an electric vehicle.”
WRITE A LETTER TO YOUR MP
“If every one of our politicians got thousands and thousands of letters, they would be forced to do something.”
Here’s how to write an effective letter to your local MP. Go to aph.gov.au and click on Senators And Members, then Contacting Senators And Members. You can type in your postcode to find your local MP, and contact them through the site. Email them using this template:
Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms [Last Name],
My name is [insert here] and I am one of your constituents. I am writing to you because I would like to encourage you to push for stronger renewable energy targets/cap Australia’s rising greenhouse gas emissions/move towards a zero-carbon economy by 2030.
[Include facts on your area of concern from climatecouncil.org.au or reports from other reputable sources.]
This is important to me because [include a brief but impactful personal story of how drought or bushfires have affected you].
I would be grateful if you would make a speech in parliament to raise awareness/ask a question in parliament to gain information or raise awareness/ raise the issue at a meeting/vote for or against this bill in parliament/raise the issue with the relevant minister or shadow minister or portfolio holder.
I look forward to receiving your reply.
Then… If you don’t hear anything after one month, call their office and ask when you may expect a response. If you don’t hear back for two weeks, try again. Be polite but persistent.
Check out our tips on writing an effective letter to your MP here