Georgia Moore’s questions to Geelong’s councillors

My name is Georgia Moore and I’m a 21-year-old university student. Growing up, little did I know at this age I’d find myself torn between my studies, trying to make an income for myself and trying to save my own life and the life of the 7.7 billion other people on this planet, not to mention the some 50 million species of animals and 300,000 species of plant life recorded around the world.

I am affiliated with multiple groups in the Geelong community including the local branch of the Greenpeace movement Break free, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Extinction Rebellion.

So today, I do not stand here alone. This is the reality for so many other wonderful people in the community, who are fighting for my future and the future of their own children, and grandchildren, and this is our burden which is yet to be adequately shared by you, our representatives. So, I have three questions for you this evening.

Mayor Harwood, at the last meeting you stated climate change is a problem ‘we can’t fix overnight, we are taking action and doing what we can,’ including the 2017 Zero Carbon policy and Carbon Action plan. With all due respect, however, this is not enough. These actions are not ground-breaking, these are not an adequate response to the existential threat we are facing, this is not emergency policy making. Council acknowledges expected sea level rise of up to 80cm by 2100 on its website. This would see Barwon Heads and many other suburbs from Corio Bay to the Bellarine inundated. Proposed amendment C394 would see to apply a ‘Land Subject to Inundation Overlay’ to 1614 properties in these areas.

On your website Councillor Jim Mason states, this overlay “recognises the location may be subject to future coastal flooding and sea level rise impacts.’ This does not acknowledge the seriousness this threat. Sea level rise is already happening, and it is not a potential threat, it’s inevitable.

It’s time council start taking the risk of coastal inundation seriously and the emergency of our situation is appropriately reflected by council policy. I ask of you that in all future council communications, motions, documents and policies you only refer to this situation as what it is, a climate emergency or crisis. This is not climate change; this is a man-made existential time-bomb.

Will you commit to telling the truth and calling this situation what it truly is, an emergency?

Mayor Harwood, at the last meeting you gave me a sense that you believe this is a state and federal issue, not capable of being addressed locally, what can one local council do? This was deeply disappointing to hear from my elected community leader. Yes, it’s essential we have strong cohesive national climate policy. But our federal government is currently letting us down. Yes, it’s vital we have ambitious state climate targets to push for federal accountability, but our state government is currently letting us down. 50% renewable energy by 2030, that’s not good enough. At a local level, we must declare a climate emergency to influence change at a state level, to see stronger action on climate than the watered-down targets they have just committed to. Once the majority of states have declared a climate emergency, our political leaders might actually start pulling their weight and stop using excuses to avoid taking their dirty hands out of the deep pockets of the fossil fuel industry. It’s council’s role as our local leaders, to push for federal accountability from the bottom-up. Together we are powerful, so join the movement of 34 local councils Australia-wide who are empowering their electorates and are fed up with being voiceless. I call upon you all to declare a climate emergency for bottom-up change, and most importantly for our future.

Will you stop being complicit with a federal government who thinks it’s okay to take away my future and push for change?

Councilor Atkien, at the last meeting you stated that you weren’t prepared to declare a climate emergency without being able to support it with ‘meaning.’ I understand this, but what you may not understand is that the longer you wait, the more you tap away at our hope.

Many within our community feel hopeless, insignificant, overwhelmed and afraid. As our community leaders it’s imperative you’re leading the way, empowering the community, inspiring innovation and supporting education.

Every time we ask, and you don’t deliver, it hurts.

Every time my activist friends question “Why even bother?,” I feel despair.

Every time the uninformed look down on me as alarmist or dramatic, I feel frustrated and angry.

But how can I blame them when our own federal, state and local governments let us down by failing to recognise the emergency of our situation?

If council recognise this situation for what it is, an emergency, it will open the eyes of those who are currently blind with fear or hopelessness. Most importantly it will give hope to those who are out there in the community, my friends, who are out there fighting and working tirelessly for all of our futures. It will make us feel supported, recognised and valued, and I truly feel this hope and sense of empowerment will be contagious.

Will you take my future, if not, your own children’s future seriously, by tabling discussion and a vote for a declaration of climate emergency at the next meeting?

~ Georgia Moore