Extinction Rebellion (XR) has a stark message for Batemans Bay residents and businesses: life on Earth is in crisis and we need to act accordingly.
XR Eurobodalla will stage its first local climate protest tomorrow (Saturday, October 19), carrying a ‘blue line’ down North Street to demonstrate the impact the predicted sea level rise will have on local businesses.
Local organiser Dr Geoff Berry says the blue line signifies conservative scientific estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on a sea level rise of 0.74m by 2100.
“Since those estimates were made in 2013, climate scientists have admitted they were too conservative, adding that sea level rise is now accelerating each year,” Dr Berry says.
“The aim of this action is to make climate change real for people. Right here, right now, the worst hasn’t hit us. But when it hits, it could take your shop out of business, permanently.”
Extinction Rebellion has hit the headlines during its October Spring Rebellion. Demonstrations, often featuring bold colours and dramatic costumes, have blocked inner-city streets in 60 cities globally, including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
The environmental movement promotes non-violent civil disobedience to communicate three demands to political leaders: ‘tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency’; ‘reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025’; and create a ‘Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice’.
The recent Australian demonstrations have resulted in hundreds of arrests, with the Queensland Government responding by fast-tracking anti-protest laws.
Dr Berry says the local action isn’t designed to stop traffic, but to urge people to consider the devastating increased extreme weather events, sea level rise and food and water shortages likely if the world continues its current rate of warming.
“There’s no point trying to shut down Highway 1, but what we can do is something that’s visually interesting, that still gets that immediacy of the message across,” he says.
“Extinction Rebellion aims to get people thinking about inconvenience. Even with the horrific drought, the fires, the floods here in Australia, you can still buy what you need at the supermarket.
“While that comfort continues, it’s inconvenient to change. But we need to apply political pressure now because if we don’t, the future is going to be much worse, not just for our children, but for us.”
XR Eurobodalla member and local business owner Clare Lovelace, of Soul Tribe Studio, says joining Extinction Rebellion was a matter of priorities. Taking the conservative prediction of 0.74m sea level rise, her Beach Road yoga studio would be inundated.
“When you mention Extinction Rebellion, there can be a knee-jerk negative response,” she says. “That fear (of being involved) is there for me, as a business owner, so it’s definitely going to be there for others.”
“But this is a priority above anything else, because we’re literally at the eleventh hour – if we don’t have clean water, or the town is underwater, whether our businesses make money or not will be irrelevant.”
Broad, government-led system change is urgently needed to transition to a low-carbon, regenerative society that is in tune with our natural world, Ms Lovelace says.
“While it’s commendable to reduce your individual (environmental) footprint, we’re at a point where we desperately need to address the system itself, because too many people don’t care,” she says.
“We don’t have time for the right action to spread gradually – we need to put pressure on the system so it’s not so hard to live in a way that doesn’t cause harm. We need to change things so that people have no choice but to participate in a regenerative system.”
Dr Berry says he hopes the work of XR Eurobodalla spurs others into action, and quickly. “We have to find a way to inspire people to get onto the streets, or vote, or write an email to an MP,” he says.
“Imagine if everyone did that and the politicians realised they weren’t going to be voted back in unless they stopped fossil fuel subsidies immediately and switched those subsidies to renewables. The crazy thing is, we could do this overnight. We just need the political will.”
Words by Kat McCarthy of Broulee
Disclosure: The author of this article will participate in the XR Eurobodalla Batemans Bay action on October 19.