A chronically sick, elderly man nearly starved himself to death trying to draw the attention of a dozen politicians to climate change.
A university student shared a naked photo of herself to collect donations for Australia’s bushfire relief effort.
These are just some of the extreme lengths ordinary people have gone to amid mounting public concern for the escalating climate crisis.
And, all the while, Australia sits on the richest blend of renewable energy resources in the world, Professor Ross Garnaut, a former economic adviser to the Hawke government, told The New Daily.
Firstly, here’s what the government should do
Achieving net-zero emissions will not only persuade China to reduce its emissions further, but it will make Australia the world’s go-to for capturing and burying carbon dioxide in the natural landscape, Professor Garnaut said.
“We have to catch up with the developed world and make it clear that we are prepared to do more. That will encourage others … A rich country having emissions per person so far above the rest of the world is discouraging.”
Just look back at the era of the Gillard government, he said. A carbon pricing scheme can help Australia meet its obligation under the Paris Agreement, which requires zero net emissions by 2050, without costing most taxpayers anything.
“The Gillard carbon tax collected $7 billion in revenue which was mostly given back as tax cuts and social security increases to Australians on low and middle incomes,” Professor Garnaut said.
“It did not cost most Australians anything, and it did not damage the Australian industry, and yet it was very effective in reducing emissions.”
Already, many Australians are doing a lot to fight climate change, he said.
“Look at how total electricity use through the grid has not increased at all over the past decade despite a large increase in population.
“Look at the increasing purchase of electric cars despite the absence of government support.
“Look at the purchase of offsets for electricity and air travel,” Professor Garnaut said.
But unless the Morrison government sets a net-zero target and, for starters, accelerates the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy, and revolutionises how aluminium, silicon and other metals are made – that is without CO2 emissions – the country can expect bushfire conditions to worsen, he warned.
A zero-net future will make the country “the economically efficient place to turn Australian ores and materials into iron, aluminium, silicon, carbon fibre, titanium, lithium, cobalt, copper, and rare earths, to name a few”.
For now, everyday Australians are doing what they can to ensure the future is not all doom and gloom.
David McKay went 38 days without food in a desperate attempt to get at least 12 MPs to acknowledge climate change has reached emergency level.
Doctors said he would die trying, yet he still risked his life for the planet’s sake.
In the end, the 75-year-old freegan came close – to death that is.
Even after doctors warned him against hunger-striking, Mr McKay, who suffers from an abnormal heartbeat and blood clotting disorders, proceeded to consume nothing but water and supplements for more than five weeks.
Before starting he sat his family down to talk about the very real possibility he may die.
“I was getting so many warnings that I was going to kill myself,” he said.
About 25 days into the hunger strike, Mr McKay had to be put in a wheelchair because he could no longer hold himself up.
Then about two weeks later, he was taken to hospital and placed on a strict recuperation program.
In the end, Mr McKay managed to get just one major party politician to state whether Victoria faced a climate emergency.
Yoga teacher Jemma Masters, 35, did something she’s never attempted before – dumpster diving.
She rummaged through bins with her housemate last week and found plenty of fruit she hopes to turn into jam and later sell to raise bushfire relief donations.
Ms Masters said the thick smoke haze blanketing Melbourne served as a wake-up call to “how bad it could really get”.
“I panicked … I am now on a 24/7 climate crisis watch. That means I’m going to do everything I can, I’m not going to stop.”
It starts with growing her own fruits and vegetables “to make sure that at least the little bit of land we’re in control of is fertile and producing food”.
“I’m also into really educating myself right now so I’m looking at reading and opening my eyes to different types of land management strategies that Indigenous and Australian Aboriginals had going on,” Ms Masters said.
Doing it for a cause
Kitty Rocca said she went as far as taking a naked photo and selling it – making $3000 which she then donated.
The 25-year-old university student who is studying psychology didn’t keep a dollar for herself but divided up the money between a “huge list” of firefighting services, animal rescue charities and bushfire appeals.
All the money Bunny Smith, 21, gets from sex work is donated to relief organisations.
“I think my veganism is probably the biggest thing that I do to help the climate though,” Ms Smith said.
“Go vegan. It’s the single biggest thing you can do as an individual to help combat climate change,” Ms Rocca said.
No to plastic
Chef Keith Resoort, 33, feels “a lot of issues with climate and agriculture are due to my industry” so he tries to avoid plastic.
“At my house, I’ve started using beeswax cover instead of Glad wrap,” he said.
“If I go to a supermarket, I try to bring my own buckets and containers.”
He also recently donated some knives and uniforms to other chefs who lost everything this bushfire season.
In a desperate attempt to “heal our country” and “lead regeneration”, 25-year-old Joseph Barnes-Hill said he’s committing the next 12 months to planting locally sourced trees across Australia.
He’s already planted, with the help of volunteers, more than 1000 trees just in the last month.
He also recently reached out to multiple politicians to get them talking about “healing” Australia.
That starts with “a conversation about the real challenges”, Mr Barnes-Hill said.
“Land management in this country is a joke. Water management in this country is a joke. We have the processes in place, we have the knowledge, we have a way of solving this problem but where’s federal leadership, not there,” he said.
No to smoking
It’s the little everyday things that customer service officer Anita Brice, 67, does to help address climate change such as trying not to smoke and not using dryers or washing machines.
“I dry my clothes outside,” Ms Brice said.
She also tries to use nothing but biodegradable products.
“I don’t use a lot of plastic and if I do use plastic I make sure the plastic is well disposed of,” she added.