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Valid person and their rights…. and climate change

I am a recent Australian Citizen… and I must admit the occasion of my citizenship conferment was the first time in my 40+ years of life that I felt a valid person with some sense of entitlements to basic human rights. I tasted this sense of validity and associated safety even before I imagined being an Australian citizen when I spent a couple of years in Melbourne as an international student. It was then I felt safe enough to consider bringing another soul into this world, which was highly unlikely in my country of origin despite all the pressure to prove our fertility as a couple. A decade later, I attended my citizenship ceremony with my 10-year old daughter and my husband in our very own Civic Park in Warragul with family and friends, the local state member Gary Blackwood, and the Mayor of the Baw Baw Shire Danny Goss in attendance (pic). Within a few months, I decided to run in the local government election with an unusual campaign advocating for community connections, mental health and wellbeing, and call for urgent action on climate change against the well-intentioned advice to campaign about 3Rs (rates, roads, and rubbish). During and after the campaign, I often catch myself thinking and sometimes saying out loud ‘what is there to lose’. Unlike my country of origin, I am confident to say what I believe in, and engage in public life without fear for my life or family. I mostly feel safe to ‘have a go’ and participate in the community I consider my home for good.

The reason I picked up pen and paper on a Saturday morning despite my inclination to avoid any form of work on an almost decent day of winter, is the existential threat that we all are facing but successfully hiding behind excuses. Some of these excuses include ineffective leaders/leadership, inadequate resources, regional and national business interests, and perceived fear of community backlash. Although I am a strong believer of the ever-evolving climate change science, foresights and predictions, it is not on top of my list of priorities on an everyday basis. Like everyone else, I also blame others for the world that we will be leaving for the next generation rather than taking responsibility for my actions. However, I received a good reminder about it early Friday morning when my daughter said that she is concerned about our environment. She said that she is worried about the Great Barrier Reef and Australian government’s decision to delay placing it on the endangered list for another year despite UNESCO’s recommendations for immediate action. I could hear the urgency in her voice when she said that it is dying RIGHT NOW and she is worried that people are not concerned enough about threats to our world.

Later in the day, I came across an article by Alan Kohler “The climate change panic button is coming”. In this article, Alan refers to a draft report by Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority presenting number of possible scenarios such as global average temperatures rising by 2˚C or less consistent with the Paris Agreement OR future temperature rise in excess of 4˚C by 2100 in the absence of policies and interventions agreed in the global agreement. The draft report further discusses how these possible scenarios would affect the financial institutions and their assessments of financial risk and liability while insuring industries and businesses. Reading the report, I found it interesting that there is no such mechanism available to the communities and individuals to assess their risks and liabilities and protect their assets in an informed way, in my case my daughter’s future. I felt deceived and robbed of my recently gained sense of validity, safety and protection as an Australian citizen. I felt that my basic human rights are not protected by the so-called elected representatives. Rather, energy and efforts are directed to protect the interests of those sustaining their presence on the decision-making tables locally, nationally, and globally. The situation calls for communities to do their own research, raise their voice, and generate collective advice and action to protect their interests both in the present and future if we really want to protect the future of our children. I will close this with an ancient Jewish saying “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?", or a shorter and more famous version "If Not Me, Who? If Not Now, When?".

Written by Farhat Firdous فرحت فردوس

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