australia: focus on friends of the earth australia
introducing... stephanie long, the climate justice campaigner
Since its establishment in 1974, FoE Australia has evolved into a diverse and vibrant network of groups working at the local, regional, national and international level. The majority of FoE Australia's work occurs through local group activities, using principles of grass roots driven, autonomous structures that enables groups to design their work around the principles of social justice and environmental sustainability. Many of these groups co-operate on specific projects in order to increase the scope and effectiveness of their activity, and build on the knowledge and experienced gained through participation in the national and international federation.
Unlike many other environmental groups in Australia, FoE tackles what is often called the 'brown issues' or human management, rather than just environmental management issues. Based Brisbane office, I work in a collective with 6 others to implement FoE Australia's climate justice campaign. I have been fortunate enough to inherit this position from a few very thoughtful and skilled activists form the Melbourne office that initiated the Climate Justice campaign.
Prior to working with Friends of the Earth (I have been an active member for FoE Brisbane for about 4 years), I worked with an alliance of activists on the Jabiluka campaign to stop a uranium mine being constructed in a World Heritage listed National Park, on the Traditional lands of the Mirrar people. This was my first experience of activism and whilst having my first attempt at media work, campaign planning, strategic actions/street theatre and corporate lobbying I spent a lot of time thinking about sustainability and justice. A short time later I joined FoE because I was really attracted to the idea of working on social justice alongside environmental sustainability. My work as a community development worker has reinforced the necessity to build relationships, construct new ways and motivate people's connection to the environment around them.
I am inspired by diversity and survival. It's amazing how people, plants and animals create ways in which they can survive and thrive. People's bravery is amazing.
I really get frustrated by the neo-liberal agenda of money being the root definition of everything. This allows no room for new ideas, agendas or systems for working in and valuing the world. The dedication to economic rationalism - making money at all other costs - despite all we know about global warming, increasing poverty, toxic waste and destruction of cultures, enables the ever-continuing path of industrial development to dominate life. I also get incredibly frustrated by how quickly peoples of the global north get attracted to consumption without any consideration for the social and environmental costs of the products we buy or the waste that those products create. A case in point is those new four-wheel-drive cars with a DVD player - who really needs a such a car?
A combination of the things that I love and those I do not make me really happy to work on the climate justice campaign. For me, it's the most exciting campaign and issue to be involved in, with so many diverse peoples and places becoming increasingly active against the continued profit from fossil fuels. Climate Justice makes clear links between the simultaneous global over-consumption of resources and exploitation of the environmental space of so many peoples.
inspirations from daily life
There are two national campaigns that FoE Australia is working on - Climate Justice and Nuclear:
The climate justice campaign is thoroughly pre-occupied with organising the 'Climate Justice Tour' - we have been talking with people from various non-government organisations in the South Pacific to tour the East coast of Australia in September 2003. The tour aims to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on communities in the Pacific now, as well as looking at the predicted impacts of climate change. The Australian government is dogmatic in its refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that it is not an equitable agreement (because Annex II or 'developing' countries don't have any targets), which demonstrates a disregard for the socio-political history of pollution by Annex I or 'developed' countries. The climate justice tour is offering a counter-point position on equity which we will present to the government, as well as to the public.
We are also seeking to expand the movement of concern and action against climate change through building alliances with the aid and development sector during the campaign, and also FoE's relationship with Pacific Islanders living in Australia and Australian Indigenous peoples. Using some of the great work produced by New Economics Foundation on the millennium development goals as well as the work done by FoE Australia's Environment and Population project we have been able to talk with refugee and aid advocates about climate change. Ultimately FoE Australia would like to see the creation of a Climate Justice network in the Pacific that is supported by social justice and environmental advocates alike, so that we can move away from talking about climate change in economic and scientific terms alone. We want to include humanity, justice and cultural sovereignty in climate change strategies, foreign affairs, energy policy and development.
FoE Australia has worked against the nuclear industry since the organisation was formed in the early 1970s. In recent years we have collaborated with the traditional owners at Jabiluka and a large number of other organisations to successfully stall the development of a new uranium mine in the Kakadu region in the Northern Territory. We are currently working to halt a new nuclear reactor being built in the suburbs of Australia's largest city, Sydney, and federal government plans to create a radioactive waste dump on Indigenous lands in South Australia.
Our other campaigns and projects include trade, environment and population, environmental refugees, corporations, and ecological debt. FoE Australia runs a national environmental and social justice film festival, Wild Spaces and publishes a magazine, Chain Reaction.
More information is available on the FoE Australia website at http://www.foe.org.au