This Friday’s #FundOurFutureNotGas Day of Action (25 September), will bring together movements and collectives from across the country to call on the federal government to rule out spending COVID-19 recovery funds on the gas industry.
The action, which is supported by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and more than 20 other union organisations, will feature offline and online events across the country, is being organised by the School Strike 4 Climate group, who helped organise last year’s local iteration of the Friday school strikes.
While this year’s event is operating in a different way due to the COVID-19 pandemic, year 9 student Martha Stamatopoulos, who is helping to organise this year’s Melbourne actions, is hopeful that Friday’s events can still make a big difference.
Martha spoke to the ANMJ earlier this week.
ANMJ: How and why did you get involved with the School Strike 4 Climate’s action on 25 September?
Martha: As a developed country, we have the capacity and the responsibility to do something about climate change and to focus on gas as our recovery fuel is not going to help us at all, especially when we are actually the country which has the most emissions per capita in the world.
ANMJ: The pandemic has shifted a lot of people’s plans this year. How have you managed to stay engaged and focused on the need for climate action while recognising the importance of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Martha: We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to spend a whole lot of money in actions that can really help us fast track action on climate change… It’s really important to emphasise that this is an opportunity to spend this money on solutions that won’t only help our economy but our environment as well.
ANMJ: There is growing concern in the community about the prospect of an Australian government utilising a gas-driven economic recovery in response to the COVID-19 fuelled recession. Why is the federal government’s current trajectory so concerning?
Martha: The issue with gas specifically is the way it’s extracted. Although gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal when it comes to burning it for energy, I think what a lot of people don’t realise is that the extraction process of gas is what makes it worse than coal.
Gas is mostly made of methane, which traps heat in the atmosphere 84 times faster than carbon dioxide. If we all relied on gas as a recovery fuel, our carbon dioxide emissions might go down but our methane emissions would go up, and that’s [either] just as bad, or a lot worse.
ANMJ: The School Strike 4 Climate Movement has reached out to a variety of community stakeholders, from First Nations leaders through to trade union organisations, to support Friday’s event. Why is this grass roots engagement so integral to ensuring the success of Friday’s action?
Martha: The biggest reason is that it shows everyone cares about our environment and everyone understands that our government isn’t taking enough action to lower our emissions.
We all have a common goal, which is that we need to lower our emissions, we need to do something about climate change, and we, as a developed nation, have the capacity to do this.
ANMJ: What are your hopes for Friday’s actions?
Martha: I really hope that the scale of what we’re seeing currently being built up for the day really shows to those that we’re trying to get the message across to, and I hope that our three demands [see here] come to fruition.
More information on the #FundOurFutureNotGas campaign, and the list of actions occurring across the country, can be found on the School Strike 4 Climate website.
*This interview has been edited for purposes of brevity and clarity.