Western Sydney Youth Fight against Climate Change

Words by Sarah Morris, Anthony Abboud, Wennie Tanubrata and Wendy Frazer

Climate change awareness is growing throughout Sydney, and the western suburbs are no exception, where a group of young women from various non-government organisations have collaborated to inspire Fairfield’s youth to tackle the issue. Their event, ‘Youth For Climate Action!’ was held on April 21 and took place at the Nalawala Hall at the Fairfield Showground. The building has been dubbed as “Australia’s largest straw bale community building” by the Department of Sustainability, and was built by local Fairfield residents with environmentally sustainable values in mind. This venue encompasses local attempts to solve global issues.

Co-founder, Tu Le of the not-for-profit youth organisation Youth Co-Lab – one of the NGO’s that participated in the event - was inspired to take a localised approach to addressing the global issues surrounding climate change. Tu, together with representatives from ActionAid, the Sydney Alliance, Intrepid Landcare and Fairfield City Council utilised their networks and mainstream media to promote a ‘youth table talk’ for aspiring young local change makers.

ActionAid now operate in 45 different countries and showed participants the broader picture of how their every day, individual choice can have a global impact. Other organisations operating in Western Sydney also emphasised that the international issue can be confronted through local practices. Belinda Tang, the school’s coordinator for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, spoke about her personal journey in the climate movement, inspiring others to take up the fight. Culturally diverse groups also shared their personal experiences, raising issues such as air quality, rising temperatures and noise pollution and how these issues affect their daily lives. The event also featured spoken word poet and life art by Unity Yamazaki and Katherine Lim to emphasise the importance of addressing climate change via different mediums.

According to the Adapt NSW Report, ‘Metropolitan Sydney: Climate Change Snapshot’ published by the Office of Environment and Heritage in 2014, the effects of global climate change are increasingly perceptible locally in Sydney and are being experienced disproportionally in the western suburbs which contribute to social inequalities in the area. The impacts are economic, with the Adapt NSW report emphasising that warmer temperatures can mean higher electricity costs, furthering the economic divide between the west and its coastal fringe counterparts. There are also effects on physical health, with ABC News (2018) reporting this year that there are concentrations of chronic diseases and cancers linked to the high levels of pollution present in Western Sydney. The imbalanced effects of climate change, the ABC News report suggests, will only be intensified by metropolitan campaigns to move an additional one million residents to the area over the next 20 years, in addition to constructing an additional airport and the world’s largest incinerator.

Ultimately, the event encouraged the youth in attendance to answer a ‘call to action’ and make pledges of small, medium and long-term commitments to positively impact the environment. This included promoting everyday sustainable practises such as the use of Keep Cups and saying no to plastic.

Events such as ‘Youth For Climate Action!’ and the empowerment of youth to “Think Global, Act Local” are imperative in raising awareness to the increasing effects of climate change for the western Sydney region.

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