Students, young workers and climate change

Submitted by Janet on 7 May, 2019 - 8:48 Author: Janet
Daisy Thomas supports school strike for climate action

Interview with Daisy Thomas by Janet Burstall

Daisy Thomas is an example of young climate activists, workers, and students soon to become workers, who have the potential to join up the power of workers’ action with the urgency of the issue of climate change and the need to drastically cut fossil fuel consumption. Daisy is a young public sector worker who became an activist for action against climate change earlier this year. Janet Burstall spoke with Daisy for Workers’ Liberty to find out how she became active, and how she sees the relationship between workers, unions and climate change.

Daisy explained she had a low level of interest in protecting the environment for a long time. “When I realised that climate change was more urgent and critical, I asked myself how as one person, do I fix this? It was confronting and difficult to engage with. Then in February 2019 I was invited to a Climate for Change facilitated conversation. Their big aim is to create the climate for social change in relation to climate action, by holding conversations in people’s living rooms. This kick-started my activism. I found getting involved is energising, rather than draining. The school strike on 15 March was a “Wow” moment, in which I realised I’m not alone in my fear and wanting to do something. I found the students so eloquent, and yet thought they shouldn’t have to take all the responsibility. I asked myself why aren’t I doing more as an adult.”

Stop Adani is a central demand of the student strike. Daisy outlined the involvement of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Greens, and the school students in the Stop Adani campaign. The current focus of action is the federal election. Daisy had been part of a delegation to lobby her local member, Graham Perrett, ALP for the electorate of Moreton. “He was careful about what he says, that there is nothing in our constitution specifically mentioning the environment, Labor can’t be prejudicial to business. He didn’t commit either way on Adani, and made no explicit statement about fossil fuels, or a plan around phasing out coal.”

Did Daisy think that Labor in Queensland or federally was more concerned about business investment or unemployment, in their reluctance to commit to stopping Adani? She wasn’t sure, but agreed that there is a “need to flesh out more of a plan for workers in these industries, for training and transition, especially in remote communities or towns where the focus is on mines, if mines are to be closed. How will people be protected at the coalface, literally? The Greens are at least talking about plans for transferring skills to other industries, and retraining. But it would be difficult for the Greens to form government, as a minor party.” I asked Daisy if she thinks that the Greens are aware of the need for this to happen from the bottom up, for the people affected to be deciding what they need, rather than in terms of what a government taking climate action might do to them, restructuring on terms that don’t meet their needs? Daisy answered that as a newly involved activist, she was not sure, but “definitely more conversations need to be had, and more drilling down into how this (ending coal mining) could work and be rolled out.”

“If Adani ends up with full government approval, do you see blockading, physically trying to stop it happening, as the next move for the campaign to Stop Adani and burning of fossil fuels?” Daisy replied that “We do need a contingency plan in case governments don’t stop Adani. We’ll need to work out how to harness enough people power to make it abundantly clear that we need to stop Adani, and then how to continue mobilisation to address multiple coal, gas and oil projects in force. Adani is a bit of a symbol and if it is approved, that would be going in the wrong direction. We definitely need a community movement and I want to be part of effective action. I would need more information to know if I would be part of blockading.”

Is Daisy a union member? “I’m looking into joining, contacting my union rep and finding out what it would mean, if there are meetings, and if by getting involved I can help to make systemic change.”

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