PEOPLE: 18-year-old Climate Activist who took on one of Australia’s leading energy companies

Ashjayeen Sharif – remember the name. A quintessential example that no matter your age, if you have a vision and purpose, you are capable enough to stand up for what you believe in.

Ashjayeen is an 18-year-old Gen Z powerhouse from Melbourne who led a campaign for a seat on the AGL Energy board. Backed by Greenpeace, he is making waves in ensuring that young people’s efforts in fighting for climate activism is at the forefront of discussions and where better than leading from the front on the AGL board. Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers about your campaign and motivation in running for the AGL Energy board? 

Coal is the predominant cause of climate change, and AGL is Australia’s largest coal burner, and therefore Australia’s largest climate polluter. AGL and its coal-burning power stations will leave a disastrous climate-wrecking legacy that my generation, and those to come, will have to live with. 

Meanwhile, the company’s current leadership refuses to act on climate change, which is telling of their ineptitude for the job. If AGL’s leaders won’t be leaders, someone else has to – and that someone is me. That’s why I’m nominating myself to their Board of Directors.

When did you first start getting involved with climate activism?

I first began to get involved with climate activism when I came across the first school climate strike in November 2018. This seemingly by-chance discovery led me to learn of the emerging youth climate action movement, and the newly formed organisation School Strike 4 Climate.

In the following months, I learned much about climate change and the climate crisis. In early 2019, I joined the school strike organising team in Meanjin. This quickly became one of the things I am most grateful for in life as it allowed me to navigate my way around my identity within an intersectional context and understand what it is to fight for safety and justice.

What are you currently working on in your role at School Strike 4 Climate, and more recently, AYCC?

Nowadays, I take on more of a mentor role in School Strike 4 Climate. The experience that I have garnered over the years has equipped me with a diverse skillset which should be passed on to newer activists as more and more young people join the fight. At the same time, I am a fundraiser for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, which is Australia’s largest youth-led organisation.


It’s completely okay to feel overwhelmed and unsure as to how to get your foot into the door. There is a lot of pressure on young people to take on individual actions and address individual responsibility, but I would strongly encourage young readers to prioritise corporate and government responsibility. Remember: 100 corporations make up the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions.

For me, what has been most useful in joining the fight for climate action has been finding a community. There are thousands of young people out there who are just as passionate as you to fight for change. These communities of young people are united by a bond unlike any other, so I strongly encourage young readers today to join a climate organisation. Many exist, but I’d recommend School Strike 4 Climate, if you’re in school, and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, if you’re out of school, as good places to start. They helped me get into this fight and they can help you too.

Want to follow and support Ashjayeen?

The best way to support my campaign and the broader new wave of climate activism as we venture into uncharted, digitalised, pandemic territory, is to do research, engage with climate organisations on social media and to get involved yourself. In addition to SS4C and AYCC which I’ve already mentioned, check out Stop Adani, Seed and of course Greenpeace, whose support has made my campaign possible.

About the diversity champion:

(he/him) Ashjayeen Sharif was born in Bangladesh and raised in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. He’s now studying for a Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne University. Ashjayeen has been an active leader in the School Strike for Climate movement. Like most young people, he cares deeply about climate action because he cares for people and wants to live on a healthy, thriving planet. He believes AGL, as Australia’s largest electricity company, has a crucial role to play in Australia’s climate solution. 

Image description: Ashjayeen is looking at the camera wearing a green jacket and white shirt in front of a backdrop with trees


VIEW: If this is our last chance, who is our best hope?

This is a guest post from Teigan Margetts, Co-Founder of Ethicool Books. 

With Sydney engulfed in the worst floods in more than a century, not even 18 months out from when the entire state was suffocated by generation-defining bushfires, it’s not hard to start to draw conclusions. Just as scientists predicted, the effects of climate change are beginning to show. Weather events like we’ve seen are set to become even more common, with storms, floods and droughts plaguing us on a more consistent basis. 

Just how much more can we withstand, and should we have to? 

While an intellectual debate still rages on the causes of climate change, so too does debate ensue on the solution. But one thing is for sure: we’re running out of time. So in what – or more importantly- in whom – should we invest to ensure a better future? 

Time is of the essence 

As popularised in David Attenborough’s game-changing documentary, A Life on Our Planet, the world is, indeed, running out of time to address climate change. As the documentary highlights, life on our planet will become extremely more challenging if we don’t do two things, and fast: reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and find ways to draw down more carbon from our atmosphere. Doing these two things won’t solve climate change, as it has already happened, but it will mitigate its most disastrous effects. 

Fortunately, we do have a solution: many in fact. As the incredible documentary 2040: The Regeneration showed, there are many (currently available) solutions to help the world reach our climate change goals. They may not all be easy to execute, sure, but should we be willing, they’re readily available. 

The ‘should we be willing’ is the part that is the most troublesome. Fighting climate change involves, firstly, believing in it, and secondly, making holistic changes to the way we live, which may involve changing our attitudes on a whole bunch of topics. As famous scientist Gus Speth once said: 

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change.”

“The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation.”

Who will make real and lasting change? 

There’s no doubt that making the changes required to limit the impacts of climate change will be difficult, and we’re running out of time to do just that. So if not us, then who? 

The answer is right in front of us: our children. While it may be difficult for many in our generation to change, if we educate our children on the issues at hand and help them grow up imagining the world differently, then it will be much easier for them to create it in their favour. 

Between the ages of 3 months and 6 years old, children learn the majority of values that they will hold dear to them for the rest of their lives. Values such as caring for the planet, valuing equality and understanding their impact can – and should – be taught from a young age so the next generation can have the best chance of creating a better world.  

About the expert 

Teigan Margetts is the Co-Founder of Ethicool Books. Ethicool creates beautiful children’s books on topics that matter, including climate change, sustainability, equality, mental health, and many more. All of Ethicool’s books are printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink to minimize their environmental impact. 

Teigan founded Ethicool after the 2020 Australian bushfires. She was terrified that burning summers and flooded winters would become the ‘norm’ for her two young sons, and wanted to start important conversations early about the positive impact we can all make to our planet’s future. 

Image description: Headshot of Teigan smiling at the camera. She has long brown hair, wears a light blue top and is in front of a green blurred background.

Cat and Jo in the park

PEOPLE: Why Joanna founded Trace to remove 105,000 tonnes of CO2

Companies like Apple and CouriersPlease are making bold statements about their goals and accomplishments on reaching for carbon neutrality and off-setting their carbon emissions.

But how can everyday consumers ensure that we’re also off-setting our carbon footprint at an individual level?

This is what Joanna Auburn set out to address when she co-founded Trace, which uses members’ subscriptions to buy carbon offsets to neutralise their footprint. In this interview, Joanna outlines why she founded Trace and their approach to climate action.

  • What does it mean to ‘offset your carbon footprint’? How is this measured?

Offsetting your carbon footprint – what on earth does that mean?

Our carbon footprint is generated through our behaviours. Most things we do impact our footprint, anything from driving a car to reading our emails.

Many of us are conscious of our footprint and try to reduce our impact. Some people only buy second-hand clothes, others eat a plant-based diet and a small handful of superhumans (!) manage to cram their entire year’s worth of waste into a glass jar. And yet despite some of the most determined efforts to achieve net zero emissions, humans will always have a carbon footprint. That much is certain.

A carbon offset (or carbon credit) is generated from an activity that prevents, reduces or removes greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere. By purchasing carbon credits you are essentially funding these climate projects, and so ‘offsetting’ your footprint. 1 credit or offset = 1 tonne of carbon dioxide.  trace only purchases carbon credits from certified, externally verified, projects. The Gold Standard is an organisation that audits projects to ensure that 1 credit has the value of 1 tonne of carbon.

One of the best analogies I have heard to explain how offsetting works is to imagine a bath full of water. If you imagine that by living your life you are filling up the bath with water (carbon dioxide), offsetting is like pulling the plug and letting some of the water drain out.

  • What is Trace’s approach to helping consumers become carbon neutral?

We make it easy and rewarding for individuals to become carbon neutral. We procure carbon credits on our consumers’ behalf which offsets their carbon footprint. Carbon credits were not traditionally made for consumers, so we are turning what is currently a complex market with a transactional experience into a rewarding membership.

And if you’re lucky enough to work for one of trace’s amazing corporate clients, you are part of a handful of ‘carbon positive workforces’ in Australia – how good!

  • Why did you decide on a membership model?

We are building a movement and memberships give you a sense of belonging, like you are part of something. We want to build a community of people who care and can drive change.

  • Carbon emissions can be an overwhelming concept and climate anxiety is a particularly growing problem among younger generations. How do you recommend people approach concepts like climate change, carbon neutrality and carbon emissions, considering something as ‘positive’ as a party with 100 guests can lead to 15 tonnes of CO2?

Here here, we totally understand and this is exactly why we built trace! There is an increasing urgent pressure looming over us to act and do more for the environment. The problem is, as individuals, we don’t know what to do. This state of flux drives anxiety and ultimately in-action.

Many of us do small things everyday to wave the environmental flag, whether it be using a keep cup, recycling a plastic bottle or taking your own bag to the supermarket I am sure you can relate. In fact keep cups are used in over 65 countries around the world. The irony is that we go to great lengths to bring that reusable bag to the supermarket but most of us then jump in the car or (pre-COVID) hop on a plane and all the good is unravelled.

Unfortunately, even the most diligent and environmentally conscious individuals and businesses have a carbon footprint, anything from charging your phone to reading emails emits carbon.

We understand this dilemma and call ourselves “Climate conscious hypocrites”, and so built a product that enables you to give back to mother earth for all those things you just can’t change (easily). Whether you’re a jetsetter or an eco-warrior, Trace’s affordable monthly membership helps you take climate action by offsetting your footprint. And better yet, you can see exactly where your money is spent, read stories from the projects you support and see your impact grow over time.

  • What are the end-goals Trace is working towards? How do you measure success?

Our mission is to fuel a sustainable future, and have a meaningful impact in the fight against the climate crisis.

It is quite easy for us to put a number on our impact – a carbon offset or credit is equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2e, we have aggressive targets to remove 105,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2020. That is equivalent to us having 5000 members.

About the expert

Joanna is the co founder and CPO of trace, she is an experienced product manager with a passion for sustainability and customer experience.  She has recently taken the leap to full time entrepreneurship after a career across a range of industries including renewable energy and fintech.

Image description: A headshot of Trace’s co-founders, Cat and Jo in the park. Both are smiling and looking at the camera, wearing light coloured sweaters.

VIEW: Climate anxiety and grief are healthy feelings which can form a basis for action

Young people are particularly experiencing real stress and anxiety around climate change, with four in five Australian students recently reporting they are very anxious, and one in five saying they would not or have fewer children because of climate change. In this interview, Dr Sally Gillespie outlines how she has applied her studies and experiences with Jungian psychology to help others and publish a book on climate consciousness.

  • What is Jungian psychology and how did you initially become interested in this field?

The focus of Jungian psychology is to expand consciousness through identifying unconscious aspects of ourselves and the cultures we live within. As a therapeutic approach, it encourages us to find meaning and healing through seeing beyond our habitual thoughts, behaviours and identifications. Jungian psychological practices aim to question, observe and reflect on unknown aspects of ourselves through paying attention to dreams, body symptoms, emotional responses, fantasies and creative expressions.

Jungian psychology initially appealed to me because of my vivid dream life. In my early twenties I began recording and working with my dreams, which led me to read and attend lectures about dreams and the work of Jung. This led me into Jungian analysis and then training to become a psychotherapist.

  • How have you been applying it to the field and global issue of climate change?

As my concerns over climate change grew, I became aware that there was a strong psychological component behind climate denial and inaction. This prompted me to think about my own and other people’s reactions to climate change. My dreams also reflected climate concerns, spurring me on to deeper involvement. In 2011 I undertook PHD research and set up a research group to discuss our psychological responses to ongoing engagement with climate issues. Drawing upon Jungian perspectives, I looked for ways to bring unconscious feelings into consciousness through encouraging reflective conversations, based upon respectful listening and open-ended questions. I also invited participants to share dreams which seemed relevant to the research topic. Dream sharing allowed the group’s conversations to acknowledge difficult feelings like confusion, fear, grief and despair in ways which fostered compassion, wisdom and tolerance. What we learnt through this research process was that having the safety and space to identify and explore climate change responses, many of which were quite ambivalent or contradictory, increased our emotional resilience and motivation for action.

When something which has been felt unconsciously becomes conscious and can be explored compassionately with others, it frees minds, hearts and imaginations for change and creative action. I have continued this work through writing and facilitating community conversations and workshops on climate psychology.

  • ‘Climate anxiety’ is a growing problem and challenge, particularly for younger generations. How common or natural is it to feel overwhelmed by issues like climate change?

It is important to acknowledge that feeling anxious about climate disruption is a rational and sane response, especially given the lack of adequate climate action by Governments, nationally and internationally. Climate anxiety and grief are healthy feelings to have and are part of waking up to what is being lost and destroyed in our natural world, and the ways that this will affect our lives especially for younger generations. When this anxiety and grief can be acknowledged and shared safely, it builds empathy and connections with others while developing ecological consciousness and conscience as a basis for action.

While it is natural to feel overwhelmed at times by climate anxiety, especially when in midst of climate driven disasters such as drought and bushfires, it is neither healthy nor useful to live in a perpetual state of heightened anxiety over climate disruption, or to feel paralysed by climate anxieties. Instead we need to learn how to process and manage our climate fears, as many long term climate campaigners and scientists have learnt to do.

The emotional process of normalising and familiarising ourselves with climate anxiety acts as an antidote for feelings of numbness and apathy which frequently mask underlying or unconscious feelings of climate anxiety, grief and despair. We need to identify, discuss and digest our climate fears and sadness, at both a personal and a collective level, to become fully engaged and response-able. When we can do this, climate anxiety does not so much disappear as become a part of the landscape of our lives and our relationship to our world, which we can reflect upon and integrate over time.

  • How can someone who is experiencing this feeling of being overwhelmed shift their mindset to be more action-oriented?

Learning how to manage climate anxiety is an ongoing personal and collective process which builds social connections, develops emotional resilience and empowers action. The first step is to acknowledge how you feel and to share your feelings with others in a safe space. For anyone experiencing ongoing paralysing anxiety, it is best to seek sympathetic professional help to manage distressing anxiety symptoms. Otherwise a good strategy is to seek out others who are up for honest and respectful conversations (not debates!) about climate anxiety. This might mean initiating conversations with friends or within your existing communities, such as schools, workplaces, sporting groups or book clubs, or it might mean initiating a climate discussion group.

While people are often scared to enter into climate conversations, fearing that they will either feel overwhelmed or encounter arguments, they usually feel relieved and grateful when they can talk openly and safely about their feelings with someone who listens well. There are also supportive websites, podcasts and books that acknowledge climate anxiety and grief, while sharing inspirational personal stories that support connection and action.

Secondly, monitor how much time you spend viewing climate media reports as this can be traumatising. Once you accept the basic climate science it is best to focus on collective climate action rather than fall into repeated reading of distressing reports on your own.

Thirdly, prioritise emotional wellbeing through maintaining self-care and social networks. For climate action to be sustainable and enjoyable, as it needs to be, individuals and campaign groups need to foster social connection and support through activities such as regular check ins, mindfulness practices, bushwalks or group dinners. Additionally always choose a form of action that excites you and aligns with your talents and interests, while also making time for fun activities not related to climate action. Just as our ecosystems need restorative attention and space, so do we!

About the expert

Dr Sally Gillespie facilitates workshops on climate psychology and ecopsychology and is the author of Climate Crisis and Consciousness: Re-imagining our world and ourselves, available online and in all good bookstores.

Image description: Headshot of Dr Sally Gillespie from the shoulders up. She wears a navy blue top, gold necklace and glasses. She is smiling and standing in a garden, surrounded by trees and plants.

VIEWS: Stories will change minds, not another terrifying statistic

Managing and understanding climate change will be critical to the sustainability of all industries, communities, and ways of life. At the core of this challenge, is science communicators, who carry the heavy responsibility of ensuring their extensive research and studies of this field are accurately communicated to the public.

In this interview, Dr Linden Ashcroft shares her experiences as a climatologist and her views on how the field is changing.

  • What originally sparked your interest in climatology and how has that interest evolved over time? 

I was originally fascinated by the weather—the drama of thunderstorms and heatwaves, and how weather affects our everyday lives. But at university I became more interested in studying the bigger picture: How are these dramatic events changing over time, and what is causing those changes?

As I learnt more, I realised that climatology is also the study of how our planet is connected. For example, the idea that the ocean temperatures off the coast of Indonesia can influence the rain we receive in Victoria is amazing to me!

  • How did you start your career in climatology? 

I started my career like many researchers, by doing an Honours research project. I studied cold days in Melbourne and Perth, and how they are associated with weather patterns that start out over South America. I tried a few different things after that, including training as a science communicator, before coming back to university to attempt a PhD. This time I was looking at Australia’s past climate, using old weather observations and archives to piece together our climate history.

  • What do you believe is the role of science communicators on issues like climate change, during a time when there are still varying views on what the issue of climate change is and how it’s evolving?

Oh, what a question!

We do need trusted science communicators to present scientific facts and uncertainties clearly. But it’s conversations and stories that change people’s minds on an issue, not another graph or terrifying statistic. Political affiliations and existing beliefs play a much bigger role in people’s opinions on climate change than whether or not they understand the greenhouse effect. So we don’t just need science communicators, we need all communicators to talk about this issue. The role of all of us is to have rational and honest conversations with each other about what we understand, what is unclear, what we’re scared of and how we can minimise the amount of warming to which we are committing.

  • How have you seen discussions around climate change evolve among climatologists in the last five years? 

My colleagues work incredibly hard on complex and depressing issues. At the start of my career I saw a lot of energy being put into proving the existence and size of human-induced climate change. But we have well and truly moved on from this. The discussions and questions being asked now are about how extreme weather events are going to change in a warmer world, and what it will take to keep us at a relatively safe level of warming.

  • How do you think the role of climatologists in addressing climate change will evolve in the next five years? 

I believe we will see more climatologists working with scientists from other disciplines to answer cross-disciplinary questions. This is already happening but as the reality of climate change becomes clearer, the need for climate understanding is going to stretch into all fields, from economics to health to building design. I also think the next generation of climate researchers are graduating with strong communication skills, making it possible for them to share their science with a wider audience than ever before.

About the expert

Dr Linden Ashcroft grew up in country Victoria on the lands of the Yorta Yorta people, and is a lecturer, climate scientist and science communicator at the University of Melbourne.

Her research uses the past to help us prepare for the future, exploring the climate of Australia using historical documents and weather observations.

She is a regular on the science show Einstein A Go Go on 3RRR radio in Melbourne and a Science and Technology Australia Superstar of STEM.

Her career highlights include working with a farmer in Armidale to rescue his grandfather’s weather diaries, presenting videos on climate science for the Bureau of Meteorology, being part of the winning team for the 2014 Eureka Prize for Interdisciplinary Research and having her writing selected for the 2019 Best Australian Science Writing anthology.

Image description: Headshot of a woman from the elbows up wearing a red jumper and blue collared shirt. She has shoulder-length hair and is sitting at a table. On the table sits two old scientific books that are open, as well as an old scientific instrument. There is a bookshelf in the background. The woman is smiling.

VIEW: Climate change – where does it start and end?

Climate change is in the headlines every day. Yet, there are still major divides within communities, corporates and governments on how serious this issue actually is.

We asked a range of experts for their views on exactly how extreme climate change is, what the research tells us, how they have or have not impacted the recent bushfire tragedies in Australia, and why there is still so much debate on the issue overall.

How is climate change impacting our planet?

Sanaa Hobeichi, Post doctoral research associate at the Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW Sydney

Sanaa Hobeichi, Post doctoral research associate at the Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW Sydney:

“Climate change has already started to devastate our planet. The signs of climate change include not only rising global temperatures, but also more frequent damaging weather events such as floods, droughts, intense storms and heatwaves; melting glaciers and icesheets, sea level rise, and a wide range of other impacts.

While we do see public debate around whether climate change is a natural phase or caused by human activities, this is not a debate in the scientific community… Where there is a division of views, it tends to be around the scale of the consequences.

For over a century, scientists have provided evidence on the contribution of human activity to current earth warming and climate change. Heat-trapping and long-lasting carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel burning has been found to be the most important contributor to global warming.

The Paris Agreement (2015) is the first universal and legally binding agreement that aims to tackle climate change following the recommendations of the IPCC. It aims at achieving more than a 70% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of the century. More than 180 countries have now agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and many have set emissions targets to achieve this.”

Valentina Petrone, Senior Environmental Consultant, Encycle Consulting:

“People have always thought that climate change was something happening really far away from their backyards – something that scientists would take care of… Nowadays the tragic bushfire season in Australia is clearly demonstrating that climate change is already affecting us and unfortunately quite badly. Additionally, the result of the last election clearly demonstrated that Australians are not aware about the risks and impacts of Climate Change and the need of a strong shift in the Australian environmental policies.”

Where are the misunderstandings around climate change and sustainability stemming from?

Daniela Cox, Plura Consulting CEO:

“Many people believe that climate change means only the planet warming up, but the truth is that changes in climate will occur beyond that. It will be affecting the local dynamic of nature depending on each ecosystem.”

Carmel Zein, Founder, Amina Rose:

Carmel Zein, Founder, Amina Rose

“People tend to shy away from new or ‘extreme’ movements, and unfortunately the majority of society still see vegans as radicalists when really the message they are spreading is for the better of the environment.

People see sustainability as a privilege, that is too expensive for the average person e.g buying organic, natural produce. On the contrary, living a sustainable life is much more cost effective, it just requires more time and understanding.”

Valentina Petrone, Senior Environmental Consultant, Encycle Consulting:

Valentina Petrone, Senior Environmental Consultant, Encycle Consulting

“There have been a mix of reports/articles on the news saying that the terrible Australian bushfire situation isn’t related to Climate Change. I think that’s due to the fact that Climate Change is a very sensitive topic in Australia being clearly linked to our fossil fuel industry and to our political decisions in regards to renewable energies and reduction on green house gases emissions. Additionally, people usually prefer to avoid conversations that might drive big changes and conspiracy theories are always a good excuse to avoid facing the reality.

Climate Change is a theory that clearly brings the responsibility back to everyone of us, everywhere in the world. It is deeply linked to our everyday habits and particularly to our linear economy where we just make (mainly using non-renewable fossil fuels), use and dispose. Climate Change is telling us we need to change and this scares people. Some people are more open to changes and have less economic interests in keeping the status quo, others are too worried to admit the truth and/or don’t want to lose their prosperity.

Particularly, the Australian economy is deeply based on fossil fuels, being the world’s largest coal exporter, therefore reducing GHG emissions will have a big impact on the nation.”

Sanaa Hobeichi, Post doctoral research associate at the Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW Sydney:

“Climate change has been always perceived as an environmental issue, however, given its huge consequences to the economy it is actually an economic issue. Climate change affects the economy and limits its growth through impacts on critical infrastructure, transport systems, public health, water resources, productivity and tourism. Global warming intensifies extreme events and thus leads to more catastrophic damages.

Scientists said that the Australian bushfires conditions in late 2019 have been made worse by climate change. At the moment, extreme weather events driven by climate change are costing Australia about 1.8 billion dollars.”

What options do we have for limiting any negative impacts of climate change and living sustainably?

Daniela Cox, Plura Consulting CEO

Daniela Cox, Plura Consulting CEO:

“Australia’s extreme climate conditions must urge politicians to understand their country land dynamic, challenges, and management from a closer approach. Who better to ask and count on to share their millenary insights than their indigenous peoples, the knowledgeable Aboriginal Australians.”

Carmel Zein, Founder, Amina Rose:

“Stop giving business to large corporations and start shopping local. The less business they have, the more we foster a sense of community and give opportunities to people who can help us live more sustainability e.g  buying fruit and veg from a market rather than shopping at Coles or Woolies. Getting coffee from your local rather than Starbucks or McDonalds. Of course this might mean compromising on convenience.

Diet – I have recently been challenging myself to eat more of a plant-based diet. There is no denying that meat production has huge environmental impacts such as water use, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and much more! If everyone is able to reduce their intake, it will help the sustainability fight.

Stop supporting fast fashion and pay attention to the sharing economy.”

Where to from here?

Valentina Petrone, Senior Environmental Consultant, Encycle Consulting:

“My advice to Australian politicians is to stop finding excuses and/or blaming each other, but to learn from this catastrophic bushfire season and seriously work on a Climate Change policy that will reduce the GHG emissions and promote a shift to a Circular Economy. Indeed, according to a report from the Ellen MacArthur foundation, current strategies to reduce gas emissions causing climate change (focused on a transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions) can only address 55% of emissions. A shift to a circular economy can contribute to completing the picture of emissions reduction by transforming the way we make and use products and create more liveable cities.”

Sanaa Hobeichi, Post doctoral research associate at the Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW Sydney:

“While many governments accept the evidence on climate change, some don’t include it in their political agenda. One reason could be that addressing climate change is overwhelming. It could be that they see it as too challenging to maintain the economic growth during the transition period from carbon-economy to clean-energy economy. Solutions will require developing climate policies and a big investment in the infrastructure, science, skill development and technology.

Recent research adds to this. It was revealed that to successfully achieve our carbon emissions targets we don’t just have to stop emissions but we need to reverse them. This requires developing solutions that actually take CO2 from the atmosphere. A study in Nature explored the currently available technologies for CO2 to achieve zero emissions and found limitations across all of them.”

About the experts

Sanaa Hobeichi, Post doctoral research associate at the Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW Sydney:

Sanaa Hobeichi has a multi-disciplinary background in climate science, Environmental Science, Mathematics and Computer Science. She received her PhD in climate science from the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales Sydney, and she is a research associate at the same centre. Her research explores how space observations of land-atmosphere interactions can be constrained with in-situ observations of these processes. Sanaa is a previous International Baccalaureate teacher in Math and has a great passion to encourage female high school students to choose STEM career path.

Daniela Cox, Plura Consulting CEO:

Third generation Galapagos islander, Sustainable Business (MA) in Australia, Marine Ecologist (BA) in Ecuador, naturalist guide, ex municipal environmental management director, ex alternate representative of Galapagos at the National Assembly of Ecuador at 22, and presenter for Galapagos organizations since age 12.

Daniela has ten years of experience in Galapagos, coordinating and implementing sustainable community projects together with local and international stakeholders. Also advocating transparency, empowerment, and local participation in decision-making processes.

Valentina Petrone, Senior Environmental Consultant, Encycle Consulting:

With 14 years’ work experience in the construction industry, working across Europe and South-East Asia, Valentina has demonstrated excellent design and environmental sustainability skills along with an in-depth knowledge of Climate Change and Circular Economy key principles.

Her sustainability expertise combined with her passion for driving changes enabled Valentina to successfully develop and implement corporate and community sustainability education programs to facilitate behaviour change and help building socially sustainable communities and more liveable cities.

Carmel Zein, Founder, Amina Rose:

Carmel Zein has been a content and brand marketing professional for over 7 years, specifically in ecommerce sectors. She has built a career around fostering meaningful relationships, supporting initiatives around diversity and inclusion, women in tech and mums in business all whilst maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being a mother to her daughter.

Since becoming a mother, Carmel developed a passion around living a sustainable, healthy and fit lifestyle and in honour of this, set out to create a business that makes it easy for others to live within this ethos, whilst still remaining stylish and current with ecommerce trends.

VIEW: The biggest hurdle to bridging the gap on climate change perceptions

There is a stark gap between how Australians view climate change, and how Australian politicians view climate change today.

On one hand, renowned and influential community members are investing significantly to put the issue higher on the national agenda, whilst too many politicians have become renowned for denying climate change should be a national issue at all.

This mindset gap has led to protests across the country, largely following the efforts of Greta Thurnberg, which have encouraged students and world citizens to make a stance by striking against school or work.

Rathana Chea, Head of Global Learning and Development at Greenpeace, believes there are many reasons for how this gap has emerged, but says it boils down to one core issue.

He calls it the self-interest framework.

The self-interest framework

“Everyone operates to a degree on a self-interest framework,” Chea explains. “It would be a mistake, and somewhat self-righteous, to assume the world is simply divided between the enlightened and unenlightened. We cannot shift people by berating them, making them feel small or invalidating their personal experience of the world.”

While a lot of rhetoric from climate change strikers urges politicians to focus on the facts, Chea believes there will need to be a stronger emotional connection if we expect to see their views fundamentally change. He says that assuming everyone is rational, would be a mistake.

“In cognitive science we know that the overwhelming majority of people operate with feelings first, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not. The everyday person can be provided with all the hard scientific facts but still not be moved to action or get defensive and ignore the facts because it doesn’t given them the right ‘feelings’,” he continues.

Bridging the gap

Seeing eye to eye with the government is theoretically what democracies are built on, and yet the gap is a reality that voting systems look to bridge. Chea believes that it is these voting systems that need to be leveraged to bridge the gap.

He says Australian politicians are “in a position of representing interests that will get them elected again. So when corporate money is invested in politics this becomes an easy shortcut to fund their next election campaign. We are now in an interesting period where we are seeing vast numbers of small donors challenging this paradigm. This gives me hope that politicians will be reminded that their campaigns shouldn’t be about buying our attention and interest through slick campaigns, but listening to our needs and concerns representing them. It gives politicians who want to represent everyday people the opportunity and platform to do so – because we fund them.

“This is how we would bridge the gap between government policy and the needs of our planet. We need to remember that we, as voting people, are the ones with the social contract with politicians. Organised people, organised money and organised ideas can change the world. The key here is organised, because the corporations who benefit from climate change denial are organised… So to those that know that we need to combat climate change my question is – how organised are we?”

About the expert

Rathana Chea has worked in Asia- Pacific, Europe, Africa and the Americas for a number of international agencies including Greenpeace and Amnesty International and undertaken initiatives for various bodies of the United Nations. Born in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Cambodia he grew up in South West Sydney and the Northshore graduating from University of Technology, Sydney. He has given guest lectures at a number of universities all over the world in sociology and law. Much to many people’s horror he very rarely drinks coffee or tea.