Blog: Reflections on climate action – power through collaboration

An opinion piece by Lucía Gamarra

Let’s get real, people!

At  the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) conference in June 2022 environmental and climate-change action-oriented organisations gathered in Ngunnawal country. CANA is a member-driven network consisting of 146 Australian NGOs involved in environmental and climate change action. CANA connects members and provides resources to exchange knowledge about effective climate change action.

It was a pleasure to be surrounded by such passionate and committed people, naturally organised into distinct interest groups playing a role in a collective effort. As advocates of human rights, these organisations work with communities to change governance rules that impede the achievement of human rights, starting with the right of decision-making, sovereignty, self-determination, and free, prior and informed consent.

People in regional parts of Australia, the Pacific Islands and beyond are aware of the risks and have experienced the impacts of climate change. They look after one another and are walking wisely and with care. They are pessimists of intellect and optimists of will. They plead that urgent action is needed to attain a basic level of water and food security, housing, health care, education, electricity, livelihoods, transport and safety. Reckless historic and contemporaneous exploitation of natural resources and people have resulted in the reality of climate change. The continuation of these unjust and indifferent practices is contemptable, and First Peoples demand we get real about what is going on. They demand we get on the same playing field now (actually, yesterday).

Are Australians involved?
Australia’s climate compass puts us in a spectrum of climate change awareness – from dismissive to alarmed. More and more people are taking action and doing their part in reducing the impacts of climate change and restoring and protecting Country. One of the reasons for low levels of engagement has to do with disinformation about the reality of the causes and effects of climate change. We can all stop disinformation by not engaging, but by sharing newsworthy information.

At the CANA conference, Aunty Matilda House welcomed us to Country and asked us to just wake up and be thankful for our lives; to ask ourselves what will our great grandchildren do? More broadly – “who is addressing issues of looking after Country?” and even louder “HEAL COUNTRY, HEAL CLIMATE”. Last month, Cynthia Mitchell asked Peter Cullen Trust’s graduates and friends, “are we being good ancestors?”

On the second evening of the conference, Water Leaders described the urgent need to integrate Indigenous knowledge as a valuable complement to the National Water Policy and the Basin Plan.

Parallel to the CANA conference, the Pacific Community based in Suva convened actors from Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands to unpack the elements of a flash flood early warning system. This is a critical step to establishing and strengthening hydrology flood services disaster and community resilience space. Flooding is one of the most common frequent disasters affecting these four countries, and the project aims to reduce disaster risk, loss and damage, and safeguard people from the critical impacts of extreme climate events.

Meanwhile, in Brisbane, Griffith University’s International WaterCentre and Water for Women hosted the Water and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) symposium to tell stories of how water resource management and WASH are connected and the consequences to people’s lives.

We are connected, we are looking in the same direction, we are somewhat aligned and cannot stop now.  This is enlightening as a newcomer and someone with a water focus, I thought we were only somewhat aligned because issues like water and food were on the margins, and perhaps water conferences are too focused on water – a coordinated and cohesive approach could go a long way.

The CANA conference refreshed my optimism and faith. Working together is more powerful than not working together, there is power through collaboration.

In the lead-up to two major international conferences (the UNFCCC COP27 and the UN Water Conference), AWP will share stories and host dialogues as part of a ‘Sharing Water & Climate Stories’ Dialogue Series to highlight the connection between water resource management and climate change action, to support the inclusion of Indigenous, traditional and local knowledge in efforts to survive and strive, and to contribute to climate-resilient water management. Jubilee Australia with Caritas Oceania is also researching the effect of climate financing on debt, especially in Pacific countries.

Australians are working hard to push back on climate change impacts (and causes!). Keep an eye out on the AWP social media channels, join our upcoming Dialogue Series and for how to take climate action, check out the Climate Action Network Australia website.

Feature image: Participants at the Climate Action Network Australia Conference. Image courtesy of CANA.
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