Co-founder and former Chair of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) and former Environment Minister’s joint Young Environmentalist of the Year, Anna Rose has achieved more in her 3o years than most people achieve in a lifetime.
Active in environmental and social justice from the age of 14, Rose co-authored the book Madlands: A Journey to Change the Mind of a Climate Sceptic (MUP, 2012) while managing roles as a Fellow of the International Youth Foundation, a climate campaigner at GetUp and an associate of Sydney-based strategy and consultancy agency Make Believe.
In 2010, Rose was named one of Sydney’s 100 Most Influential People by the Sydney Morning Herald; she also organised a sustainable wedding and co-starred in the documentary I Can Change Your Mind About Climate.
In 2014, Rose is also responsible for changing the face of Earth Hour in Australia, and on the eve of the event, we sit down to talk about climate change around the world.
MF: Tell us about your role in Earth Hour this year and what you wanted to achieve?
AR: I’m working with a great team at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to re-launch Earth Hour in Australia. At the heart of Earth Hour is the beautiful, bold idea that all of us together can inspire action to solve the climate crisis. That’s why millions of Australians participate each year with their family and friends.
And now that Earth Hour has become a household name, it’s time to take it to the next level. This year Earth Hour is evolving from a single moment to a year-round social movement rallying Australians to take action on climate change. In 2014 we’re using Earth Hour to focus attention on the fact that one of the world’s most iconic and fragile sites, the Great Barrier Reef, is under threat from climate change.
MF: Why the focus on the Great Barrier Reef?
AR: This year we’re calling Earth Hour “It’s Lights Out for the Reef.” Supporters will turn their lights out as a sign that they care about the Great Barrier and want to see it protected from climate change and overdevelopment. It’s to kick-start a national conversation that urgently needs to happen if we’re going to protect the Reef from a “lights out” moment where it’s no longer a viable ecosystem.
MF: Are you seeing a shift in the number of people who are actively involved in Earth Hour? Are there any demographics that are particularly active?
AR: The beautiful thing about Earth Hour is its massive reach and participation from all ages and people from all walks of life. The biggest demographic, though, are parents of young children. It’s such a great event to celebrate as a family – to turn your lights out, invite your neighbours over and have a candlelit dinner where you can have a conversation about what we can all do to tackle climate change.
MF: What do you say to people who dismiss the notion of climate change?
AR: If you had 97-98 per cent of doctors telling you had cancer, would you ignore them just because there were a handful of doctors (who weren’t cancer experts) telling you to wait and see?
We’ve increased carbon dioxide levels 40 per cent since the Industrial Revolution and are pumping out over 25 billion tonnes of carbon pollution each year. There are very few people who genuinely think that 25 billion tonnes of carbon pollution each year is having no effect.
Every National Academy of Science of every major country in the world confirms the science of climate change, along with NASA, the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and hundreds more scientific bodies we have every reason to trust. And even if you don’t trust these experts, think of cutting carbon pollution as a precautionary measure. After all, most people insure their homes – so it’s just common sense to reduce carbon pollution and increase renewable energy to protect our planet!
MF: What are your greatest concerns for the environment over the next five years?
AR: Tony Abbott and the Coalition government have already done some extremely concerning things when it comes to the environment and climate change: cutting the independent Climate Commission (which re-launched as a crowd-funded Climate Council), abolishing the price on carbon pollution, announcing possible cuts to renewable energy funding and announcing an agenda to undermine or abolish Australia’s only national piece of environmental protection legislation – the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
MF: You’ve had so many significant achievements. What has been your most rewarding experience?
AR: Speaking with the Dalai Lama to a packed stadium in Perth; teaching people about climate change on a ship in Antarctica; my book tour – 200 speeches and speaking directly to almost 20,000 people mostly in rural and regional Australia.
MF: And what’s next?
AR: I’ll be working as hard as I can to transform Earth Hour from a single moment to a year-round social movement. I want to make it as easy as possible for Australians to take their first step to making a difference on climate change, and joining with their friends and families to do that. Governments and business will only ever aim as high as we demand – and will stoop as low as we let them. So there really is a role for everyone to play in tackling climate change.