Guest blog post by Pierre
Four years ago, with our local Extinction Rebellion group, we made our council declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency.
To recognise that we are in an emergency is a necessary first step towards real action, but we all know that it is the easy part and that forgetting about it is even easier.
We needed to keep the pressure on, and from then on we started speaking about the latest developments of the Climate and Ecological crises during the public forum of every single council meeting.
We didn’t come time after time with the same demands, even if local issues like the airport are reoccurring topics. Each month we are giving our councillors a unique insight into how these crises are unfolding and how we are already being affected by them.
By being very consistent, we saw other groups and individuals bringing up the same issues and supporting us during these meetings and we saw the Overton Window progressively move in the right direction.
When we started campaigning, some of our councillors were still considering the term emergency to be alarmist, but at the last local body elections, every single elected councillor stated during their campaign that they agreed; we are in a Climate Emergency.
Local environmental groups and environmental think tanks are now better supported by our council. Our council has a Climate Action Plan set up (which is progressively improving). And when the community had to answer a referendum asking if we accepted to have our rates increased to finance more climate action, the community voted yes!
Democracy is important, we can’t take it for granted. A healthy democracy requires public engagement.
Councils are the closest part of the government to us, they are the branch of our government we can reach out to most easily. But not only that, councillors are influential members of our communities and by making them more aware of the threats we are all facing, we are raising community knowledge and awareness about these crises too.
We helped change the perception of the environmental crises in our district, but of course, a lot more needs to happen. We need to grow this grassroots movement nationwide. We need to reach a critical mass of engaged communities for our message to start moving up the ranks of the government.
We are now trying to expand this concept to other parts of the country. If you want to help amplify the message of 350 Aotearoa and of other climate campaigners by educating your local councils and communities about the realities of the Climate and Ecological crises, we have set up an information letter giving you more details about how to organise public forum speeches, about how we can help you to do so and about how we can start networking together.
If you are following 350 Aotearoa and if you have been reading this post, you are already part of the solution, thank you for that.
Pierre Marasti (XR Queenstown Lakes)