News / Environment

Climate rebels gather to plot their next moves

A ‘Climate Carnival’ in Brunswick East brought together veteran activists with newcomers

Extinction Rebellion members Serena Everill and Costas Maniatis at the Climate Carnival on Saturday. In the background is the pink yacht Mr Maniatis plans to take through the CBD later this month.

Mark Phillips

ON a wet and wintry Melbourne weekend, when the temperature barely hit double figures, a warmer climate would have been a welcome prospect for most people.

But not so inside a Brunswick East warehouse building, where scores of environmental and climate change activists gathered on Saturday and Sunday to share ideas about how to deal with the existential threat of global warming.

Organised by Extinction Rebellion Northside and other local groups, the two-day event at Mycelium Studios in Moreland Road was billed as a ‘Climate Carnival’ featured workshops, lectures, panel discussions and demonstrations, stalls and information tables, along with music, dancing and art.

The festival was held just a few weeks ahead of Extinction Rebellion’s next big public action, Occupy for Climate Melbourne on May 25 to 27.

The group is calling for 1000 people to sign up to camp at a site in the city, believed to be the Alexandra Gardens, and take part in a series of actions of civil disobedience at key locations in the CBD.

Extinction Rebellion Northside spokesman Timothy Perkins said the Climate Carnival was an opportunity for both veteran activists and those new to the environmental movement to come together. Other groups involved included Friends of the Earth, Climate Action Merri-bek, and Friends of Merri Creek.

Mr Perkins said that with most people accepting the science of global warming, the challenge was to get governments to take stronger action to phase out fossil fuels and protect native forests.

“Lots of people are aware that there is an issue and I think the general mood was calmed a lot by the Labor victory in the federal election but we’re trying to send a message that it’s not all taken care of, that we’re still in a very dire situation,” he said.

“I think people have received that information and know there’s a very big problem but they don’t always know what to do next and how to take the next step and that’s what today is all about, offering those pathways and opportunities for people to raise their hand and say ‘I can do that’ or ‘I’ll come to this’.”

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An objective of the Climate Carnival was to encourage more people who are curious about climate activism to get involved and join the movement.

“We’re trying to cover as broad an audience as possible and just send out the message to everybody that there’s a place for you somewhere in the climate movement no matter who you are or what your background or your skills are, there’s something you can do,” he said.

Among those taking part at the Climate Carnival was Costas Maniatis who had travelled from the southern bayside suburbs with his pink yacht Tuvalu, which was parked outside the warehouse on the weekend.

Mr Maniatis recently bought the second-hand yacht, which is still seaworthy, and has painted it pink in homage to the original Extinction Rebellion pink boat, Berta Cáceres, which brought the centre of London to a standstill when it was moored in Oxford Circus for five days in 2019.

On the starboard side of Tuvalu he has painted the words ‘Climate Emergency’ and the Extinction Rebellion logo is prominent on its bow.

The Tuvalu on display at the Climate Carnival.

At the climate carnival, he was seeking to recruit volunteers to help him take Tuvalu on a journey through the Melbourne CBD during Occupy for Climate to highlight the impact of global warming and rising sea levels which are threatening the small Pacific island from which it draws its name.

“I’m hoping to take the boat on a slow march with people dragging it along by ropes, and we will use fabrics around its hull to replicate the rising sea levels,” he said.

Mr Perkins said eye-catching actions like the pink boat were a deliberate strategy of Extinction Rebellion to get media coverage about climate change.

For that reason, a chunk of the Climate Carnival’s program was dedicated to art and music both to draw attention to the issues and to make activism enjoyable and welcoming.

“I think activism is a very social thing naturally, it’s about building strong communities and co-operating and working together,” Mr Perkins said.

“So it is a lot of fun and we want to show people that what you see on the news are potentially the most stressful or intense or scary parts of our activism but there is a lot of fun to be had on the way.

“There’s a lot of artistic and creative things you can do and a lot of it is about talking to people and sharing information.”

Meanwhile, among the stalls and tables in the basement of Mycelium Studios, Gauri Shah (pictured) and her nine-year-old son Veer were promoting a small, but practical way to make a difference.

Her organisation, Green Earth RETHINK Recycle, collects unwanted white goods and either refurbishes them so they can be re-used, or decommissions them in a way that limits environmental waste, particularly the CFC and HFC gases in refrigerator engines.

Ms Shah said when she moved to Australia from India, she was shocked at the amount of white goods that were thrown out as hard rubbish.

“Where I come from, nothing goes to waste and these things are repaired and re-used,” she said.

“Most people [in Australia] are not aware of this problem and think they are doing the right thing by putting out their fridge so a scrap dealer can come along and take it away. But they contain ozone depleting gases and greenhouse gases that need to be removed.”

Ms Shah said her organisation sought to refurbish white goods first, but if they were not reparable, they were licenced to remove the gases in a way that was safer for the environment.

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