Clowning around is no laughing matter

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Cameron Wheatley

Australian Youth Climate Coalition Grassroots Coordinator,
Master of Global Media Communication student,
University of Melbourne

The clownfish speaks to the media at Torquay during Kevin Rudd's recent visit. Credit: Phillipa Wright


If it weren’t for the intervention of the clownfish, we might be invisible, and when it comes to politics invisibility does not count.


We are the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. We are part of the 40% of Australia’s population who are under 30, and who will be around long enough to see the long-term effects of the decisions of today’s political leaders.


The big question for us is, "where exactly are they leading us"?


The 2013 federal election campaign so far seems to have been dominated by empty slogans without real commitments, and appeals to ‘working families’, ‘jobs’, and ‘the economy’, which are repeated ad nauseam. 


Whether it is by omission, or disregard (best exemplified by Tony Abbott’s characterisation of an Emissions Trading Scheme as a “market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one”), our political leaders have failed to show any kind of leadership on the issue of climate change in the 2013 campaign. 


This election campaign might initially have promised something different.


On the day Kevin Rudd reclaimed the Labor leadership, he asked young Australians to “come back and listen afresh”. Rudd said that he needed our energy, our ideas and our enthusiasm.


Yet the thing that seems to have been conspicuously absent from this campaign is the energy, ideas, and enthusiasm of our politicians. 


In the wake of the vitriolic campaign against the carbon price, they have forgotten about what Mr Rudd once called the “greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation”. 


Nonetheless, we are still giving our ideas, our energy, and our enthusiasm. That energy and enthusiasm just happens to be orange with fins, and it wants our politicians to aim higher with their climate policies, and invest more in renewable energy.


Kevin Rudd connects with young voters, Instagramming his conversation with a clownfish


The clownfish is part of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s campaign to put the issue of climate change back into the minds of voters, and back onto the political agenda. 


The clownfish is out there because it wants to protect Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, not just from the localised threats of the proposed coal ports and dredging, but from the threat of climate change, which has already had a significant impact

But of course this is not just about a clownfish, and not just about the Great Barrier Reef. 


At its heart, climate change is a moral issue. It is about how we ensure that young people are able to grow up in a world with a stable climate; a climate where we can live near the bush without having to face the increased risk of bushfire, where we can grow our food in the same abundance as we have in the past, and where we can see Australia’s natural wonders in the same condition as our parents saw them.


These are the issues that our media, and our politicians, seem either completely unwilling, or unable, to raise.


As young Australians, with the most at stake, it has been left up to us to insert the moral imperative on climate change back into the political quagmire. All it takes is one young person in a costume to break the scripted monotony of baby kissing and fluoro vests on the campaign trail.


Dressing up may be a lighthearted way of addressing some serious issues, but the Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s campaign is about much more than just youthful idealism. The recent Australian Energy Market Operator reiterates  that a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy is possible by 2050. Australia has some of the world’s best wind resources, and the world’s highest level of average solar radiation per square metre of any continent.


It is now just a question of political will. 


So, until we see some real leadership, the clownfish and his friends will be out there reminding everyone that our future matters, and that there is more to politics than slogans and opinion polls.