Our Journey in Climate Action
Robin and Warwick Mosman, who instigated the idea of Grandparents for Generational Equity, are grandparents who have been informing themselves about climate change for over a decade.
In 2005, at the Sydney Writers Festival, they heard American scientist Dr Jared Diamond speak about his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, and the threats facing our modern societies, of climate change, diminishing il supplies and uncertain water availability. When someone in the audience asked him what ordinary people could do to make a difference, he said “You live in a democracy. Influence your decision makers”.
Robin remembers driving home that night thinking “I’m just a grandmother living in the Blue Mountains – what can I do that will make any difference?”. However, she decided she had to do something, and started writing letters to relevant politicians to let them know what she thought and felt about their actions or lack of them in issues affecting environmental sustainability. Soon a good friend joined her, and it became clear as they researched for relevant information that climate change was the elephant in the room.
And it was an elephant of a subject – huge, and difficult to decide which particular part to focus on. As they found themselves spending more and more time on their research, they thought it would be good if they get this information to more people who might also be interested.
Another friend became involved, and then another, and between the four of them they turned the Citizens Climate Change into a facilitated email campaign and website, sending out a short email every few weeks with information on some current aspect of climate change and contact details for the appropriate politicians/s. People could write their own message or use the suggestions provided. It was like an early version of GetUp!
Their information was fairly basic, mostly about aspects of climate change that had been reported in the Sydney Morning Herald recently – the sort of thing any ordinary person might have picked up from reading the paper. They read more widely on the subject in order to inform themselves better, but did not claim to be experts.
At first they felt like the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness, but by the end of 2006 the Citizens Climate Campaign was sending its weekly emails to well over a thousand people, and by the time of the November 2007 election, climate action was the top priority of the voting public.
When the government changed at the 2007 election their hopes were high for significant change, but as 2008 went on with no action, and 2009 ended with the fiasco of the Copenhagen Conference, a dreadful hopelessness descended on the Citizens Climate Campaigners. Circumstances changed in a variety of ways for those in the group, and the impetus to continue their work was gone.
In 2011, when the threat of coal seam gas mining was added to that of coal, Robin met up one day, at a meeting, with retired NSW Environment Minister Bob Debus, who had also been the Local Member for the Blue Mountains. She asked him whether he thought there was any chance of stopping coal seam gas mining. He looked her straight in the eye and said, very deliberately “Only if the people take to the streets”.
Robin says “I still remember how my heart dropped, thinking that Australians would never do that, especially in sufficient numbers to stop the coal industry.”
She and Warwick continued to write letters and submissions, go to demonstrations etc, but without any conviction that what they were doing was having any impact against the power of the coal industry lobby.
Then in April 2014, they saw thousands of Australians standing up against coal seam gas mining at Bentley.
The people were taking to the streets!
Inspired by this, and totally disillusioned by government actions supporting the coal and gas industries, they decided to go to the Leard Blockade, the only blockade of a coal mine in Australia. Robin’s account of their visit was published on Margot Kingston’s citizen journalism website NoFibs.
Since then they have returned to the Blockade with a group of other members of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, where they blocked a coal road for 2 hours, and Robin’s second article, also published on NoFibs, tells how energised they all felt at the end of their trip:
““Not that we thought what we’d done was going to change anything, but just that we’d done something. We weren’t just sitting around wringing our hands about climate change and the degradation of our land, we’d made a start to doing more.”
Impressed and influenced by the commitment and determination of the young activists at the Blockade, they came home determined to start taking action again themselves.
The idea for Grandparents for Generational Equity came to them on seeing the response on social media to the photo of them holding their sign at the Blockade. People were tweeting “Are you a group? How do I join?”
They decided to do what they had done so successfully before, with the Citizens Climate Campaign, but this time to target grandparents, with their motivating love for their grandchildren, and more time to write letters than younger folks still caught up with child rearing and mortgages.
And as Robin says “Grandparents remember letters! They know how to write them, and put them in envelopes, and stick a stamp on them! And they have time to take them to the Post Office!”
“Young folks only know about emails, which are OK if you really can’t make time to write, but they can be blocked and ignored. Letters have to be delivered and opened, and most importantly, politicians know they take a lot more commitment to send.”
They have since been joined in this venture by friends who share their concerns.