Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

A Fragile Future

A Fragile Future

Merna Matti

Year 11, Good Samaritan Catholic College

Climate change; a universal issue rumoured by our revolutionary generation as a science-driven conspiracy. However, climate change isn't rhetoric. It isn't a partisan issue. It is our greatest challenge. A challenge that will define the contours of this century.

Honoured delegates, I stand here before you as not only the Environmental Minister, but as a concerned daughter of Mother Earth. No country is immune to this peril. This is an undeniable reality that confronts us all, holistically, in myriad ways. As a nation, it is imperative that we wake up to the urgency of this threat.

To the oil and gas industries; nobody has been less aloof, more assertive, nor more authoritative than you. On environmentally fragile lands, you have squeezed oil from tar sands and shale. You have skilfully drilled the Arctic to increase ocean depths, wrestling fuel in unimagined abundance, never failing to meet the demands of our formidable society.

Our planet is not a commodity.

To our society, the heat from our emissions is a poison choking the lungs of Mother Earth, starving the blood vessels from oxygen and stripping it naked from its land masses. Since the Earth is deteriorating in our actions, why do we continue to taint it with the malicious gas of carbon dioxide? Why do we continue to assault nature with climate change?

I am a survivor of Australia's most harrowing ordeals, the Black Saturday bushfires. I remember the smoke ululating humiliation, an echo of materialism dominating over our inalienable human rights and the sterling system of nature. I remember the innocent hilltops howling a chorus of hardship, questioning “Why are you so mean?”

Flames ravaged 2029 houses. My house was one of them. All that was left was ash, melted glass, fractured ceramics, iron. This neighbourhood of St Andrew that once glistened with life is now a skeleton city. As a community, we suffer.

Our planet is not a commodity.

The impacts of climate change pulse far further than this neighbourhood. In Greenland, ancient glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, coughing up empty fuel drums, ice axes, plastic bottles. Our oceans are acidifying, with methane plumes rising up from the ocean floor. America's droughts are intensifying, leaving marsh plants wilted and weak, spelling vulnerability for farmers.

The security and stability of each nation: our prosperity, our health, our safety; are in jeopardy because of this issue.

Our planet is not a commodity.

Now is our moment for action. Limiting global temperatures below two degrees Celsius is our duty. This guideline is not a casual reaction to our resistance towards social reform. It is a judgement, informed by science, about the threshold beyond which climate insecurity is likely to become unmanageable. It is an enduring framework for human progress.

Fossil fuel industries must also stop frustrating ambition. Instead, can these companies tell us about the electrification of vehicles; the decarbonisation of electricity; new frontiers in efficiency?

Our society should be entrenched in golden energy. Clean energy. Renewable energy.

Our planet is not a commodity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, one-day I want to stand here, and proudly proclaim that difficulty was not an excuse for complacency. Proudly proclaim that we stopped business with broken morals and blindfolded bureaucracies from dictating the science and politics that affect our future. Proudly proclaim that we took effective measures in developing intricate formulas to nurture Earth whilst growing our economy.

Let's act now and mark history with prosperity, security and human progress, so that our grandchildren take pride in our achievements.