“Hey ScoMo, fuck you! We deserve a future too,” a crowd of 20,000 people shouted through Sydney’s CBD on Wednesday night. The ‘NSW is Burning, Sydney is Choking’ Climate Emergency Rally brought together the Uni Students for Climate Justice, Extinction Rebellion, and Greens MP David Shoebridge for one reason: we are living in a climate crisis.
The rally came less than 24 hours after Sydney was engulfed by an apocalyptic, yet all too familiar, cloud of bushfire smoke. On Tuesday, the Air Quality Index rating recorded a reading almost 11 times over the threshold for what is considered “hazardous air quality.”
An estimated 20,000 protesters marched through Sydney on Wednesday, demanding immediate climate action in the face of devastating environmental damage.
The smoke was so potent that it was triggering alarms across the city, including Wynyard Station and The University of New South Wales. The Prime Minister himself was even trapped in the Federal Government’s Sydney office for half an hour because of smoke induced alarms. Yet, no official health warnings were given, no P2 masks issued, and no state of emergency declared.
17-year-old activist Amy Lamont is experiencing the impact of this inaction first-hand, her family home standing mere kilometres away from active fires in Sydney’s north. “Decades of inaction and decades of climate denial has led to this,” Lamont said about her motivations for speaking at Wednesday’s rally.
“We’re not victims, we’re not just going to roll over and let these things happen. While we are scared, we’re also really angry! You have failed for decades to actually listen to what the population wants. How dare these people continue to deny climate change?”
“To our leaders I’d say watch out, because the heat is definitely coming.”
Sydney’s smoke crisis is a painful reminder of the 80+ bushfires that continue to burn through the state. Since July, two million hectares of NSW land has burned in over 7,000 fires, six people have lost their lives, and 673 homes have been destroyed.
“Sydney could not believe it was happening. The city was shrouded in toxic smoke and the Premiere and Prime Minister acted as if nothing was wrong,” Greens MP David Shoebridge said about living through this current crisis.
“In the last month, I’ve seen my home covered in toxic smoke, I’ve had friends across the state who’ve lost their homes. Friends who’ve felt constantly under threat, who are looking at this summer with fear and anxiety, and that fear and anxiety has struck home in Sydney. It’s getting increasingly personal.”
“We needed this rally to happen to show all the politicians that climate change is real and, if they don’t act, they’re going to be thrown out.”
With bushfires raging, Sydney suffocating and 99.9% of the state in drought, both the NSW and Federal Governments continue to ignore the facts. Our Prime Minister has rejected any possible link between “the most challenging bushfire season ever” and climate change, but continues to send his “thoughts and prayers” to the burning towns that he refuses to aid.
Ollie and Imogen travelled from their fire ravaged neighbourhood on the Central Coast to participate in Wednesday’s rally.
“Fuck you, honestly!” Ollie said is his message to our politicians.
“I honestly have no words with the amount of shit that keeps coming out of the Government. I am absolutely devastated for our future and I am so sad about the negative impact so far. It’s just horrible.”
“We’re backed on to bushland so we’re really nervous about where we’re living, and the animals around us. I’ve worked with wildlife in the past and it impacts me personally because I really know how incredibly unique these animals are. It’s absolutely devastating.”
2019 has been the year of the climate strike, Wednesday’s rally again reflecting the collective action which political inaction has forced upon the population. As Amy told the 20,000 activists who crowded Sydney’s Town Hall, it’s people power which will save the world.
She’s right. Because with the climate crisis already taking full effect, it’s sadly looking like those in power won’t start to care until it’s their own houses that are burning.