Make your voice heard – write away!

This is a guest post form the 1 Million Women community.

Written by Eve White

Perhaps you've felt annoyed about something you've heard on the news recently and considered writing to someone about it, but then decided that: (a) you don't have an adequate understanding of the issues, or (b) you don't have time, or (c) it won't make any difference, or (d) you don't know who to write to, or (e) all of the above. These were my excuses for never having written to a politician about any issue – until recently, when I realised that none of these excuses are valid. Let's look at them:

I don't fully understand the issue: If you are reading this, then I'm sure you're aware that scientists agree that unless the world's CO2 emissions are cut drastically and rapidly we are heading towards catastrophic climate change. Do you care about this? If the answer is yes, this is all you really need to know (you do not need a deeper understanding of the science, the politics or anything else) in order to write a letter to your MP letting them know that action on climate change is important to you.

I don't have time: It only needs to take five minutes to write to your local MP – the person that represents you in parliament - introducing yourself and telling him or her that you live in their electorate, that you support urgent action on climate change and that you will be deciding who to vote for based on their climate change policies. At its most basic level, letter writing doesn't need to be any more complicated than this.

And with 2016 being an election year, once you know who your local candidates are, write to each of them stating that you live in their electorate, asking where they stand on climate change action and telling them that this issue will be central to your voting decision.

One letter won't make a difference: A friend who has long been involved in activism is convinced that it doesn't take many letters for a politician to start thinking: "Maybe this issue is more important than I thought..." The same friend told me about a comment made in conversation by an Australian politician: "I have never received a letter from an individual telling me that they are concerned about climate change. How do I know that it matters to voters if nobody tells me?" REALLY? Isn't letter writing something that lots of people do - people who are more motivated, better informed, more confident, more activist-y than I am? Why on earth haven't all these other people been writing letters about this urgent problem?

Yes, you are just one person, but for the fairly low outlaid effort, writing a letter (not an email but a hard copy in the mail) is undoubtedly one of the most powerful actions that an individual can take. An acquaintance who is active in local politics in NSW explained that one letter from a voter has an equivalent impact to 50 emails or 100 petition clicks! This is the way paper letters tend to be "weighted" and this applies across political parties.

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I don't know who to write to: If you want to take the simplest approach described above, all you need to know is the name and address of your MP, which you can find here. And a bit closer to the election a quick Internet search will tell you who your local candidates are. If you want to get a bit more involved and write letters about more specific issues, read on…

What if you want to do more than this? If you want to address a specific issue, it may be appropriate to write to other officials. For example, you may have heard about the new Energy Resources Growth Centre in which the Turnbull government is investing $15.4 million over four years to support the oil, gas and coal industry. And perhaps you have wondered why we are continuing to prop up the coal industry with such initiatives when the US, for instance, has been taking action to accelerate the decline of coal. Who to write to? Any news article on this topic will likely tell you that the ministers responsible for this initiative are Christopher Pyne, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science and Josh Frydenberg, Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia. Google them and you'll find their contact details. But in addition, you could:

  • CC the shadow ministers, ensuring that you note this in the address section of the letter – that way the ministers know that their opponents have received a copy too.
  • Write to the Federal Environment Minister asking him what he thinks about this investment in light of the Paris Agreement.
  • Write to your local MP briefly expressing your view and asking where he / she stands on it.

How do you write the letter? There is some great in-depth advice about this elsewhere, such as the EFA and Oxfam websites. But briefly:

  • Be polite and reasonable. Politicians are human, and like in any relationship, you are more likely to be listened to and taken seriously if you address the person with respect.
  • Start by introducing yourself and briefly stating your reason for writing (for example "I am writing because I am concerned about…").
  • Then elaborate, being succinct and logical – there are some excellent examples of how to structure a letter here. It may help to pick an angle: for example, you could emphasise the moral perspective; the science; the economics; or make it personal, talking about how you are concerned for the future of your children.
  • Ideally, ask the minister a question, for example you could ask for the minister's personal opinion about the issue at hand.
  • Finish the letter saying that you look forward to receiving their reply.

Letter writing needn't be complicated or time consuming, and it can be one of the simplest yet most powerful actions that an individual can take. Politicians are there to represent you, and they can do a better job of it if they know what is important to you. We need to make our voices louder than the big corporations - and let's not risk leaving it up to "other people".

Eve White lives in southern Tasmania. She is a full time mum and part time freelance editor with a professional background in ecology.

READ THIS NEXT: How to be a climate activist: getting started

Get The Message: How To Effectively Talk Climate Change

Images: Shutterstock

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