With the impacts of climate change hitting harder, thousands of ordinary Australian parents, worried about their children’s future, are stepping out of their comfort zones to get involved in activism.
Many have been inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg's unflinchingly honest speeches and the School Strike for Climate movement, prompting them to join groups such as Australian Parents for Climate Action. This group started last December and already has thousands of members - membership doubled following the Federal election in May.
A high proportion are newcomers to activism who see themselves as worried parents rather than "activist-types". They are parents who have realised that individual lifestyle changes alone are not enough to save their children's world and are fed up with government inaction.
Mum of two, Molly Galea, is one: "I've been aware of climate change for a long time and tried to live sustainably, but I'd always felt helpless to do more than that. Then two things happened: the school strikes - which I thought were just fantastic, and then the disappointing federal election outcome in May.
"I realised then that no one's going to come to save us and I need to get out there and do more. Within a few months I've gone from zero engagement to 'this is the most important thing I can be doing.'"
One of Molly's first actions was to switch insurance companies to divest from fossil fuels (she was already with an ethical bank). She then went a step further, joining a local group lobbying her council to divest.
She has also supported her children in starting a school environmental group, which has attracted about 20 members. The group is already making ripples with the mayor inviting the children to do a presentation to council.
[The school environmental group that Molly started up, at a meeting]
Being involved in activism has made Molly feel empowered and less anxious about the future: "I no longer feel like a deer in the headlights, helpless to do anything about this. I am playing a microscopic part, but it all adds up; thousands of parents together can make a difference."
Many people find that getting involved in activism can help ease climate-anxiety, and there are countless ways of contributing.
Divest from fossil fuels.
Check whether your bank, super fund and insurer invests in fossil fuels. If they do, ditch them for an ethical organisation, and let your old company know why you are leaving. The Market Forces website makes the process easy.
Lobby your local council.
Sometimes it can be easier to make change at a local level than at higher levels of government. You could lobby your council to declare a climate emergency, divest from fossil fuels, or to take practical actions like introducing a green waste scheme. To get started, connect with a local climate action group or some like-minded individuals to plan a campaign. It helps if you can also identify a supportive councillor to communicate with.
to the relevant ministers asking them to take urgent action on climate change for the sake of your children. Send a hard copy rather than email and enclose a photo of your children or drawing by your children to make it stand out. Don't know where to start? Sign up for regular emails that include letter writing campaigns from Australian Parents for Climate Action, and join their Facebook group for advice, support from other parents and inspiration for many other actions you can take.
Lobby your MP.
You could arrange a meeting with your MP to discuss your concerns (find your MP here). Do your research first to know where your MP stands on climate action, and have some specific questions prepared. Attend with a small group of parents or go alone. An MP's chief of staff recently offered this advice at a lobbying workshop: "a group of two or three is good, but one person alone is very impressive".
Alternatively, organise an action outside your MP's office.
Chloe Lines, mum of two from Victoria, is one of a growing number of people that have taken to sitting outside her MP's office every week as part of the Fridays for Future movement. Chloe has committed to spending an hour outside her MP's office with her young children every Friday morning and anticipates that others will join her over the coming weeks (find her on Insta @chloestrikes).
With a little imagination, such actions can be made child-friendly; one group organised a dinosaur-themed "play-in" at their MP's office; a peaceful gathering of mums and children with banners as well as craft activities and face painting for kids.
Extinction Rebellion members are known for blocking traffic and getting arrested, but many of the group's activities are family friendly, and "Extinction Rebellion Families" groups are popping up around the place. Extinction Rebellion's tactics are based on research that shows that if a relatively small group – 3.5 % of the population – engages in non-violent civil disobedience, social change will follow. This is a great article about the group's methods.
Join the strike. The School Strike for Climate kids are asking workers to join them in solidarity for their next global strike on September 20th. Many unions support the strike. If yours doesn't, write to them and ask them to support it. You can find information including a workplace guide here.
In an Instagram post Chloe Lines writes: "Standing up alone is intimidating. But when my children ask, I want to tell them I did everything I could to protect their future". Increasingly, parents like Chloe are now seeing activism as part of their responsibility of parenting. Yes, putting yourself out there can be hard, but what aspect of parenting isn't?
[Author of the article, Eve White, with her daughter at a rally in Hobart]
Eve White is a mum of two, a founding member of Australian Parents for Climate Action, and a former scientist (now a freelance editor), living in Tasmania.