Camperdown Memorial Rest Park was the venue for the Earth Care Café on a sunny April 15.
Organised by Wage Peace — Disrupt War and Food not Bombs Sydney, the gathering was modelled on the World Café concept, which has gained popularity over the last 30 years as a way of sharing knowledge and encouraging collective action.
Wage Peace is an Indo-Pacific peace group which organises anti-militarist actions and supports peace movements across Australia and the world. Food not Bombs is an international mutual aid group that shares vegetarian meals and speaks out against war, poverty and environmental destruction.
The event aimed to explore the intersection between militarism and environmental destruction — the two greatest threats humanity has faced. About 20 people sat on blankets in groups of four to discuss these topics.
Activist singer Patrick Harte set the mood which was followed by several speakers: Greens Senator David Shoebridge; Elise West, from Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW); and Billi Soares, a Timorese-Australian filmmaker, After each presentation, participants broke into small discussion groups.
Shoebridge spoke passionately against Australian militarism and for real action on climate change. West explained the impact of the production and use of weapons and the mining of uranium and other rare earth metals used in their manufacture.
Soares, a veteran, recounted Timor-Leste’s independence struggle, Australia’s interference and the ways in which the military is used to protect business interests at the expense of human rights.
Participants responded positively to the World Café format, especially the small group discussion. One described it as “a welcome democratising of political space”.
Lil Barto, one of the Wage Peace organisers, described the World Café concept as “highly participatory”. “By making the delivery and exploration of the information, an experience in and of itself, participants can better process and retain what they learn,” she told Green Left.
She added that breaking down the social boundaries between an organiser and participant creates more space for co-creators. The Café format also allows organisers to learn more about attendees and involve them in creating change.