Young people can stop the climate crisis

February 21, 2010

Resistance activist Melanie Barnes is standing as a candidate in the upcoming Tasmanian state elections for the Socialist Alliance. She isn't running to improve her career prospects or income, but because she wants to get an important message out.

The message is that pro-capitalist politicians won't avert the climate crisis, but people power can.

Barnes told Green Left Weekly that the recent Copenhagen negotiations revealed this reality.

"Inside the negotiations, there were nations such as Australia and the United States using all their power to sabotage and destroy any chance of a global agreement that would begin to reduce emissions.

"On the other hand there was a counter-force outside, demonstrators in their tens of thousands, who expressed their dissent to the leaders' failure to act. The hope of our planet lies with these people. Throughout history, social change has had to be fought for, because vested interests wish to maintain the status quo."

Barnes is a member of the climate activist group, Climate Action Hobart. The group has released a comprehensive plan for a sustainable Tasmania called "10 steps for a safe climate". The group has called on all political parties standing in the elections to support the plan.

Barnes said she backs the plan and will help to get it out to more people.

"It is quite clear that the climate crisis is the biggest challenge facing humanity. The Tasmanian government has failed to face up to this challenge. It hasn't committed to strong targets, it continues to allow the logging of old growth forests and has approved the polluting pulp mill.

"All of this occurs because we have a government that is unable and unwilling to stand up for the welfare of people and the environment, instead of private profit."

She said the biggest challenge of the campaign is not just to get people to vote for her but rather to convince them to become activists themselves.

"Regardless of who people vote for, I'm trying to convince people to be active in movements for change", said Barnes.

"Most people want a change in how society is run but aren't convinced that change can occur. The reason I'm running is not to represent people but rather use the campaign to help empower people and communities, to allow them to take part in creating the world they would like to see."

Barnes, who is 26, said young people have an essential role to play in the fight for a more just world.

"Young people are often not tied down by as many responsibilities and they have an enthusiasm and a belief that their actions will make a difference.

"Young people will inherit the consequences from decisions made today, particularly when it comes to climate change, so we shouldn't let others make decisions for us."

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