Australia has just voted for three more years of climate inaction — the latest country to follow a terrifying global trend. It’s clear that we can’t rely on governments worldwide to take the kind of leadership required to fight climate change. It’s up to us, the millions of inhabitants that actually do give a damn about the planet.
After your vote, your greatest power as a consumer in a capitalist democracy is your MONEY. Here are 5 things you can do with it to make a real difference.
1. Change your bank
If you have your money in a major bank, then the bad news is you are financing the mining industry. The four biggest banks in Australia — CommBank, ANZ, Westpac and NAB — invest over $10 billion a year in coal mines and power stations, and even smaller banks like ING lend to fossil fuel projects on a lower scale.
One of the simplest things you can do is to switch to a bank that doesn’t — the impact if millions of Australians moved their savings to a different kind of account would be potentially enormous.
Bank Australia doesn’t lend to coal, gas or oil extraction or fossil fuel electricity generation. (They also don’t fund the gambling, tobacco, arms or live exports industries.) It took me about 15 minutes to open an account and transfer my money — and their interest rates and fees are comparable to other banks.
2. Move your superannuation
You may not realise it, but your super is an investment portfolio — and you probably don’t have any control over what it is invested in. Unless you’ve specifically asked your super fund to change your mix of investments, you’ll be allocated a default portfolio with a combination of different assets chosen by the fund.
Yep you guessed it — this probably means your retirement savings are at least partly subsidised by coal. Depending on who your super is with, you may be able to request a “sustainable” option that excludes companies and sectors which don’t meet a standard of social or environmental responsibility.
OR… You can roll over your super to a fund like Australian Ethical that doesn’t invest in coal, oil, gas, logging and other activities that are harmful to the environment (as well as gambling, weapons, and tobacco).
3. Switch to renewable energy
Despite a concerted attempted by the government to prevent the growth of renewable energy in Australia, we are actually very lucky to have access to affordable green power. You just don’t hear about it much amid the highly-politicised scare campaigns (especially at election time) around rising electricity bills.
Companies such as Powershop are 100% carbon neutral and can provide your home with gas and electricity from solar, wind and hydro power. I made the switch over the phone and they took care of everything for me — and my energy bills are even slightly lower than when I was using energy from fossil fuels.
And no, my television doesn’t turn off when the wind doesn’t blow. Just no.
4. Think before you buy
A money-saving way to help stop climate change is to spend LESS of it. The profitability of billion-dollar industries and multinational corporations depends on all of us buying as much as we can all the time—at the cost of massive environmental destruction. Advertising feeds us the belief that we constantly need new clothes, better smartphones, and so on and so on. We don’t.
Before you make another purchase, ask yourself whether it’s necessary—given the global impact of mass production. Buy second hand. Buy from your local greengrocer and farmers’ market instead of a chain supermarket. Buy quality goods that last instead of cheap shit that needs to be replaced every year.
And know what the companies you’re buying from are doing about climate change. While most for-profit organisations range from terrible to disastrous, some are slightly better than others. With apps like Shop Ethical, you can look up brands and see their environmental and social record. The bottom line is: companies won’t change unless the consumer demand does.
5. Support environmental organisations
When our governments continue to support industries that are destroying the planet, the work of non-profit environmental organisations is more important than ever. These rely on private donations in order to keep running and remain independent from government interests.
Organisations such as the Australian Conservation Foundation and World Wildlife Foundation work to create systemic solutions with positive environmental and social outcomes. They aim to tackle climate change by lobbying companies and governments to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, protect the one million animal and plant species currently at risk of extinction from logging and pollution, and reduce plastics and other types of waste.
Every financial contribution helps — you can check out their websites for ways to make a one-off or ongoing donation. (Note: there are also plenty of NGOs supporting people who are going to be a whole lot worse off in the next three years, like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and many many others.)
Plus one more thing…
We need to take to the streets. I get it — demonstrating can become very disheartening very quickly. I’ve been protesting about the same issues for my entire adult life, and it’s easy to lose hope and wonder what the point of it is.
But when you have a government that you didn’t vote for, which doesn’t represent your interests, then the only way to express your disagreement with is to get out on the streets. (And occasionally it DOES eventually make a difference… hello, marriage equality!)
Look, I can’t promise it will change anything but at the very least, it feels good to shout loudly in a public space — and to realise that there are many, many others like you who are feeling just as scared, sad and angry about what the future holds for this planet.