Why I got arrested

Post No. 16 'Why I got arrested' was published on 01 December, 2023.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, began 2023 by declaring it a ‘year of reckoning’. He called for game-changing climate action, disruption to end the destruction. No more baby steps. No more excuses. No more greenwashing. No more bottomless greed of the fossil fuel industry and its enablers.

Yet, with just over a month left of 2023, Anthony Albanese’s Labor government continues to approve new coal projects. Despite the clear and present danger posed by climate change, the Labor government has chosen to prioritise short-term economic gains over long-term sustainability. New coal projects not only contribute to global carbon emissions but also pose a threat to local communities and ecosystems.

We stand at a precipice. The year 2023 has been a wake-up call, signalling some deeply unsettling shifts in our planet’s climate system.

This year, our oceans have been running a fever like never before. Global sea surface temperatures have not just broken records - they’ve obliterated them. The escalation began in April and by August, we were witnessing temperatures half a degree higher than the 30-year average. Air temperatures have been smashing records as well. July brought us the hottest month ever recorded, likely the hottest in over 100,000 years. Then September outdid itself, becoming the hottest September on record by a half-degree margin. One researcher aptly described it as ‘absolutely gobsmackingly bananas’. For a whole month, we got a taste of what 1.8 degrees of warming feels like.

The fallout? A year marked by intense floods, fires, and heatwaves worldwide. As we approach summer in Australia, we brace ourselves for our share of fires and heatwaves.

The climate that has cradled our species no longer exists. Our seasons, rainfall patterns, and weather are coming undone. The unchecked power and bottomless greed of the fossil fuel industry have pushed us to the edge of a global catastrophe.

We’re staring down the barrel of climate breakdown, a threat to billions of human lives and countless species.

My hometown of Newcastle holds the world’s largest coal port, which usually exports more than 150 million tonnes of coal each year, accounting for roughly 1% of total global carbon emissions. The price of coal from Newcastle, the world’s largest coal port, has skyrocketed in recent years. This surge has lined the pockets of the big fossil fuel companies operating in the Hunter region, while the community itself has seen no benefit from this boom, nor any plan for a just transition to a low-carbon economy. The profits from digging up our valley go out the heads and far away, leaving behind environmental damage, health risks, and social inequality. The Hunter deserves a fair share of the wealth it generates and a clear vision for its future. That’s why I proudly support Rising Tide’s proposed 75% tax on coal profits to fund community and industrial transition, and pay for climate loss and damage.

I’ve been on the frontlines of the climate action movement since 2018, when I was just a school student. Now, at 20, I’ve dedicated over a quarter of my life to this fight. I’ve petitioned, penned letters, rallied, met with politicians, and helped educate our community. Yet, despite these efforts, my pleas for change continue to fall on deaf ears within our government.

So, I decided it was time to step up, to take a stand. I participated in the People’s Blockade, the largest civil disobedience action for climate justice in Australia’s history, where we blocked coal trade at the Port of Newcastle for 32-hours. We had received an unprecedented permission from Police to occupy to the shipping channel for 30 hours. But we are in a crisis, and we have to keep pushing the boundaries. That's why myself and 108 other climate defenders were arrested when we continued to block the shipping channel past the permitted 30 hours.

Being arrested was not an act of rebellion, but an act of commitment and resolve - a clear message to our government: We will not back down. We will continue to fight for our planet, for climate justice, no matter the cost.

We may have been arrested, but we are not the criminals. The real criminals are those in power, like Anthony Albanese and Labor, who continue to exploit our planet for profit. They knowingly contribute to the climate crisis while ignoring the devastating consequences. They prioritise short-term economic gains over the long-term health of our planet and future generations. Despite the clear and present danger posed by climate change, they continue to approve and invest in new fossil fuel projects. They continue to turn a blind eye to the destruction caused by their actions, choosing to remain silent in the face of this unfolding catastrophe.

Let me be clear: if the government continues to ignore us, to prioritise short-term economic gains over the long-term health of our planet, then our movement will only grow bigger, louder, and stronger.

And so, I ask you: What will it take for you to step up? How much more damage must our planet endure before you decide to take a stand? The fight for our planet, for our future, is a fight we all must partake in. And it’s a fight we cannot afford to lose.

We, the ones standing up for our planet, for our future, we are not the criminals. We are the defenders, the protectors, the voices of reason in a world that is beholden to the unchecked power and bottomless greed of the fossil fuel industry. We are the ones willing to face arrest, to face criticism, to face adversity, because we understand what’s at stake. We understand that the fight for our planet, for climate justice, is a fight we cannot afford to lose.

I wear my arrest as a badge of honour, a symbol of my commitment to this cause. Because when the future of our planet is at stake, we are not the criminals - we are the last line of defence. We are the Rising Tide, and we will not be stopped.