Lay the Blame at Their Feet
For the past few weeks I haven’t been able to log onto the internet without being inundated by horrifying photos of burnt koalas, orphaned kangaroos, maps of fires across Australia. The photographs of flames and towers of smoke creating their own weather are mesmerizing and terrifying.
On Friday another photo crossed my desktop, one that captured the aftermath, the anguish left in the fires' wake. This image captured protesters placing burnt debris from the fires against the stone walls and doorways of Parliament House Hobarth.
One subtext to the fire coverage is a growing anger at the Australian government and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s inaction on climate change. Morrison deflects questions about the connection between climate change and the droughts and the scale of the fires with comments such as: "What we've always said though is you cannot link any single emissions reduction policy of a country, whether it's Australia or anywhere else, to a specific fire event – that's just absurd and to suggest it's the case would be simply wrong."
Such comments are patronizing, evasive, gaslighting.
Climate change activists know single events are not straight line results of one policy. They, better than most, understand the complexity of the problem and the need for sweeping ambitious solutions. Australians want their government to step up and take a leadership role in stemming the tidal wave of policies undermining our environment. In the face of its consequences this summer, they are demanding it.
People have marched, and spoken out for a range of demands, from funding and aid for firefighters and impacted communities to just and rapid transitions to renewable energy. Some have taken to painting climate change messages on the ruins of their homes. But on December 2, 2019, a woman, Melinda Plesman from Nymboida, south of Grafton in New South Wales, went a step farther.
She brought items she’d salvaged from her fire destroyed home to the Parliament House in Canberra, a ten hour drive away, and left them out in front of the building on the road. Images of Plesman's home ruins juxtaposed with the house of Australian government are powerful and inspiring.
Last Friday in Tasmania protesters took her action a step farther. They brought charred remnants from their homes and the landscape in their communities, silently laid the traces of what had been on the steps and against the walls of the Parliament House in Hobarth, then walked away. This public grieving delivered a compelling statement to their elected officials and fellow citizens.
Imagine what might come about if such a statement were delivered week after week after week (like Greta Thunberg's school strikes or the Hong Kong protesters persistent Friday actions) for every flood, and fire, and extreme weather event that devastated communities globally. If such events increase at the pace they are projected to, traces of such devastation would become a constant presence.
Such potent symbols of our demand for climate action could make it impossible for governments to look away.
Nonviolent actions employed:
 NVA #38: Marches
 NVA #3: Declarations by organizations and institutions
 NVA #8 Banners, posters and displayed communications and NVA #26 Paint as protest
 NVA #21: Delivering Symbolic objects and NVA #8 Banners, posters, and displayed communications
 NVA #21: Delivering Symbolic objects, NVA#41: Pilgrammages, NVA #43 Political Mourning, and NVA #52: Silence