I didn’t go to many organised events in Seniors month but on October 23, I attended an annual event by a group I’ve long admired. Each year they honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 and promote the document, which contains 30 Articles.
… the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life…
The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948
Kingston for Human Rights Inc. aim to ensure the community is aware of the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a blueprint for peace. It is regarded as the world’s most important document and has been translated into 360 languages, spelling out the rights of every human being regardless of race, religion or gender.
Each year the group also host a poster art exhibition for children to explore the concept of human rights and prizes are awarded for the posters best interpreting the theme, which this year was Help Clean up The Planet.
The artwork was in the gallery attached to the Shirley Burke Theatre where the event was held and here is a selection of entries who were from local schools. The competition sponsored by the City of Kingston, Lions Club of Mordialloc, Dingley Rotary and St Augustine’s Op Shop.
And the prize winners …
There was also a lovely musical interlude provided by students from Mordialloc College. Two female vocalists accompanied by their teacher, on the keyboard. Both my daughters attended Mordi College so it was nice to see an aspect of their music program showcased.
Geoff Cheong, the president of the Kingston Human Rights group acknowledged the traditional owners, the Boon wurrung before explaining the aims and a little of the history of the volunteer network instigated by the Baha’i Community of Kingston in 2000.
Members come from many walks of life and they are always looking for people to become involved and help support their aims. Contact can be made at www.kfhr.com.au or their secretary at email@example.com
Their sole aim is to stimulate awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and they maintain an independent status, non-political, non-sectarian and non-denominational. They invite highly qualified speakers to talk about some aspect of human rights and share their skills.
In the past Julian Burnside AO QC, barrister, advocate for refugees and author has spoken about the International Day of Tolerance, Rev Tim Costello AO and CEO of World Vision has spoken about the contribution of refugees to Australian society, Assistant Professor Margarita Frederico from Latrobe University has spoken about the human rights and abuse of the world’s children and Professor David Chittleborough from Flinders University spoke about water as a prerequisite for life… and so the list goes on.
This year keynote speaker, Tracie Armstrong is Director Cities Power Partnership at the Climate Council, Australia’s largest local government climate network, which advocates for green energy initiatives within local communities.
Geoff made the point in his welcome speech that the record of the Indigenous owners was one of 60,000 years of impeccable stewardship of land, sea and air and we should embrace their spirit as custodians, especially since there are increased challenges facing the world globally.
It’s Hard To be Sustainable If You’re Poor
Tracie was officially introduced by Gum Mamur a youth worker and one of last year’s inspirational guest speaker, Les Twentyman’s team. Adhering to the Declaration of Human Rights can unite and preserve the dignity and welfare of all. Tracie’s topic of Human Rights and the Environment vital and most important for our times.
Gum Mamur, a youth worker in Footscray shared his story of being born into a war zone in South Sudan. His mother travelled through 5 countries before finding refuge in Kenya and he spent 12 years in a refugee camp where many had no basic necessities like good health or water, therefore, no one worried about protecting the planet and nor did he when he first came to Australia!
On reflection, he experienced what can happen to the environment through neglect and overuse – when they arrived at the camp he remembered it as green and beautiful. However, as the war continued and thousands needed refuge, resources depleted and the area was desert by the time he left.
It is challenging to see how people around you only think of survival and only their own environment – and most of the people he looks after in his job here have similar attitudes, which he strives to change because we must care for the planet!
He is motivated to make a difference and believes the next 20-30 years are pivotal. 80% of his clients are Caucasian and 50% live beneath the poverty line. His challenge is to make them care about improving their lives and therefore the planet.
There are barriers such as no job, no housing, no easy access to health services, no easy access to food or water, feeling unsafe…
But these are surmountable barriers if resources are deployed, if they get support to find a job, decent housing, and turn their lives around! When you are struggling to survive it is not easy ‘being green’ and if struggling ‘to keep your head above water’ saving the environment and being sustainable is often not an option!
If society provides good conditions for people to live, employment and equality of opportunity, then those people can start caring about their actions in relation to sustainability!
What is the Climate Council?
Tracie explained that the Climate Council was once the Climate Commission and a government body but Prime Minister Tony Abbott abolished it because he didn’t believe it was necessary.
What the Climate Council does is an enormous topic but she didn’t want discussions or attention to focus on its creation or degenerate into an argument over global warming. Check out their website! https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/
The scientists made redundant by Abbott crowdfunded and created the Climate Council, separate from government. It is a not for profit organisation. Their first donation was $15 from ‘Steve’ but in two days they got so many donations that the site was shut down by PayPal because they thought it was set up by Mexican money launderers!
Tim Flannery who was pivotal in setting up the new organisation was in the South American jungle trying to get a signal on his mobile phone to give his personal credit details and prove they were legitimate!
That was 5 years ago and they are still going strong with lots of programs to encourage individuals, companies and communities to make the transition away from fossil fuels.
Tracie mentioned that during the last 40 years there have never been below-average temperatures recorded, bushfire season starts earlier and lasts longer, there are more incidents of coastal flooding and supercharged storms.
For those 40 years and under, climate change is a reality!
Why Is Climate Change Relevant To Human Rights?
Think economics, environment, social and sustainable development:
Policies to halt climate change can also impact on human rights –
The right to life impacted by weather events/disasters – death can be immediate if you live in areas not wealthy enough to be prepared.
Or it can be gradual if there is deterioration of food and water supplies – again, poor people don’t have an equal or level playing field.
The right to adequate food – crops and livestock will be affected, land may become unusable, fish stocks depleted. Tracie mentioned there have been tropical fish discovered in Tasmania!!
The right to water – drinking water and sanitation, increased risk of contamination
The right to health – disease incubation, waterborne and respiratory diseases will be increased (thunderstorm asthma)
The right to security – many people will be more vulnerable to poverty and degradation along with the environment
The rights of Indigenous people – there will be an impact on their relationship with the land.
- Mitigation – lower the rate of accumulation, which in turn lowers greenhouse gas
- Adaptation – planting trees on rooftops etc
- Location – refugees and forced movement of people eg. Pacific islands
Disaster relief needed because low-income people will be disproportionally impacted by government measures against climate change.
A Climate of Fairness
This report states that policies must incorporate human rights
Refocus and recenter the debate on communities
Government decisions must have an input of local knowledge and traditional practices
- Minimum human rights standards
- Substantive equality
- Local knowledge
The size of the Melbourne rally – School Strike for Climate – was inspiring – more people are realising there is no planet B!
Demand there be no new oil, coal or gas projects
Suggest govt 100% fund a just transition and job creation for fossil fuel workers
The Climate Council works with local governments to transition to renewables
Celebrate and accelerate clean energy councils. 30 councils on board now
It was great to hear that Kingston Council is doing amazing things:
- solar panels on buildings like libraries and community centres
- Upgraded street lights using LED
- Environmental upgrade agreement financing and supporting local schools who resource smart solutions
- Some schools environmental ambassadors with a dolphin program
- Our Place – holding sustainability workshops
What Can Individuals Do?
Heed the groundswell and join the action –
- Attend sustainability workshops run by the council
- Change the way you travel – walk, cycle, use public transport and carpool
- move your money out of institutions or funds that support fossil fuels
- Install solar on the roof – join 2 million other Australians
- Download Climate Council Action Toolkit from their website or here climate-action-toolkit
We are a wealthy country and don’t have an excuse not to do what we can!
The Federal Government Needs to Show leadership
The recent Recycling Crisis exposed how we were exporting our horrors to neighbouring countries
Climate Emergency – some state and many local governments are declaring climate emergencies – they are not waiting for Federal Government to show leadership on this issue
The Climate Council do not pressure political parties or governments because there could be a political backlash – some local governments are ahead, others worried, but the Climate Council don’t push it because it will alienate supporters.
People don’t want empty rhetoric – Kingston Council launching a food waste program for organic waste
How important is it to write to local members of parliament to express concern and demand action on climate and strike?
Very important! But how do we get our politicians to focus on more than sustainability –
Write Speak Demonstrate
The focus shifting slowly to climate justice rather than just climate action
Just to race for solutions can disadvantage others – for example, the Victorian State Government has introduced subsidies for renters to team up with landlord for rooftop solar. But many renters can’t afford copayment for solar panels. The intention is good but may not be workable. Few renters have a longterm lease so may be reluctant to copayment.
The Circular Economy
- Those who manufacture must think of end product – pressure on manufacturers to think of what will happen to waste or what happens to the product when it is waste eg. Single-use plastics.
- Many industries demanding climate policy and calling out for leadership.
- We may only have a small population but produce the highest emissions because of what we do!!
- Adani mine not necessary for India – there are no poles or wires for electricity. India is heavily investing in solar!
- Technology helps the Third World – satellite connections for communications
- Everything we do here will affect Third World countries, or they’ll follow us – the other side of the world always does whether for good or bad!
Climate change does not respect borders – we can’t sit on our hands
How do we engage those who won’t read reports or care?
Look on the Climate Council website on how to have conversations with climate deniers! We must keep momentum going – need 107% to care and do.
Read the book On Fire by Naomi Klein – see page 135 – she advises it is not all up to one person to fix the problems of the world, just do what you can.
There is strength in transformation – millions are changing and doing – be part of it.