On Friday I went with my sons and several thousand other Victorian children to the steps of the Treasury Museum for the Students Strike For Climate Change. From a respectful (non-embarrassing) distance it was thrilling to watch the crowd of young faces welcoming waves of student comrades sweeping across Spring Street to join them and demand that their planet be saved.
The protest, inspired by 15-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who has been striking every Friday outside parliament in Stockholm until her country meets its Paris Agreement commitments because she read we had three years to get our climate act together or we’d bring on the next great extinction.
With placards in hand the mob, joyous in its noisy power, chanted their way down Collins St, across Russell and back up Bourke towards the finale in Treasury Gardens. It was on that hot final leg that my boys asked if we could head over to the 7-11 on the corner to buy a Slurpee.
I was shocked – how could my newly activist sons be chanting “ScoMo’s got to go!” one minute and then be yearning for a disposable cupful of blue flavoured ice from that conveniently located bastion of global consumerism the next?
It was a theme embattled Liberal MP, Craig Kelly, picked up the following day suggesting that the student strikers should give up ice-cream, hamburgers and flights to schoolies week on the Gold Coast if they were serious about saving the environment.
And although Kelly’s comments were about as close to an admission by a conservative Liberal that humans are indeed contributing to climate change, it also, with Christmas approaching, begged the question. Can we call for climate action and eat our Pedro Ximénez soaked cherry, Chilean flame raisin, vostizza currant and Red Devon suet Christmas cake too?
This year Australia overtook Switzerland becoming the country with the largest median wealth per adult, something that will be reflected in our collective Christmas spread this year. Our national dinner table will surely groan under the load of exquisite food and drink sourced from every corner of the world.
At Christmas we show our love for our families by gathering together to share a special meal – but is attempting to consume a virtual Noah’s Ark of factory farmed meats and seafood followed by a smorgasbord of sweets that we can never hope to get through and will inevitably throw out, love?
I know family Christmases are emotional minefields and for the sake of peace we momentarily compartmentalise our most deeply held values. We stay quiet about the industrially raised turkey so heavy it couldn’t walk and never saw the light of day. We stifle objections as the small mountain of disposable plates and cutlery is carried off to the bin in a single use table cloth.
Meanwhile here are our kids are desperately calling out ScoMo, and the rest of us, to do something about our climate emergency. This Christmas there’s simply no time left to keep the peace, no time not to turn up proudly at the BBQ with some Beyond burger patties, no time not to say “This Christmas we’re using the regular plates.”
This article originally appeared in the CERES Fair Food Newsletter on 3/12/18