Jonah – portrait of a young climate activist

0 0
Read Time:7 Minute, 47 Second
Part of the Port Botany ‘mobilisation”

Daily news…Jonah is an articulate 25-year-old undergraduate with a demanding day job and parents who worry about him – he speaks with Jackie Pearson about why he believes the direct actions of groups like Blockade Australia will “take us to a safer future”.

Speaking with Jonah, who explains he is Blockade Australia’s “spokesperson for the day”, is like having a chat with one of my own three kids. He is bright, upbeat, and polite and I get to a point where I am compelled to pause and ask him if he is OK. Does he have support? Do his parents support what he does?

“Thanks for asking that kind of question because that really invites me to speak about why I am doing what I am doing,” he answers. “I have a lot of hope in my heart because humanity is an intelligent species and I know we can do better, so me stepping into this fight – I have always been peaceful in my action, and I would still call this a peaceful, nonviolent action – has allowed me to embody and peacefully resist what I know is wrong.

“The people I share this space with and the shared energy is one that I believe will take us into a safe future,” he says.

“The ability to live communally and devote yourself to protecting your only home does give me a lot of hope but it brings with it the weight and totality of what we are facing if we don’t act. There are many times when I am brought to tears and perhaps quite heightened emotions because I can foresee what is happening to our forests, our wildlife, our systems.

“I’m supported by them in my drive and my passions,” he says of his parents. “I suppose my parents have their concerns for their son. I hear those concerns and it makes total sense, but I think they can see I am doing what I am doing for reasons of passion and love. It comes down to love and I think they understand that.”

Jonah calls the activities that Blockade Australia undertook at Port Botany over five days last week a “mobilisation”, the group’s second to date with the first occurring at Newcastle in November 2021.

On day one of the Botany mobilisation, activist Arno (21) suspended himself from a steel bipod over the bridge on Sirius Rd leading into Port of Botany. The structure was tied off to the opposing side of the bridge, blocking and choking the flow of traffic in and out of the Port. Arno had a banner which read: “No Borders, No Nations, Stop Australia’s Operation.”

On day two Dom and Helen blockaded Penrhyn Rd, the only access road to Port Botany’s largest terminal, using two trucks. Dom climbed atop one, and Helen locked on to the steering wheel of another. On the third day of the mobilisation on Thursday, 24 March, Alex suspended himself off a monopole blocking all trains running to and from the Port of Botany for hours.

The November 2021 mobilisation ran over seven consecutive days and involved members of Blockade Australia halting coal trains headed towards Newcastle Coal Port, the largest in the world.

Over eleven actions were performed to bring the coal rail network to a standstill including activists suspending themselves from bridges, locking onto cars and critical rail infrastructure, climbing coal trains, rail pylons and trees attached to the train lines, causing the cancellation of over 20 coal freight trains.

Emma (52) and John (72) sat atop a 1.5km long train, on a carriage full of coal bound for Newcastle Port.

According to Jonah, the actions are justified because Australia’s current political system and governments work against “true democracy and true consensus”.

“The Australian system is a corporate license to exploit and destroy endorsed by our government,” Jonah explains.

On Monday, March 28, Blockade Australia posted that one activist had been given a four-month prison sentence for taking part in the mobilisation at Port Botany. “On Friday, Max climbed a crane and shut down Port Botany’s biggest terminal,” the group’s social media post says. “Today, he was sentenced to four months in prison by a magistrate at Waverley local court. The sentence will be appealed immediately.

During their action Max said: “This is a risky thing to do, but not acting is riskier.”

“In a rigged system, direct action like this is one of the only means left of responding to Australia’s consistent efforts to facilitate climate destruction. The stakes of acting are high, the stakes of not acting are higher,” Blockade Australia says on its social channels.

During the November 2021 mobilisation at Newcastle, Hunter Labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon called for harsher penalties to deter such direct action. Last week the NSW Police set up a Strike Force and labelled the activists anarchists.

“We’ve seen repressive measures taken by the state time and time again. We expect it. It doesn’t surprise us because I guess we are looking at something that is so much bigger than small categorisations,” Jonah responds.

“We are seeing tipping points being reached which we are on the cusp of crossing and in many parts of the world we are already crossing.”

According to Jonah, who listens to the climate science, food cycles and water cycles are already feeling the impacts of the climate crisis.

“We are seeing biodiversity loss and the disconnect from those things is so apparent in the Australian operation and the Australian system. We have a global trade system that is not meeting any needs that we couldn’t meet with a local sustainable model.

“We have been told by all scientific data available that we are at the point of no return if we don’t change now so to make real material disruption is really the only way forward … appealing to the senses and the goodwill of those people in so-called power doesn’t work because they are part of a system that is designed to preserve that power.”

As to whether Jonah thinks a change of government at the next federal election would result in significant change, he is not convinced.

“Labor might have a slightly different verbal message but we are seeing them fall into the same, corporate elitist trap that Liberal has been in for so long. We see empty promises and we don’t trust that asking a particular PM or premier in power will result in the change we need.

“We need a whole systemic shift,” he insists and adds that he accepts that current governments will respond to the “mobilisations” in a punitive way.

“When things like the raids and seizures of assets we saw after November happened (and I am sure similarly shocking things will happen after this) it is because when people are making material actions that no one can ignore the state has to respond in what it considers to be a meaningful way.

“So we understand there will be pinch points but we are looking at it in a bigger picture of mobilising a bigger percentage of the population. If we don’t prioritise the life support systems that our planet and people rely on, there is no change that we will survive if we don’t make the shifts needed.

“We know police suppression will occur but we need to mobilise people. We are seeing a lot of support come through and we are speaking to – as well as the ruling class which we need to shift power away from – we are also speaking to everyday Australians whose resources are taken to feed that ruling class.

“I think our messaging is strong enough to mobilise everyday people to take that kind of action to have a clear understanding that nothing less is going to suffice.”

Jonah says Blockade Australia has not been deterred by the threats made by NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole or the Deputy Police Commissioner to stop the next mobilisation planned for Sydney in June-July.

“It is absolutely our intention to go ahead. We are an adaptable collective and we won’t stop resisting until we can protect our planet. It might require adaptation, but I can assure you the climate resistance will continue. There is no way we are going to abandon the fight to protect our own home. It won’t stop until the planet is safe.”

What can you do?

I spend a lot of time thinking about the type of world I will leave behind for my three children who are now young adults. I made a personal decision in around August 2020 that I would spend the remainder of my productive years (hopefully many) fighting for good governance and social and environmental justice. I don’t think I am brave enough to ride freight trains or hang off bridges so I will make use of my skills as a researcher and writer to do what I can.

Whether you’re a boomer, gen X or Y, you are part of a generation that has contributed to the climate crisis. Perhaps it is time to think deeply about how we can seriously move to a more sustainable world to the safe place Jonah aspires to.

0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
Next Post

1,771,759 cubic metres of waste to be dumped in water catchment

The 25-year saga that saw a golf course remodelling project at Mangrove Mountain transformed into a regional waste facility within the Central Coast’s water catchment does not appear to have been fully resolved by the latest Land and Environment Court judgement. By Jackie Pearson Justice Rachel Pepper’s judgement ran to […]

The Latest ESG Headlines Delivered Straight To Your Inbox

Each week we will send our latest daily news, weekly deep dives and special reports directly to your inbox via our newsletter so you don’t miss out on a thing. The newsletter is sent each Wednesday and it’s free.