What do you get when you put a Prime Minister and an Elephant together in Parliament House? It sounds like a joke, but we’ll find out soon. The Climate Change ‘Elephant in the Room’ (on twitter) has held Australia’s PM, Julia Gillard, to her pre-election promise that she’d meet with the Elephant to discuss climate change if she won. Now, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition will get a chance to speak directly with the PM on behalf its 50,000 young Australian members.
In an otherwise mundane election race, Climate Change Elephants showed up at political events across the country. They were irresistible targets for bored news photographers, popped up behind TV interviewers and even scored random air time on Sky News. As a public relations exercise, it was a huge success.
It’s easy to criticise the Elephant campaign as silly, or childish. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The AYCC, and many other organisations, put out serious press releases, gave interviews and tried to raise awareness of climate change an the importance of taking action. Nothing happened. The Elephant attracted more attention and press than any other effort. Now, it has achieved something almost unimaginable at the outset of the campaign: a formal meeting with the PM. With a fluffy elephant.
Not only that, the Elephant is a symbol of youth: creative, brash, unafraid and motivated. The AYCC’s members represent the voting group with the most at stake on climate change. As young people, we will feel the repercussions of any decision taken now by politicians double or triple our age. We join heavyweights like BHP Billiton urging climate change action, and feel unimaginably frustrated that Australia is so far behind other developed countries when it comes to implementing price signals against carbon pollution.
I’m proud that I was involved with the AYCC over the past year. Democracy thrives when people take an interest in the world around them and make their voices heard. Now the pressure is on Julia Gillard to heed the calls from all corners of Australian society. She must make the decision – maybe tough in the short term, but the only long term option – to start weaning Australia off coal and onto a pathway which offers a better future for today’s youth.