Why climate change is ‘a humanity issue’
Two catastrophic events have rocked Australia since Craig Reucassel started working on his new climate change documentary Fight For Planet A - the devastating bushfires of last summer and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The first disaster helped drive home that the effects of rising global temperatures were very much with us already in the most tangible of ways, as the extreme fires that many experts had predicted raged around the country with more than 30 people killed and thousands of homes lost.
"What we saw with the bushfires was the effect of us not doing anything in the '80s and '90s," says comedian turned documentarian Reucassel. "I think for the majority of people in Australia now, we are well past arguing about whether climate change is real, it's really become a debate about how we deal with it and that's what we really need to focus on."
But where has the continuing health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed the climate change debate into the background in 2020, Reucassel says there are lessons to be learned from the concerted response from all parts of society.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, that was it, that was all we were thinking about," he says. "But part way though we started to look at the pandemic saying 'hang on a second, shouldn't we be applying similar things to climate change?'. We saw our governments working together, working with business and the community, listening to experts. That early part of Australia's results was an incredible guide to how we should be dealing with climate change and I think a lot of people have seen that."
Fight For Planet A is the follow-up to Reucassel's hugely successful, Logie-winning War On Waste series, which encouraged audiences to examine their own behaviours in terms of what they threw away. Reucassel says climate change presented a more complex, less visible challenge, with most academic studies addressing the issue from a government or business perspective rather than an individual one.
While Reucassel stresses that both those areas are "the most important sources of this change", and takes both politicians and big business to task in the documentary, he also challenges five households around Australia to see what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint, from considering electric vehicles, to going solar, and measuring the sometimes scarily high electricity use of their household appliances.
"It's about all the things working together and that's where we really haven't gotten in Australia for a while," he says. "We haven't gotten on the same page and hopefully now we are getting to a point where we have left it so late that it's like cramming for your homework. We all have to be on the same page now. We left our homework to the last minute - now is the time to cram Australia."
Reucassel says his biggest satisfaction from War On Waste was how many children saw and embraced its ideas and as a father of three, was overcome by the sight of students - and all generations - turning out en masse for last year's climate strikes. But he says he remains frustrated that climate change continues to be a political football, pointing out that a more bipartisan approach in the UK has led to it having a smaller carbon footprint than Australia, despite it having more than twice the population.
"Climate change is not a left/right issue," he says. "It's not even a green or environmental issue. It's a humanity issue. Even if you don't care about the so-and-so tree frog, it's your own family and their kids and their grandchildren that are being threatened."
Fight For Planet A, Tuesday, 8.30pm, ABC
Originally published as Why climate change is 'a humanity issue'