By Kirsten Coates
A generation ago, our public service campaigns were about “Slip, Slop, Slap”, “Keep Australia Beautiful” and “Life. Be in it”. Looking back nostalgically at this time is like comfort food; simple, palatable and easy to digest. How much more difficult is it now to consume the messages about climate change, refugee crises and the pandemic? And how much do we long for those simpler times when the answers seemed so straight forward; wear a hat, exercise more and don’t throw your rubbish out of the car window. It seemed so easy, so doable!
The existential challenges we face today are so hard to comprehend, let alone act upon, that we often feel powerless and inadequate. The recent Glascow COP26 revealed that not only does the common person feel overwhelmed but world leaders are still too worried about their political positions to take dramatic action.
In the first week there were some promising announcements, such as cutting methane emissions and halting deforestation, however these were countered by huge disappointments, especially from our government, around phasing out coal power. In fact, even the language was changed from phasing out to phasing down, which is enough to indicate the monumental lack of political will to create change. And enough to make the average citizen boil with anger.
We are left asking ourselves what more can we do?
After individual change, maybe the most significant thing is simple. Be engaged. Our politicians are meant to be representing us, so it is up to us to pay attention to what they are or are not doing. Writing letters (as in real letters!), phone calls and meetings actually work. If you can meet your politician then engage them politely and with respect, knowing it is our duty as constituents. If we are able to give helpful and constructive feedback then surely they will listen and return the respect and honour the conversation. If not, then they are not carrying out their duty as our elected representative, and they must go.
We live in challenging times and long for easy answers and uncomplicated solutions to what we know are very complex problems. If only a simple ad campaign could create change! In the meantime, let’s look to the past for inspiration: lets “Keep Australia Beautiful, slap a reality check on our politicians and just take Life as something we all have to Be In!”.