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From Slacktivist to Activist

By Jenn H O’Connell

When our daughter was born, in 2014, we were living overseas in a community built around oil and gas. My husband worked in the industry, we flew regularly for international holidays, we bought more bottled water than ever before, and lived in a little expat bubble that basically ignored the climate crisis. Our family earned good money and paid barely any tax. But we were paying a "soul tax" (a term borrowed from a wise friend I met while there) and as our daughter grew, we noticed more and more that our lifestyle didn't match our values. So after three and a half years as expats, we moved home to Aotearoa with our then two-year-old and made a huge life change by moving out of oil and gas and into a job managing a campground.

Before and during all this change, I was a pretty committed slacktivist. I knew that climate and social justice were important; I made individual and family level changes to better align with these values; I donated and voted; I was a Green Party member; I occasionally made a submission or attended an event.

I believed that change was needed; but part of me also believed the rhetoric that told me that the required change was "too politically difficult/too expensive/will never fly etc."

And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And governments around the world treated it as a real crisis. Our leaders stood up every day and told us what they were doing and why. Things changed on the fly and systems were transformed in a matter of days and weeks. Many people, including me, would argue that the change should have been approached differently. But it's hard to argue that this was not transformative.

This rapid change got me curious about what else we could transform, and what a real crisis response to climate could look like. I started seeking out more climate information. "All We Can Save" introduced me to a different kind of climate activism; a feminist climate activism that led with creativity and heart. "How to Save a Planet" reminded me that individual action has its place, but is most useful when it sparks conversations with other people about change and climate. Parents for Climate's involvement in the #OurOtherMother campaign showed me that climate activism was more than just protest and direct action.

And the more I explored and talked, the more I realised that a lot of the rhetoric about why we couldn't fix climate change was, frankly, bullshit. Aotearoa declared a climate emergency in 2020, but our response did not reflect that declaration. We didn't lack the technology solutions; we lacked imagination and political courage.

It was this that convinced me that voting and individual action was no longer enough. I needed to seek opportunities to have my voice heard. I needed to find a network of like-minded people and get involved in pushing for change. I needed an organisation that led from the heart and stood up for our tamariki.

And I found that in Parents for Climate Aotearoa.

A few months after first getting involved, I started "A Year of Climate Action"; a personal challenge to do something towards climate justice every day. Some days the actions are tiny, some days they're bigger, but every day I'm shifting my mindset.

I'm still near the start of my activism journey, and I'm far from an expert, but the inspiration and direction I get from being involved with Parents for Climate has been an integral part of this journey. I can't wait to see where it takes me next.

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