The Youth of Australia are Feeling the Heat

Alice Mussared is not your regular teenage girl: She was the youngest Australian to complete Al Gore’s climate change presenter’s course; she was part of a group that organized 15 bands to record a CD about global warming; and she helped to get thousands of people to join a street march to raise awareness of climate change. At an age when most of us would have asked, “climate what?” Alice is a wealth of environmental information and she’s not afraid to broadcast it to the rest of the world. Earlier this year I spoke with Alice about her proactive environmental stance and her thoughts on a new generation of global custodians.

Kristy Arbon: How did you get interested in climate change?

Alice Mussared: I’ve lived in the Adelaide Hills for 12 years now, in the middle of bush land, within walking distance of some really beautiful places. I learned about climate change from my dad who was a science journalist with the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization). I’ve grown up knowing about climate change and knowing that it’s real and realizing that other people don’t know that climate change is real and don’t care about it because they don’t live in this kind of beautiful environment. So that inspired me to try to make other people understand.

KA: What was the first big project that you got into?

AM: The “Rock Against Warming” CD. It started with a social justice group at our school that was set up by students who wanted to make changes around the school that would make the world better. The group started a petition called the Go Green Campaign that asked the government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. We got everyone at school to sign it but there were only about 300-400 signatures and we realized that a petition that size was not going to make much of a difference. So we decided to do something more.

Alice receives the 'Rising Star' Award from South Australia Premier Mike Rann

I got together with Ali Chester, Jackson Shaw and Georgia Hagias to start a music project. Music is a universal language, something that everyone can relate to, so we decided to get 15 young local Adelaide bands to each write and record a song about global warming. The aim was to raise awareness among youth and also to empower youth, to give them a voice in the climate change debate because we’re the ones who are going to be affected and we don’t actually get a say in any of what’s going on because we can’t vote. So that was the intention of the CD. We got a grant for $8,500 and that was used to record the CD, get the CD mastered and get 1,000 copies printed. We had a concert to launch the CD and we had six of the bands playing there.

KA: When was the concert?

AM: In October last year. We made stickers and badges and all kinds of stuff for the event. We decided to sell the CDs at the concert for $10 because we wanted people to place a value on them; if we were just giving them out for free then people might throw them away. But then we realized that we would make a profit and we didn’t know who we’d give the money to. We were involved in the Walk Against Warming campaign that is an annual protest to put pressure on the government to take action on climate change. This was organized by the Conservation Council of South Australia so we decided that all the money that we raised would go to the Conservation Council, mainly to help with Walk Against Warming. After that we ended up being one of the official sponsors. All in all we’ve raised around $3,000 from selling CDs, stickers, badges and tickets to the concert. I think 300 people came to the concert, while about 6,000 people came to the Walk Against Warming

KA: Tell me about the Al Gore presenter’s training.

AM: Last year Al Gore came to Australia to teach 250 people how to present his slideshow from the movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” so that they could go around and give the presentation themselves. I applied for it in April and didn’t expect to get in because I was 15. But then I did get in. I went to Melbourne for a weekend and we did the training. Al Gore did his slideshow for us but stopped it every now and then and told us what he was doing and why. Then we were given the slideshow presentation on a CD. It was a really intense weekend. I learned a lot about climate change so it was a really good experience. Now I’ll go around Adelaide and do 10 of those presentations. I’m going to focus on presenting it to young people. I plan to go around to schools.

At my school, until recently, climate change was still being taught as a theory. When the social justice group started to get involved in climate change awareness, it totally changed the school’s mindset. I hope when I go around to other schools and do my presentation it might inspire some people to do something in their schools because it really does make a huge difference.

KA: How will you set up the presentations?

AM: There’s a slideshow that I’ll have on in the background and I’ll just work out how I’m going to talk to that. It’s pretty much the same as what’s in the movie, apart from the fact that some of the information’s updated and localized – some of the charts are specific to Australia rather than America.

KA: What difference do you think Australia signing onto the Kyoto Protocol is going to make?

AM: I know that it’s the first step that we need to take as a global community. We can’t just go our separate ways as separate countries. We need to all step on board together because it is a global issue. I think Australia didn’t have any reasonable excuse for not signing it. I think it’s really awesome that it’s finally been signed. We’re going to have to do a lot more. We need much higher targets for the future. When politicians set those targets for 50 years in the future I know that they’re not being serious. They’re not actually going to be alive when some of the effects of global warming start to kick in. But I’ll be alive and I’ll probably have kids and grandchildren by then and they’ll be affected.

KA: Do you feel that young people get the opportunity to have a say about global warming concerns in their community?

AM: I like to think that stuff like what I’ve been involved with is giving young people a say. It’s important that young people get involved in stuff like climate action groups so that they can have a say.

KA: Is there any message you’d like to give people?

AM: Yes: Young people do care and we’re not stupid. We’ve seen the figures; we can feel the heat. We know what’s going on and we do care about our future.

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  • Posted on April 19, 2008. Listed in:

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