The global climate crisis can be anxiety-inducing. Reading, watching and listening to the news can leave us feeling helpless and stressed about what we can do to make a significant impact in the face of rising temperatures and the devastating global consequences. Two friends, Jess Hamilton and Ash Berdebes, feel this too. Following the Black Summer bushfires of 2019–20, they paired up with Greenpeace Australia Pacific to present Heaps Better – a new four-part Australian podcast series that aims to turn climate anxiety into actionable advice.
“We were both so desperate to get stuck into it but … what would actually make a difference?”, says Berdebes. Throughout the series, Berdebes and Hamilton ask for help and expertise from guests such as Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney Jess Scully and the director of Melbourne’s first ever carbon-neutral kindergarten Jenny Whelan, among various climate scientists and activists. They discover we do already have some of the answers.
Broadsheet asked Berdebes and Hamilton for their tips on how to make a meaningful impact to help the climate crisis.
Use clean energy at home
One of the simple answers to the climate crisis is we need to stop burning fossil fuels, the number one driver of the climate emergency. In Australia, we have the largest export of metallurgical coal in the world (used to make steel) – 55 per cent of the world’s supply in 2019 came from Australia. But renewable energy is already changing the way Australia is powered; 2020 saw record levels of solar and wind projects installed.
Heaps Better’s tip is to sort out your “personal hygiene” by using clean energy at home. If you’re a homeowner, you can install solar panels on your roof. Or renters can buy clean energy, or opt for renewable energy, from your energy provider. Businesses can also switch to renewables, and this Greenpeace initiative has already encouraged giant companies such as Coles, Woolworths and Aldi commit to 100 per cent renewables by 2025.
Supporting community-run solar energy projects such as Farming The Sun is also a great way to get behind renewables. It’s working to install community solar farms and create bulk-buy programs for solar power.
“Most of us live in a home, are a customer somewhere, or are part of a business or a community. So, there’s some action there for everyone,” says Hamilton.
Make sure your money isn’t funding the climate crisis
Australia’s compulsory superannuation system means every working person contributes to and invests in a super fund, a large portion of which is invested in fossil fuels. You can check if your bank and super fund is contributing to the climate crisis by checking its track record on the Market Forces website.
“If you see them doing dirty filthy things with your retirement money, then make the switch to a fossil-fuel-free fund,” says Berdebes. “It took me literally five minutes.” Super funds like Australian Ethical and Future Super are good examples.
Hamilton sums it up: “With an average super balance at retirement of $144,000 – if just 100 people move their money to an ethical super fund, that’s a whopping $14 million the fossil fuel industry can’t invest in further pollution.”
The pair also recommends going one step further by telling your bank or super fund why you’ve made the switch. Customers departing in favour of the climate might push them to change too.
Work out your personal superpower
This might sound like something from a Marvel movie, but it’s a simple matter of reflecting on your skills, and how you can use them to influence the climate-forward movement (via organisations, businesses and people around you).
In episode one of the podcast, Greenpeace CEO David Ritter says, “Above all, hope is [about] having a plan of what to do. And we’ve got a plan of what to do.” He lays out the process for creating a power map, figuring out your strengths and who you can influence. Top tip: choose just one place to start. And use your personal motivation as inspiration. “We are doing it because the world is magnificent,” says Ritter.
Share the load
The friendship between Berdebes and Hamilton, and their mutual support, is evident throughout the podcast. They feel no one should ever have to go it alone.
“We recommend taking a cheeky leaf out of our book and asking a mate if they want to do it with you. This is important stuff, so it can be overwhelming, but exploring it together was fun and way more productive.”