It was the break of dawn, but still so dark.
The rain was beating down hard on the tin roof – harder than I’d ever heard in my life. I went out on to mum’s front deck. What I saw and heard will stay with me for ever.
A lake was encroaching, steadily moving up the road. Above the roar of the rain and helicopters buzzing, I could hear children screaming and voices crying: “Help! Help!”
My daughter appeared next to me. “What’s that noise, Mummy?” she asked. “Why are those children screaming? Will someone help them?”
This wasn’t a moment I expected to have, living in this country. I wasn’t ready.
I decided to evacuate us again. We drove up the hill and saw boats launching where we ride bikes on Sunday. A steady stream of tinnies on trailers were coming down the hill. As soon as we were safe, I went online and saw my friends asking to be saved. Some were saying goodbye, like they thought they were going to die.
My brain was still confused. I knew I’d lost my house and everything in it. I remember thinking it would be OK – that we’d all be looked after, that surely there was a flood unit somewhere that was being deployed. It didn’t happen. The government was just as unprepared as we were.
Climate change is supposed to happen somewhere else, to other people in other countries – to someone else’s children. It isn’t supposed to end up in my house, in my town. We’ve been hearing about it – warned about it – for years, but it was always something in the future, happening somewhere else.
Now it’s here, in Australia, and we need to do something about it.
People ask me all the time “what I want to see happen”, like being a survivor of an extreme weather event has made me an expert on the topic. What I want is to see more people taking action on climate change more seriously. I joined Australian Parents for Climate Action because I wanted to do something – not wait for everyone else to fix the problem.
Now I want to see politicians from all parties doing the same – working together to fix the problem. According to the CSIRO’S latest State of the Climate report, these extreme weather events are going to become more frequent and intense; we need to keep our communities safe.
Coal and gas giants make billions of dollars profit every year as they pump greenhouse gas emissions into our environment threatening our future and destroying our environment. Our climate is changing fast, and for the worse. I want this to stop for the sake of my daughter’s future.
When I went home for the first time after the flood had receded, everything was brown, slimy and wet. Everything stank of sewage, inside and outside. I remember kneeling in my daughter’s room and crying over books. Books I’d read when I was a little girl that I’d lovingly kept for my child. Books I’d read 1,000 times. Books that used to smell like books.
Over the next 12 months we threw everything we’d ever owned on to a huge stinky pile outside our house. We ripped down walls, we laughed and cried. Everyone got gastro constantly. But we were the lucky ones, we had insurance and a place to live.
Many of my neighbours 12 months on still don’t have walls; they don’t have flushing toilets. Some are still living in caravans in their driveways. I feel like Australia has forgotten them.
I’ve never raised my child to be fearful of climate change. She doesn’t even know what it means. I did this to give her a few more years of innocence, but even with my careful planning for her mental health, climate change came to us.
It broke down our doors and windows and delivered a rain of shit on to everything we loved. I don’t want this to be her future, or the future for any child. There are solutions, Australia is just not utilising them.
We need to work together, we need to at least try to reduce emissions to keep our communities, our children safe, because next time, it could be your child.
Ella Buckland is the campaign manager at Australian Parents for Climate Action in Lismore, New South Wales
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