Lessons from a solar school campaigner: Why your climate vote counts

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Last year, I organised, lobbied and arranged funds for a 100kW solar array for my school in Sydney’s south. This year, I will let my vote do the talking.

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This weekend, I will be voting in my first federal election. And like other 18, 19 and 20 year olds in the country who will also be voting for the first time, I have had mixed emotions about the democratic process, and whether or not my vote will count for anything.

This is not uncommon. In the 2016 federal election, only 70 per cent of 18 year olds participated.

But as this election campaign has trailed on I have realised that youth engagement in this election is imperative to the future health of our country and planet – that this is the most important election, not just in my lifetime, but presumably many others.

And, I have also seen what can be achieved by one person speaking up about something they believe in.

Last year – the same year I graduated from high-school – I single-handedly organised, lobbied and arranged funds for a $100,000, 100kW solar panel installation for my school in Sydney’s south.

So why couldn’t I use my voice – and vote – in this election?

Using our votes this Saturday, we can help shape not just the next three years of our great country, but create the future we want.

Further, if all 18, 19 and 20 year-olds put meaning behind our vote, we could collectively be the sea of change that steers this country into a prosperous future.

It has been reported that our broad demographic – 18-29 year old – make up around 18 per cent of the electoral roll, an unprecedented number meaning that this is the largest ever say that our age-group has ever had.

Despite this, in my circle of friends it appears that there is a disconnect and disinterest towards politics. Many of my friends have asked for my advice on who to vote for.

This disengagement is common with youth around Australia. But for me, the reason why this election is so important can be summed up in four words: time is running out.

Time is running out for serious action on climate change as the next time we will be able to vote – 2022 – it is estimated that based on current emission projections, we will miss our 2030 targets set under the Paris Agreement.

We can’t afford to waste any more time.

Last year was Australia’s hottest on record and in the past five months this year we have already seen what is to come; the worst droughts in a century, millions of fish dying in the Murray Darling river system, and uncontrollable bushfires in Tasmania.

This is truly a climate change election. From the two-party arguments about electric cars and decarbonisation costings, climate change has been thrusted into the media spotlight for the entirety of the campaign.

From this election we could have serious action on climate change, a spark of the electric car industry in Australia.

If that doesn’t interest you I encourage you to find something that does, put meaning behind the number you write next Saturday.

So to all other first time voters, I encourage you to get involved; you don’t have to door-knock or read through the hundreds of pages of policies but simply switch on to the news or ask questions of those around you – just find a purpose to your vote that resonates with you.

We all need to vote, not just for the next three years but for our vision of the future of our planet to be heard.

I encourage any reader to share this, let all other first time voters know that we hold power, that our time is now. We could be the change.

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