Three Young Women Paving the Way for Climate Action

Annabel, Grace and Ashley are spreading awareness of the climate crisis and educating individuals about what they can do to improve their carbon footprint. 

Pictured (Left to right): Annabel Anderson, Grace Vegesana and Ashley Avci.

Annabel Anderson, Leader of the Macquarie University Roots & Shoots Pod

Annabel has nurtured an interest in climate action; leading her towards advocating for animals, people and the planet. 

Inspiring individuals to take climate action brings Annabel joy. Photo by Jesse Taylor (2019)

“My passion originally stemmed from my outrage regarding the captivity of marine life. From there, my life has spiralled into one of environmental and humanitarian activism.”

“Protecting people requires the protection of animals and the environment. We all exist in a great cosmic balance and if this ecological system is compromised, everyone within it is threatened.” 

Annabel influences decision-makers to do more about  the threat of climate change. She is the Founder of the Macquarie University Roots & Shoots Pod, the student-run volunteer stream of the Centre for Environmental Law. 

Annabel is the pod leader of the Macquarie University Roots & Shoots volunteer stream. Photo by Jesse Taylor (2019)

In 2018, she spearheaded a letter writing campaign to #Stop Adani. For her, “It is an important demonstration of the power of grassroots campaigners to elicit environmental action.” 

Students were invited to share the letter on social media and to email the letter to their local MP’s. She encourages us to reach out to our politicians, “Writing to your local member holds them to account. It lets them know the policy position of their constituents.” 

“Politics is all about securing that vote so if enough people are writing and raising concerns about an issue, it can force a policy shift or in the least, apply pressure to reconsider a policy position.” 

Her endeavour to be a climate action hero goes beyond her on-campus efforts. She currently works for Grameen Australia, a social business which aims to create a world of three zeroes. Their mission is to achieve zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero emissions by 2030. 

Annabel is proud to work for a social business. Image Courtesy of Grameen Australia (2019)

“A social business is a business with the mission of solving a social or environmental problem. They provide employment opportunities and is economically viable, so you can keep doing good without fear of donations and money running out.” 

“My advice for young people who want to pursue a career with socially responsible organisations is to embrace your entrepreneurial spirit and build your own. You can choose a mission that really speaks to you, innovate without the constraints of traditional workplace bureaucracy, participate in meaningful activities that you design and earn a living while you do it.” 

To find socially responsible businesses, you can check out EthicalJobs or create your own with the Student Startup Program.

Grace Vegesana, Western Sydney Organiser for the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition (AYCC) 

Grace talks at an AYCC Organising Day, wearing #StopAdani earrings

“The best part of being a community organiser with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition is being behind-the-scenes of monumental pieces of history lead by young people, that make international headlines.”

“The hope I have for achieving climate justice and forging an equitable world arises out of being able to mentor the same young people who first heard of the concept of a climate-driven personal narrative, through a workshop I facilitated at an AYCC and Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network Climate Justice Bootcamp in late 2018.” 

Grace facilitating a workshop with school children in a school hall

The AYCC encourages young people to share their concerns alongside thousands of people at March for Our Future and is now a core Sydney School Strike Organiser.  

“The best-case hope for the climate is the empowerment of the next generation to realise their potential to systematically solve the climate crisis and reclaim youth as the greatest asset a future defender could have.”

Grace is a tireless climate activist, building a movement of young people striving for climate justice. After spending a year and six months as the State Coordinator for the AYCC, she has become their first Western Sydney Organiser. 

“Why I am investing my heart and soul into climate justice work in Western Sydney is because the low-income area is also the most culturally, linguistically, and religiously diverse region in Australia, with a high Indigenous and Pacific Islander population. These communities are the people on the frontlines of climate change, and are feeling the effects right now.” 

“Young people in Western Sydney will inherit the consequences of decisions made today. It is crucial that our voices are elevated in the narrative around climate justice. By leading the conversation, we can also see ourselves, both as in Australia and as representatives of international communities, in the intersectional solutions to the climate crisis.” 

Grace leads a group of young people at March for Our Future. Photo by Simon Harris (2018)

The Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition is a movement of over 150,000 people fighting for safe climate for our generation and future generations. There are so many ways to get involved. 

“Young people can get involved by volunteering and leading grassroots groups in their local community, attending the Global Climate Strike on September 20, coming along to the AYCC and Seed Climate Justice Boot Camps across the country in October, and spreading the word about climate justice.” 

“Every second that young people dedicate to volunteering in the fight for climate justice undoubtedly adds years to the collective time we have left thriving on a healthy planet. This generation will neither wait, nor waste time. With the AYCC, you can do this with thousands of other young people across Australia and we’d love to have you!”

Be a climate activist like Grace and get involved in the Climate Strikes. You can also start an environment group in your school, university or local community.

Ashley Avci, Co-Founder and President of Shark Conservation Australia 

Ashley at Killing Cove, Image Courtesy of Ashley Avci, Facebook (2016)

Ashley is champion of protecting life below water, which is vital to securing a healthy and sustainable planet. She aims to raise awareness and advocate for the conservation of sharks.

“Shark conservation was not something that I was aware of growing up. When I was in Japan documenting the Taiji dolphin capture and slaughters, I was exposed to the enormous rate that sharks are being killed for their meat, liver oil, fins. I started researching the ‘shark trade’ and was shocked by the rate in which they are being killed and how critical their role within the marine ecosystem.” 

“Prior to conducting my research, I also thought that the practice of live shark finning was banned in all Australian maritime jurisdictions, but this is not the case. I realised these issues pertaining to sharks was going largely unnoticed and that the current laws are unjust — so I decided to do something about it.”

Ashley with the Fin Free Alliance, an initiative of Shark Conservation Australia. Image Courtesy of Ashley Avci, Facebook (2017)

Ashley is combining her Bachelor’s Law degree with a Bachelor of Environment, to ensure the elimination of all forms of cruelty and stronger legal protection for animals. By taking advantage of all the opportunities Macquarie Law School offers her, she has embarked on an ongoing journey to be a voice for the voiceless. 

“Knowing how to access, read and interpret cases and legislation is implicit to being an effective advocate. I have been able to identify gaps in the law and think of ways to fill those gaps.” 

“Competitions, moots, presentations and formal law lectures have provided me with tools that I can apply in the real-world. My work as a volunteer for the Centre for Environmental Law has allowed me the opportunity to run campaigns under expert advice. It has led me to meet and work with Dr Jane Goodall, my personal hero.” 

Ashley with Dr Jane Goodall, Image Courtesy of Ashley Avci, Facebook (2019)

Ashley hopes to continue changing the prevailing attitudes against shark conservation through her work.

“Sharks are the bees of the sea. Like bees, sharks are keystone species. Without them in the marine environment, the ocean would cease to exist as we know it today. Sharks are essentially the doctors of the ocean. They keep the food chain in check and many are predominantly scavengers, that keep the ocean healthy and clean.”  

Image Courtesy of Ashley Avci, Facebook (2018)

“Unlike other species, sharks have also suffered a lot more at the hands of human fear. Our fear of this species has led them to be neglected. It has allowed mass exploitation without social pressure in their favour and this is often due to their portrayal in the media.”

“Protecting sharks goes hand in hand with protecting humans. The more we accept the presence of these large and potentially dangerous apex predators, the more we can defend ourselves from them with knowledge and education of ocean goers. Sharks need us, as much as we need them.”

Advocate like Ashley, by doing your research into an aspect of climate change that you are passionate about. Everything from environmental conservation, slow fashion to renewable energy matters. Think about how you can use your skills to mobilise others to get involved.

Written by Annie Renouf, Content Writer at Communiteer. 

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