When the opportunity arose to take part on a field trip to Narrabri, I couldn’t have accepted the invitation fast enough. It had been three years in university classrooms and infinite hours spent with my head in my laptop, so needless to say, I was hungry for new experience and to learn in a different environment. Living in the city (mostly undisturbed by visible signs of drought or fossil fuel developments), the climate crisis can become a semi abstract concept, it’s happening, but you don’t really feel it. You can also easily forget about it, living in a state of ecological amnesia, with the problem feeling so big for you to individually comprehend or solve, that it’s much easier to shut it out altogether, just so you can get on with your day. Travelling to Narrabri taught me that it is a privilege to be able to forget about, or shut off thinking about fossil fuel developments in Australia, it means they are not living on your doorstep.
We hiked through the bush, took part in Aboriginal smoking ceremonies and swam in the cleansing Pilliga baths. We had endless conversations with different people; Indigenous groups, farmers and local community members. One afternoon, we sat in a circle outside on a local’s property at sunset, passing Tim-tams around and talking into the night about the challenges being faced and new ways forward. We talked until the mozzies had bitten every exposed bit of skin and until it was so dark that we could no longer see each other. And when we thought all discussion from the day had been exhausted, someone would make a comment in the van driving away, or at the dinner table that night, and we could talk again for hours. I guess when we are talking about energy and thinking about our collective futures, the conversation is constantly evolving and persistently a challenge, with the recognition that things need to be done differently.
Geni.Energy is taking part in these important conversations of what kind of future the community is looking for and taking direct action on the steps that are necessary to get there. They are willing to challenge the dominant ‘business as usual’ approach which prioritises profit before the planet and people, with their community focused projects that strive towards more sustainable energy production and consumption. After visiting Narrabri, a class mate and myself wrote a report for Geni.Energy on how the local Indigenous community can feel the benefits of their renewable energy projects. We produced recommendations that can guide Geni.Energy in decolonizing company practices; such as the inclusion of Indigenous voices, shared decision-making systems, meaningful and transparent dialogue, community approval and feedback, and recognition and respect to Aboriginal cultural heritage. For Geni.Energy to adopt these recommendations puts the company in a significant position to pave a new way for this transition to more equitable and respectful engagement with people and the environment.
Communities are coming together and standing up for their right to make a future for themselves that is safe and that is sustainable, for generations to come. There is a long way to go, but we must start somewhere and we must start now. It is crucial that we are challenging the current systems in place that are environmentally and climate destructive. When we come together and organise as communities and in social movements, we can clearly communicate to our leaders that we demand action towards reaching a safe and healthy climate. You can start by writing to your local MP and expressing your support for the phase out of fossil fuels and the transition to renewable energies.
However, undeniably most groundbreaking, is that everyday citizens can play an active role in this transition, by becoming both the producers and consumers of clean energy. Let’s engage in more conversations with families, friends and community members on the possibilities of adopting different renewable sources to our respective homes and workplaces. It may seem like a radical change to our previous, limited engagement with energy, however, Geni.Energy will guide, educate and empower community members in this process of gaining control of their own clean energy supply.
We also must make this transition fair and accessible to all. By the creation of community owned energy projects we can support and include those who may not have the same opportunities to adopt renewable energy sources, for example, access to their own roof space for installation of solar panels. This will not only help build momentum for the energy transition, but it will also ensure access to clean and cheaper energy sources for all.
Times are changing, and we must change with them. I am in debt to Narrabri and those that I met for reminding me that there is no time left for forgetting, and absolutely no time left for accepting.