The Botanical in Peril – Young Voices on Climate Change

This month, as part of our AGWA Pulse program, the Art Gallery of WA was the setting for an inspiring and thought-provoking panel discussion on climate change. Featuring young climate activists ranging in age from 16 to 23, these young voices brought clarity and urgency to the immense challenges facing our planet today. Here, they share their thoughts on the kinds of actions we can take – both large and small – to set the world on a different path.

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How Do We Save the World? Climate Change Panel Discussion at AGWA

Makaela Rowe-Fox


I am sixteen years old and an organiser for the School Strike 4 Climate movement. I participate in national and state calls, outreach to groups, unions and schools, and I have spoken/chanted/occupied at the major March 15 and May 3 strikes earlier this year.

Why do I strike and organise these events? Because I want a future on this planet. We are living in a climate crisis. Already we are experiencing extreme changes to weather conditions with unprecedented droughts, floods and other natural disasters across the planet. We cannot wait until the effects of what’s occurring now are visible from our kitchen windows – we must act as pre-emptively as is still possible to minimise the effects of climate change. This means compelling the government to abandon fossil fuels, invest in 100% renewable energy NOW and to draw down carbon through intensive reforestation.

I am privileged to be able to be an artist and performer. I dance with Co3 – the flagship contemporary dance company in WA – and also act with the Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company. Art allows us to view the world in creative and critical ways. We can see this through AGWA’s exhibition, The Botanical: Beauty and Peril, which showcases work that discusses the climate crisis.

The phrase “business as usual = extinction” applies to artists as much as anyone else. We can’t rely on people to take up our calls for change. We need to be the ones taking action alongside everyone else. I am currently involved in organising the September 20 action which is a global strike: not just students, but everybody. It is expected to be the biggest collective human action this planet have ever seen.

Rachel Rainey

67075722_2109189282526527_9951340440584192_croppedA lot of people find climate change an overwhelming issue and feel like there’s nothing that they can do that will make a real difference in combatting it. I would like to encourage those people to see the film 2040 – it really helps to view the climate crisis from a solution-based perspective and provides a lot of suggestions on how you can help join the fight.

While you’re waiting to see the film, try changing your search engine to Ecosia (which plants one tree for every 45 searches), and changing your super fund to Future Super (zero investments in fossil fuels and financial performance in the top quartile of Australian super funds) – all it takes to switch is ten minutes and your tax file number.

It is really exciting and empowering to see so much community support behind climate action, to have a platform for youth voices to speak on the subject, and to have people truly listen and engage with these young people.

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The panellists discussed a wide range of topics related to the climate crisis.

Chelsea Andrews

Climate protest and activism are good, but I think especially in this day and age it’s not going to be enough to make change. With the political right on the rise, I think it’s only making people angrier. Just shouting at our government isn’t going to make action happen. Potentially more helpful ways include meeting with local MPS to discuss climate and how they can help, writing EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) submissions or looking out for projects that ask for public comment.

What do I believe it will take to save the world? State and nations coming together to tackle this crisis. International policy has worked in the past, as we saw with the Montreal Protocol, which is now seeing the ozone layer repair itself! The Paris Climate Agreement isn’t strong; but it could be improved with more investment and learning from successful measures like the Montreal Protocol. The Paris Climate Agreement needs sanctions and realistic targets for anything to work.

Artists have a great place in climate change action, albeit secondary. They aren’t afraid to confront the world, and expose what their truths are. Art can be a very emotional thing and call many people to action. However, I think the issue is that its main audience is the privileged: once art can be enjoyed by all, I think a lot more good and empowerment can come from it.


Follow the work of these inspiring young people through organisations including School Strike 4 Climate, Millennium Kids and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.