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National Sustainable Living Festival are driving the conversation about climate change

“Unless we look after the planet and solve the climate crisis, the future is very scary…It’s the reality in front of us.”

When you find yourself presented with footage of emaciated polar bears or colossal walls of ice collapsing into the Ross Sea, of extreme weather wiping away communities and rainforests on fire, it’s easy to feel disheartened about the world to come. But despite the dire condition of our environment, there’s still much that can be done to reverse the effects of climate change and halt the devastation.
 
As the director of the National Sustainable Living Festival, Luke Taylor is well-aware of the struggles ahead. But he’s also convinced that our common ingenuity is more than capable of meeting these challenges head-on.
 
“Unless we look after the planet and solve the climate crisis, the future is very scary,” Taylor says. “It’s not a matter of wanting to create fear. It’s the reality in front of us. There’s a lot of debate within the environment movement about fear and how it could or should be used. Certainly, it can be mobilising if you’re presenting it with a suite of solutions. And that’s what we feel the festival is about. Yes, you can look at the issues and impact, but when you package that with a very compelling description of what is possible for us to achieve in sustainability, the mobilising force that can have can really go in leaps and bounds. That’s the really important thing for the festival, and for the wider environment movement. We lead with the truth about what the reality is, but we also move out into the public and promote the solutions that we have. There is a vast array of solutions, and that’s the essence of what the festival is.”
 
National Sustainable Living Festival is now in its 19th year, and much like the public’s own appreciation of environmental damage, the scope of conversation and action has evolved significantly. An awareness of climate change and its impact on our daily lives – from the environment, to the economy, politics, agriculture, and the arts – has spread in some fashion to almost every community, and the NSLF has come to reflect that diversity. It’s also evidenced in the scale of events; from live music, to comedy, to pop-up urban forests.
 
“This [year’s festival] has certainly been influenced by the concept of reversing climate change. We hear a lot about it, and also hear a lot about the strategies of how to deal with it, and they tend to be more aligned with adaptation or mitigation. In a sense they’re just responding to an ever-changing and worsening situation.
 
“[But] what would it take to get back to safe climate conditions? We have to turn the ship around and reverse the warming, and that is the theme that’s running through the festival. There’s a whole series of talks, [including] our keynote speaker Paul Hawken, and our Festival Great Debate follows that theme. That moves into some of the national solutions, looking at land use in Australia, carbon farming, one of our feature events Drawdown, and really looking at the capacity of Australia to play its role in going to a zero emissions economy. We have this enormous carbon debt that we need to deal with and take responsibility for, so the feature events are running off this meta-theme of reversing global warming, and returning to safe climate conditions.”
 
Climate change is certainly one of the major issues of our time, and the prospect of reversing humankind’s impact on the natural world is as pressing as it is complex. The NSLF provides an opportunity to not only understand the larger problems and solutions that must be addressed, but to engage in sustainable practices in our everyday lives. The scale of environmental trauma is intimidating, but it is by no means unsurpassable.
 
“When you look at what we need to do, it does feel like taking on the impossible,” Taylor acknowledges. “We know that we have a vast amount of knowledge, of skill and human potential, the technical capacity, even the wealth to deal with these problems. Right now we are at the cusp of this huge challenge, and we need to set our sights very high and aim for safe climate conditions.”

National Sustainable Living Festival will take place from Thursday February 1 until Wednesday February 28. The festival’s Big Weekend will take place at Federation Square and Birrarung Marr from Friday February 9 until Sunday February 11.