Youth from around the Bega Valley have skipped school today in protest of a lack of action on climate change and have rallied with their fellow peers around the country to demand action.
Several young speakers spoke during the rally and mentioned individual changes, such as composting and bike riding, but also made calls for systematic changes to issues such as native logging.
Other speakers talked about the need for Indigenous-led care and stewardship for the land and the ability for young people to be the change in creating a "safe climate future".
"It is our responsibility to embrace our future, and take it as our own. Only we can make this happen," said one of the speakers during the rally.
Greens Councillor Cathy Griff spoke at the event about progress that had been made since the last youth-led climate strike, including the introduction of the Climate Change Bill 2022 that included a net zero target by the year 2050, which she described as "not good enough, but it's better than nothing".
Jacob Shields, 18, who just finished his formal schooling at Lumen Christi this week, congratulated his young peers for attending the event considering it was the final day of school term and there was a lot of excitement around for the beginning of Wanderer Festival.
"I have no doubt that I am looking at the future leaders of this country and indeed the globe," he said during the rally.
Australian Community Media spoke to Mr Shields after the rally and he shared more context as to his strong core ethics in environmentalism and why he chose to attend.
He said he thought the government and his fellow residents of the Bega Valley did not understand the magnitude of the climate crisis and the importance of looking after the environment.
"We are a part of the environment and people are a little bit disconnected from that fact," he said.
It was Mr Shields' first time attending a climate strike and he was very excited to be apart of the action.
In recent times, Mr Shields has been a dedicated advocate against housing development scheduled for a parcel of bushland in Mirador, after it was approved over 30 years ago.
"I live near the patch of forest that is set to be cleared under an approval which was granted 33 years ago in what's come to be known as a 'zombie development application'.
"What's so shocking to everybody in the community is that under the current NSW planning laws once a DA is approved, it stays approved and doesn't have to be re-reviewed when new environmental legislation comes through.
"It's home to countless endangered species, provides a critical wildlife corridor down to freshwater sources, is essential to carbon storage, and is just a beautiful patch of forest in general," he said.
Ms Shields said he was not "anti-development" but said there were "right and wrong places to build houses" and believed the patch of forest was critical to biodiversity.
He said he wanted discussions around a possible "land-swap" to remain open.
Following environmental protests, the developer RCL Group, said it was open to a land-swap with Bega Valley Shire Council, but in response council said it did not have any land to swap.
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