Social work student and climate activist Shannon Loughnane is taking an ‘extremely long walk’ from his home in Melbourne’s north to Parliament House in Canberra to protest decades-long inaction on climate change.
Shannon, 29, takes his cue from ‘marchers’ before him – activists such as former Essendon player Michael Long, who walked on the capital to highlight the plight of Australia’s Indigenous people, and Jessica Hackett, who travelled through rural Victoria and New South Wales to demonstrate Australians’ willingness to welcome refugees.
“I was reading a lot about climate change – a new year’s resolution – and the more I read, the less I was able to sit and do nothing,” Shannon says, on his reasons for deciding to walk. “I needed to act, and to act directly. But I’m no expert. How could I help? I can’t engineer more efficient solar panels or model the economics of the situation. But what I do have is a body and functioning legs, so why not march myself up to Canberra and tell our pollies what’s what?”
Shannon will be walking almost 700kms from his home in Coburg North to the nation’s home in Canberra. Shannon will be carrying in tow a petition calling for drastic and rapid changes to federal climate policy, including deep emissions cuts and the declaration of a climate emergency.
And he says, he needs the public’s help! Although he may be the one walking, Shannon states the project has roles for anybody willing – and that this is the way all climate action needs to happen. “Industry, government, individuals – we all tend to put the blame and responsibility onto another sector,” Shannon says. “But the fact is, climate change requires society-wide action from which no-one is immune. We all have our part to play. That’s true, even of this project.”
To reinforce this message, the long walk to Canberra will be both ‘low carbon’ and community-powered’. “I’m calling the walk ‘low carbon’ as I’m attempting to keep my personal footprint quite light throughout the journey,” Shannon says. “I can’t really ask for the monumental changes I’m asking for whilst not acknowledging my part in things.”
“But the walk will also be ‘community-powered’, with a call-out for hosting volunteers, local petition co-ordinators and people who want to walk along with me. Not to mention, it will be the strong voice of communities heard through the petition – hopefully, loud and clear.”
In an added hitch, Shannon’s walk just might fall in the midst of a Federal election, and the Parliament to whom he is appealing might be upended. “It’s a time of change, for sure,” Shannon says. “But there is promise in that, and I hope the climate emergency can, this election cycle, be a vote-changing issue for people.” Luckily, both Shannon’s current local MP for Wills, Labor’s Peter Khalil, and Greens’ Adam Pulford, who will be contesting the seat, have agreed to table the petition in Parliament.
Though the walk is, as he’s put it, ‘extremely long’, with all he’s read now, Shannon doesn’t think the action he’s taking is exceptional. In fact, he says, it simply matches the magnitude of the crisis. “Things are very serious, very urgent,” Shannon states. “It’s the old maxim – if you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention. But there’s always something to be done. Even if you’re a layman like me. I hope the walk to Canberra sends that message to people.”
For all information, to sign the petition or to otherwise get involved, visit www.myextremelylongwalk.com.