A conversation with Mik Aidt - one of the key drivers behind the climate emergency declaration movement
Article by: Andrew Martin author of, Rethink... Your World, Your Future and Director of Rethink Consulting
Returning from facilitating a resilience workshop in rural New Zealand, I tuned into a station where the announcer was taking calls in regard to what their audience thought about the concept of a climate emergency. It was obvious the announcer was agitating towards suggesting the climate emergency was nonsense. One caller suggested, he wasn’t going to be holidaying in Hawke's Bay where the council recently declared a climate emergency, as it might be too scary to visit, preferring a region that had NOT declared a climate emergency instead! While somewhat amusing and an insight into a particular segment of the community, there seemed a subtly nervous underlying tension in both the voice of the announcer and the callers. At one level, there seemed to be a false bravado and all this talk about a 'climate emergency' was overstated, and alarmist, but at another level it seemed like there was real concerns and maybe there was something in all this.
Not long after this I spoke to my friend and colleague Mik Aidt who has been instrumental in developing the ‘Climate Emergency Declaration’ web site and contributing to the success of the movement globally. I wanted to get his take on how things are progressing in regard to the conversation around how Australia deals with the issue.
A brief background on Mik to start. Mik is an Australian citizen with Danish heritage, who in 2013 founded a weekly radio and podcast show about the climate emergency and sustainability, The Sustainable Hour, which today is recognised as a leading Australian podcast in its field. Mik worked for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation and as executive producer of a weekly, national radio show in Australia on SBS Radio. Behind the scenes Mik has quietly been organising winning community campaigns, and planting and nurturing ideas which later on have blossomed on a global scale. Mik is a quiet achiever, and owner of the www.climateemergencydeclaration.org - web site and has been influential in the rise of Greta Thunberg's rise to prominence during 2018.
The Aussie Connection to Greta Thunberg
The Sustainable Hour first interviewed Greta Thunberg in August of 2018 on the third day of her climate strike in front of the Swedish parliament. I asked Mik how things unfolded in regard to Greta and the link with The Sustainable Hour. On 20 August 2018, when Mik saw the first Facebook video with Greta sitting alone in front of the Swedish parliament, he called a colleague, Janine O'Keeffe in Stockholm, who he had worked together with on a climate action project, and asked her whether she would do an interview with Greta for The Sustainable Hour. She did that on 23 August (Click to view) and they started spreading Greta's words and news about her strike idea through the podcast and radio show on a weekly basis.
The team at The Sustainable Hour were actively seeking Australian school kids who'd like to follow Greta's example, and talked about this idea in the show regularly. In late September they were contacted by a mum in Castlemaine, whose daughter and a friend, Milou and Harriet, said that they were ready and keen to do that. Mik asked them to write a letter about why and how, and to record themselves reading it, so that they could air it in the radioshow. They did - and they aired the recording of the girls reading the letter on 24 October. Milou and Harriet became key drivers for the 30 November climate strike event in Melbourne, which to everyone's surprise ended up gathering 15,000 school children and made tv-news around the world.
Greta has mentioned later that this event became a breakthrough for her, these creative kids with all their signs and high level of energy in the streets of Melbourne gave her the global recognition that quickly led to so many other things at her end of the globe. So - one thing led to another, and the rest is history. The most recent climate strikes saw over four million people from over 150 countries in 5,000 different locations coming together to make their voices heard.
Greta traveled to London in October 2018 to support the launch of the British ‘Extinction Rebellion’ movement, which had adopted the climate emergency terminology from Australia, stating in the first of their three demands that “Governments must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency.” In this way, three movements had imploded into one: Greta’s youth-driven School Strike for Climate, the civil disobedience movement Extinction Rebellion, and the Climate Emergency Declaration movement, which at this stage also was actively supported by activists and national campaign websites in USA, UK and Canada.
The climate emergency terminology captured international media attention and after very little progress in the first two years, it suddenly started to spread to government authorities, and beyond. Currently there are over 1,000 local government authorities in 20 countries having declared a climate emergency with a total of approximately 226 million citizens living in a municipality, region or nation of a declared emergency.
In other words: The climate emergency initiative has definitely got the entire world talking about the issue and it has well and truly put the climate debate on the radar. Even if there are still skeptics out there, they are starting to become tolerated as a misguided minority as they reveal themselves as being ‘very nervous’ about the narrative they are supporting with their beliefs being threatened by a constant bombardment of change. The ‘climate emergency’ initiative has defiantly achieved one of its goals in changing the narrative and bringing attention and more urgency to the climate debate.
What is Next?
Mik believes strongly that awareness and education is the key to many of these serious issues we face today. "If we really want to change things in this world, then we have to build an entirely new model that is so strong that it pushes the existing - polluting and destructive model out on a side-track." he says. He also suggests, as things evolve, it is increasingly obvious that we need to change in the way we live, that is, if we want to protect our children and future generations from an economic and environmental collapse. "If we are to succeed with that project, it will not happen by waiting for our governments to impose bans, fees, restrictions or penalties. We will only really get the truly sustainable and circular ball rolling if we are able to rethink our ways of living together and if we succeed in setting new meaningful goals for what we want to achieve in this life we are given," Mik suggests.
Community Radio - The Next Frontier
Mik sees the opportunity to continue his work by promoting the concept of declaring a climate emergency throughout community radio stations. As local community radio stations commit to the initiative, they share stories, content and practical solutions at the local community level around what can be done to build more resilient and climate safe communities.
On 18 September 2019, on the ‘The Sustainable Hour’ on Geelong community radio station 94.7 The Pulse, the station officially declared that “we are in a climate and biodiversity emergency, and therefore we need to act accordingly.” Mik is excited that ‘The Pulse’ is possibly the first radio station globally to declare a climate emergency. This is important on many levels as the idea of a community radio declaring a climate emergency is an idea that can be replicated, like Darebin City Council’s declaration in December 2016 has been followed by more than 1,000 other councils since.
Community radio is a powerful tool to communicate directly with local residents at a grass roots level. The Sustainable Hour team, are confident that this move from the management of the station will inspire and empower many others to take new and bolder steps to reduce emissions, first of all among organisations, businesses and families in our local community with the potential to snowball round the world.
But it could go further than that. A thousand community stations would not only be educating locals residents, they would also collectively be able to make a strong call on public broadcasters to follow their example. Public broadcasters, such as ABC and SBS in Australia, are financed by the Australian people and as such you would assume - in case they actually recognised that we are in an emergency - they would fulfill their constitutional duty to provide adequate information how we properly deal with the situation.
Understanding the Challenges is Key to Building Resilience
One of the inhibitors for organisations, councils and corporations declaring a climate emergency is in once they have declared an emergency, the impetus is on taking action. Generally in an emergency situation you have to act, you can’t just sit back and wait. You don’t call and ambulance in the hope that it might turn up in the next week or so. You want it as soon as possible. In the midst of an emergency you also want the people who turn up to help to be calm, measured and knowledgeable in what they are doing.
Rethink Consulting has been working with councils, communities and other organisations with the focus on building resilience in light of the broader challenges we face as a society, such as the climate emergency and a number of connected social and economical crises.
Over the last several years Rethink Consulting has connected, collaborated and partnered with like-minded professionals like Mik who are passionate about facilitating change and sharing their learning and expertise in building resilience. Some municipalities have developed strategies and solutions around climate and resource constraints decades ago and are well positioned for disruptions into the future. Others have been doing what we call ‘compliance sustainability’, whereby the organisation makes a few minor tweaks ticking a few compliance boxes but don’t go near far enough in building community or organisational resilience.
The communities and organisations taking the most action are those where the leaders understand the science and the challenges ahead of us. They are well educated when it comes to what we term The Three E’s, which include: energy, economy and environment, and they understand that these are inextricably linked. Organisations and communities that address these three elements position themselves for potential changes and shocks. In doing so, they simultaneously address many of the environmental and climatic challenges. So it becomes a win-win all round. Sharing examples, practical strategies and solutions that some of the most progressive communities and organisations are doing around the globe is an effective way to help expedite the transition to a low carbon resilient future.
Taking Action once Declaring a Climate Emergency
Many organisations don’t know where to start. They find it daunting, or they struggle with managing financial and economic viability. To help organisations save time, effort and resources, we have developed a practical workshop, (Shifting the Paradigm), which provides organisations and communities the tools to move forward with a resilience mindset while addressing these challenges.
There is no silver bullet, as every community, region or organisation has different risks and opportunities for change. Rethink Consulting workshops help identify and highlight vulnerabilities and risks for a region or organisation as well as proving a positioning framework for meaningful change. Enabling more efficient capital allocation and better use of resources is crucial to building resilience. Empowering and motivating staff with resilience in mind, providing pathways and strategies for better community engagement, and the development of carbon reduction strategies are some of the key outcomes of Rethink Consulting's workshops.
For more information on workshops being facilitated by Mik and Andrew around building community, organisational or local government resilience or how to communicate effectively with staff and audiences regarding a climate emergency email: firstname.lastname@example.org