7am is a daily news podcast brought to you by the publishers of The Saturday Paper and The Monthly.
How to listen? How to listen Newsletter signup Newsletter signup Website Visit website

Listen

7am Podcast

The Vote: The climate kids are doomscrolling

As we enter the final weeks of the election campaign there’s one group of people more stressed, more disillusioned than most. Teenagers, desperate to see change but unable to vote to get their voice heard.
Read Transcript

As we enter the final weeks of the election campaign there’s one group of people more stressed, more disillusioned than most. Teenagers, desperate to see change but unable to vote to get their voice heard. 

Today, 7am producer Kara Jensen Mackinnon on a day in the life of a teenager trying to make change happen before it’s too late.

 

Guest: Producer for 7am, Kara Jensen-Mackinnon.

 
Read Transcript

[Alarm sounding]

NATASHA:
So at 6:30, I went to my friend's room and I was like, rise and shine, like wake up. And then I quickly got ready and I had to like, check my phone constantly because I was getting all these messages. 

[Alarm sounding]

NATASHA:
I did check WhatsApp like my Instagram DMs, my emails, like all these different platforms, my brain is exploding, but it was fine. 

[Alarm sounding]

NATASHA:
I got a cheese and tomato toasty from this cafe. And oh my gosh, the craziest thing as well. Because the day before on Thursday, I did a shoot with Sydney Morning Herald and one of the cafe's next to the cafe. I got my cheese and tomato toasty from. I saw myself on the front page and I was like, Oh my gosh, that is crazy. I'm literally like, That's me right there. And no one realises it.

***

[Theme Music Starts]

RUBY:
From Schwartz Media and 7am, this is The Vote

 

As we enter the final weeks of the election campaign, there’s one group of people more stressed, more disillusioned than most. 

 

Teenagers, desperate to see change, but unable to vote to get their voice heard. 

 

Today, 7am producer Kara Jensen Mackinnon on a day in the life of a teenager trying to make change happen before it’s too late

 

It’s Monday May 2.

 

[Theme Music Ends]

KARA:
...The school climate strikes have filled our TV screens for years, 

Archival Tape -- News headlines tape

KARA:
with images of cute kids trying to save the planet from the climate crisis.

Archival Tape -- News headlines tape

KARA:
But I wanted to know: what had driven them into years of organising, and how is this climate focused election impacting young Australians - especially their mental health.

NATASHA:
Hi! I’m Natasha, I’m a year 12 student and I am a school strike for climate organiser. 

KARA:
When I first met Natasha, a year 12 student from north west sydney she describes herself “a bit of a screenager.” and she’s not wrong, she’s spent the whole morning fielding media requests. 

So I spent the day with Natasha. And, this particular day was huge because she was about to lead a school strike protest for Climate in the lead up to the federal election.

NATASHA:
Yeah so like at Kirribilli house a news channel was like ok we’re going to record you at this time and I was like ok slay… And then I did literally the worst interview ever….

Archival Tape -- Steve Price:
“Natasha Abhayawickrama is one of the organisers and joins us. She's 17 years old, Natasha. Good day. Hi, how are you?
Natasha: I'm okay.”

NATASHA:
I think it was Steve Price…

Archival Tape -- Steve Price:
“Explain to me what you’re protesting outside Kirribilli house today..” 

NATASHA:
But let me ask you, like…

Archival Tape -- Steve Price:
“how do you get to school and on a bus or in a car?”

Archival Tape -- Natasha:
“Yeah. Well, we have electric vehicles now that are becoming more popular. I know,”

Archival Tape -- Steve Price:
“but I'm talking about you. How do you how do you get me personally?”

Archival Tape -- Natasha:
“I usually I get school via public transport.”

NATASHA:
And then he asked me, like what emissions my school bus ran on or something… 

Archival Tape -- Steve Price:
“So that's an electric bus, presumably.”   

Archival Tape -- Natasha:
“I don't. I'm not sure.”

Archival Tape -- Steve Price:
“Maybe it be a good idea to find out.” 

NATASHA:
He, like, started yelling at me about India and China and all of their emissions.

Archival Tape -- Steve Price:
“I mean, they are much worse polluters than what we are. I don't know what they're teaching you at school wherever you go, but that's simply not correct.” 

NATASHA:
And then like, he kept interrupting me every time I tried to respond to him with like more things about like  

Archival Tape -- Steve Price:
“I mean, the food that you eat every morning for breakfast and when you go home tonight for dinner is delivered by a truck, I'm sure you're aware of that. Without those trucks, you wouldn't have anything to eat.” 

NATASHA:
The last thing I said was, Look, I'm 

Archival Tape -- Natasha:
“just concerned about my future and I'm hearing the science and it's making me scared. And that's why I'm here today.”

Archival Tape -- Steve Price:
“as I said, admire your passion. I'm not sure it wouldn't be better if you were at school and protesting on the weekend after school finishes for the week, but good on you and thank you for talking to us.”

Archival Tape -- Natasha:
“No worries.” 

NATASHA:
Then, after I literally almost cried, I was like, That was horrible. I'm glad I experienced it because I can, like, tell people like, Oh yeah, Steve Price yelled at me on live radio. And it's kind of a flex.  

KARA:
After some great and some not so great interviews, Natasha gets on a train bound for Kirribilli House, where she hopes to confront Scott Morrison directly… 

NATASHA:
….So I’ve just arrived at Kirribilli House, it is obviously a beautiful area Kirribilli is right on the harbour of Sydney, it is tree lined… there’s a lot of Land Rovers here.  

KARA:
For most of the kids I chat to, it’s actually their first time visiting Kirribilli… 

Archival Tape -- Kara:
“So can I ask your name and how old you are?”

Archival Tape -- Ethan:
“I’m Ethan and I’m 16…”

Archival Tape -- Kara:
“And have you been to Kirribilli House before?”

Archival Tape -- Ethan:
“It’s actually my first time.”

Archival Tape -- Kara:
Can I ask you what you think of this area and your impressions of this giant house? 

Archival Tape -- Ethan:
“Well I’m from Western Sydney so it’s not actually what’s typical from around there… very extravagant yeah it’s very different to where I live, and that’s obviously just a reflection of privilege and stuff.”

KARA:
At this point, the crowds grown to maybe 3000 kids, all gathered under the shade of the imposing sandstone wall that surrounds Kirribilli house… 

Archival Tape -- Natasha:
“My name's Natasha. I'm a 17 year old year 12 student based in Northwest Sydney.” 

KARA:
and then at 12 o’clock sharp, Natasha sporting a pair of impeccable fluoro pink Nikes, takes to the stage. 

Archival Tape -- Natasha:
“Welcome to the March 25 global global climate strike. School Strike have led the fight directly to Scott Morrison's doorstep because this one is personal. Oh, we don't need solidarity with black survivors that we've more. And also my point is, look, the climate crisis because Scott Morrison and the Liberals can't do their jobs.” 

KARA:
And the vibe is super electric - Kids are here from all over Sydney, some have travelled for hours, you could see that they ’ve put so much effort into the protest - they have these little hand painted signs,  huge banners, home made tshirts, musical instruments….

Archival Tape -- Natasha:
“I just want to capture this moment, a bit of a selfie moment.. Smile!”

KARA:
And so I chat to some to get a sense of how they’re feeling…

Archival Tape -- Kara:
“Can you explain your sign to me that you've bought? It's great.” 

Archival Tape -- Jack:
“Well, it says Hot Girl Summer should be seasonal because Hot Girl Summer is great, but it shouldn't be all year round thanks to climate change.” 

Archival Tape -- Kara:
“So how do you feel about this upcoming election?”

Archival Tape -- Adana:
“Ummm I… to be honest with you I am stressed…. I feel like we talk about it all the time actually a lot of people in our generation. I think this speaks to a lot of politics and how the government is handling everything. Have anxiety and it's it's genuinely, genuinely creates anxiety in me.”   

Archival Tape -- Adana:
“I think it's it's also says something that it's somehow fallen in the hands of young people because the older generation just isn't taking the initiative. And I think that's really frustrating and disappointing, literally.”  

Archival Tape -- Jack:
“Literally in the past two months, there's been massive flooding and like, what has Scott Morrison done?”   

Archival Tape -- Zoe:
“It's kind of been the main cause of like my anxiety, my whole life. Like, I think I've had anxiety since I was like seven.” 

KARA:
All these kids expect Scott Morrison to show up for them and listen to what they have to say. To the point that they were all crafting messages on their notes app just in case he shows up…

Archival Tape -- Zara:
“Ok so you’ve written in your notes exactly what you’re going to say?”

Archival Tape -- Kayla:
“Scott Morrison you cannot ignore us any longer, the climate crisis is at our doorstep and now we are at your doorstep… instead of taking responsibility you and your government have played the blame game…..ummm”

KARA:
But unfortunately all these notes app speeches were destined to be archived because Scott Morrison didn’t show up…. and politicians rarely do, to any protest, but it surprised me how genuinely they expected him to be there.

So I ask Natasha how she felt about not being able to confront Scott Morrison directly… 

NATASHA:
Well, I think kids are angry, like we have some stuff to say to him because so much has happened And, he’s not responsible but he has a responsibility to respond to all these things. 

KARA:
And that’s the thing, despite being directly responsible, politicians have never really shown up for these kids. 

NATASHA:
If there's someone who's meant to represent you and have your best interests at heart and they're not like doing that. Being a young person, I feel like we all have dreams and things we want to do but then the government destroy them. That’s so dramatic, like haha.

KARA:
But one thing that struck me was just how disillusioned some kids already are with politics. Politics on both sides. 

NATASHA:
It’s fairly obviously like, everyone sees Labor as the lesser of two evils when it comes to progressive policy, but they’re still pretty bad… 

KARA:
And… she’s not wrong, when it comes to climate change neither of the major parties are doing anywhere near enough… By 2030 - Labor is proposing to reduce carbon emissions by 43% while the Coalition has committed to somewhere between 26-28%...

But both of those targets fall seriously short of the Paris Agreement. 

In the weeks just after the school strike protest, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate  Change, the IPCC released the final part of their damning report… 

Archival Tape -- BBC News:
“Emissions of greenhouse gasses need to peak within the next three years”  

Archival Tape -- CNN:
“But time is almost out. We've got to peak carbon emissions before 2025, says the UN.”

KARA:
In a nutshell, the report said we’ve got three years… that’s the term of this next parliament…

NATASHA:
At least with Labor there is room to pressure on them, there’s room for them to do better. 

KARA:
So putting the pressure on political parties now going into this election is incredibly important to these kids… 

Archival Tape -- Kara:
“Will you be 18 by any chance by the election?”

Archival Tape -- Darcy:
“No I turn 18 after the election.…” 

Archival Tape -- Adana:
“Yes, I'm 18 next year, but I don't I still can't do anything in the next vote, you know, like it's and that's the one that matters”

KARA:
The problem is, none of these kids who’s futures stand to be so fundamentally impacted by the results of this election can vote and so they see these protests as their only option to make any real change.

NATASHA:
I'm still a minor and no, I can't vote. 

We just have to trust that the government is going to do what's in our best interest. 

KARA:
We’ll be back after this.

[Advertisement]

KARA:
Most kids I speak to can pinpoint the exact moment they began to feel their sense of climate anxiety. 

For a lot of them it was before they were ten years old. 

Natasha has been involved in the School Strike movement for years, and it’s really beginning to take a toll on her mental health.  

She can’t vote, and even if she could she feels like there isn’t too much that sets Australia’s two major political parties apart, so you can understand why she might feel hopeless. 

Archival Tape -- Documentary:
“Coral reefs are sometimes called the rainforests of the sea.” 

NATASHA:
I think when I was nine, I was hearing about climate change.I feel like I like, watched a documentary or like either in class or like some sort of video about global warming and then it freaked me out. 

Archival Tape -- Documentary:
“And if nothing changes, then within 15 years, nearly all the coral in the world will be in danger of dying and disappearing.”  

NATASHA:
I've definitely had a lot of existential thoughts when it comes to the climate crisis. And then it turns to like, Oh, it doesn't matter, I'm going to be dead because of climate change, and I just make jokes about it. 

KARA:
I wondered how someone who has had this climate anxiety their whole life consumes media? How Natasha escapes that.

As a coping mechanism Natsha spends a lot of time online looking at videos, there’s actually this whole section of the internet dedicated to whats called, “doomer videos.” 

Doomers basically believe the world is doomed because of human inaction, whether it be climate change, pollution or over population. But there are a lot of videos on tik tok for doomers… 

Archival Tape -- Tik Tok:
“Recently my nephew came up to me and started a sentence out with, when I grow up i wanna be… and I just started laughing a little bit because it was 70 degrees in december… you’re not growing up.” 

NATASHA:
Literally like existential jokes all the time, like sometimes we'll be talking and I'm like, Oh, yeah, like that would be so cool, like in 10 years. If I can do this because hashtag climate change like laugh out loud. 

Archival Tape -- Tik tok:
“Guys we did it we solved climate change… the Earth’s temperatures are going back to normal
Oh wow! That’s… great
Great? It’s amazing! You’re going to have a future
Yeah the thing is… I have no retirement savings
Wait what?”

NATASHA:
Like school strike like we have like we make like memes on Instagram. Wait I'm going to I'm going to read one that I find funny. It's funny when you see it, it’s basically just. 

Archival Tape -- Tik tok:
“My therapist says it’s perfectly  healthy to refresh news blogs about the climate disaster unfolding in Australia becasuse it helps you stay in control of the news cycle and you can seem smart when you’re really just chronically anxious.”

KARA:
So Doomers grew up in a time where technology was increasing exponentially, which means they’ve pretty much had unlimited access to a 24 hour news cycle and an internet’s worth of information for their entire life. 

NATASHA:
I think the genera Viewpoint that a lot of young people have, especially as the world is bad, the world is bad, and that that is a result of all this horrible news that we constantly get. Bad things happen all the time. 

Archival Tape -- ABC theme

KARA:
I remember back when I was a kid, the only news I watched was with my parents before dinner. 

Archival Tape -- ABC News:
“Tonight interest rates down again…I”

KARA:
We sat down in front of the TV and watched the news for exactly half an hour and when it was finished that was it. That was my entire news consumption for the day. 

Archival Tape -- ABC News:
And in the wake of the floods… ecological crisis on three north coast rivers. *theme out!*

KARA:
But for Natasha, things have changed… she’s exposed to news almost constantly in the form of push notifications, its on twitter… its in her emails its in her instagram feed… 

I have friends now, who are experiencing burnout and wanting to disengage  and disassociate from the media, but they’re in their mid 20s and 30s and they’ve been working for a decade…. Natasha is exhibiting the same feelings and she’s 17, and this is not uncommon. 

NATASHA:
I feel like I am currently burnt out, especially because I do so much like, I mean I’m in year 12, and I organise the climate strikes like I 100 percent like after March 25, like I was 100 percent burnt out from that. And also had school and, you know, a life on top of that.  

KARA:
But despite dealing with the responsibilities of organising the school strikes, finishing her final year 12 exams , getting into university…  and maintaining some semblance of a social life, Natasha feels compelled to keep going…. 

NATAHSA:
no one is telling me to be in school strike. No one is forcing me to do it, but I still do it for some. For some crazy reason, maybe climate change is the reason. 

Archival Tape -- Kara:
“How old will you be in 2030?” 

Archival Tape -- Jack:
“We’ll be 25.”

Archival Tape -- Kara:
“And how do you think about your life when you're 25? Like, do you have a vision of what you'll be doing?”

Archival Tape -- Jack:
“Well, honestly, I would just be able to live my life and not have to worry about constant floods or bushfires or, like, you know, rising sea levels or endangered animals….” 

Archival Tape -- Adana:
“Am I even going to have grandchildren to be able to like live on this planet or like, you know?” 

KARA:
In 2050, when Australia is promising to hit net zero, Scott Morrison will be 82. Barnaby Joyce and Angus Taylor will be 84, and Anthony Albanese will be almost 90. 

Our current sitting politicians will have retired.

But for these kids, these dates aren’t just hypothetical points in the future to attach policy to, they’re tangible dates that will be firmly in the middle of their lives. 

NATASHA:
So I'm assuming I will be I'll be a working girl by then. Then I'll have a job. I'll have finished university. I'll be. I'll be adulting. Hopefully, if climate change doesn't have anything to do with it 

KARA:
By 2050 and probably sooner, Western Sydney the area where Natasha lives, will almost certainly be seeing multiple over 50 degree days. 

Archival Tape -- News:
“It was the hottest day ever recorded in the Sydney basin. Incredibly, the mercury rising to almost 49 degrees in the city’s west.”

NATASHA:
Just in general like… How hot is it going be outside,am i able to go for a run?

Archival Tape -- News:
But the downpour has been heavy enough to leave a flood emergency in Western Sydney.  

KARA:
So when kids think about their future it’s not just about… where they’ll spend their gap year, and where they might work…. But now, they’re also thinking about how increasing extreme weather events will impact where they'll live and how they’ll live. 

NATASHA:
Will I live on the coast? Like, will it be underwater? Like if I live like inland, like my house, like going to burn down? likd

This is a serious problem. And hopefully, people in power can see that soon.

[Advertisement]

RUBY:
Also in the news today…

At Labor’s campaign launch in Perth yesterday, Anthony Albanese unveiled the party’s housing policy.

Under the 329 million dollar housing initiative, the commonwealth will take an equity stake in homes bought by some new home buyers.

The government would cover the cost of up to 40% of the purchase price of a new home, and up to 30% for an existing home.

And, in his regular address to the nation Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy warned Russia was trying to make areas in the east of the country ‘uninhabitable’ with its assault.

He also said Ukrainian forces had so far destroyed about 1,000 Russian tanks, 2,500 armoured vehicles, and almost 200 aircraft.

I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am, see you tomorrow.

From the front page

Image of Monique Ryan and family on election night

The end of Liberal reign in Kooyong

At the Auburn Hotel on election night, hope coalesces around Monique Ryan

Cover of Robert Lukins’ ‘Loveland’

‘Loveland’

Robert Lukins’ second novel takes a Brisbane woman to Nebraska, where an inheritance sparks a change in character as well as in fortune

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

OnlyFans and the adults in the room

The emerging OnlyFans community offering training and support to adult-content creators

Image of US President Joe Biden meeting virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, November 15, 2021. Image © Susan Walsh / AP Photo

The avoidable war

Kevin Rudd on China, the US and the forces of history

Online exclusives

Image of Monique Ryan and family on election night

The end of Liberal reign in Kooyong

At the Auburn Hotel on election night, hope coalesces around Monique Ryan

Image of US President Joe Biden meeting virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, November 15, 2021. Image © Susan Walsh / AP Photo

The avoidable war

Kevin Rudd on China, the US and the forces of history

Composite image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaking during the first leaders’ debate on April 20, 2022. Image © Jason Edwards / AAP Images

Election special: Who should you vote for?

Undecided about who to vote for in the upcoming federal election? Take our quiz to find out your least-worst option!

Image of the Stone of Remembrance at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Images

Remembrance or forgetting?

The Australian War Memorial and the Great Australian Silence