Advocacy vital to tackling climate emergency

By: Anna Rose, Clare Ainsworth Herschell & Arielle Gamble   |   Groundswell Co-Founders   |

Has this year got you thinking more deeply about what really matters? About the systems and paradigms that underpin our society and economy? About who makes decisions in society, and the basis on which they make them? About whose voices are listened to, and why? About power?

Left to right - Clare Ainsworth Herschell, Arielle Gamble & Anna Rose

From the summer’s bushfire crisis to the COVID-19 crisis, 2020 has forced us to re-examine many things - including the intrinsic relationship between human and planetary health, and the contribution we can make in our short time on this Earth. 

For many people asking these questions, one answer they’ve found is Groundswell, Australia’s first giving circle dedicated to funding strategic, high impact climate action. 

Until now, funding to climate advocacy in Australia has been despairingly low, with the environment and climate change receiving just 2.5% of all philanthropic giving. 

Groundswell was co-founded by two of Philanthropy Australia’s New Gen members, environmentalists and philanthropists Anna Rose and Clare Ainsworth Herschell, together with community manager Arielle Gamble. 

Since launching in February of this year, Groundswell has attracted almost 300 members, collectively contributing over $300,000 to fund strategic climate advocacy. 

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Scientists have warned our current trajectory of rising emissions leading to more extreme weather such as drought and bushfires will erode the essential foundations of human health: food security, stable water supplies, infectious diseases etc. 

Scientists have given us a ten-year window to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis. The good news is, the solutions already exist. The urgency is for us to accelerate and amplify them within government, industry, community and our homes to meet that timeline. 

That’s where Groundswell comes in. Each grant round, the Groundswell community decides together on which organisations will receive our $40,000 major grant and $10,000 small grant. There is no shortage of brilliant work within the climate movement, and our grant rounds are highly competitive - we have approximately 30 high-quality applications, and last grant round our small grant recipient won by just one vote! The tie-break often comes down to which organisations have the strongest political or strategic opportunity within the rapidly shifting social, economic and political landscape of the moment.

Back at the height of the bushfires in January, we awarded our first $50,000 grant to the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action - led by former NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins. This alliance of trusted voices was well-positioned to explicitly make the link for the Australian public and politicians between fossil fuel pollution, climate change and the worsening fire seasons. 

Our second grant round opened during the first wave of Covid-19. Groundswell members responded by awarding a $10k small grant to Climate and Health Alliance. Doctors and health professionals had the ear of the world, and Groundswell members identified their unique political opportunity to advocate for climate action with an explicit health lens. Their Patron, Australian Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Peter Doherty is among hundreds of leading Australian health professionals who have warned that climate change has the potential to cause more pandemics, from damage to natural ecosystems leading to increased contact between humans and animals carrying potentially deadly pathogens.

That same round, Seed Mob were awarded our $40k major grant to use the moment of respite afforded by paused NT fracking operations during COVID to build the power of Aboriginal communities to protect country and to pressure investors to divest from major polluters like Origin and Santos.

Our third grant round saw our members respond to the Morrison government’s proposed ‘gas-fired recovery’ by voting to award both grants to advocacy organisations fighting gas expansion. The major grant of 40k went to Lock the Gate Alliance, currently focusing on fighting the proposed Narrabri gas field in NSW. The small grant of 10k went to Clean State WA, with a particular focus on stopping WA’s Burrup Peninsula gas hub. 

We are energised by the enormous first wave of climate action our members have been able to fund so far. But we know that we can and must do much more.

Australia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that when we listen to experts and scientific evidence, we can take action early to prevent the worst from happening. As challenging as this year has been, the climate crisis remains our greatest existential threat.

It's up to all of us to actively be part of the solution.

From farmers in Gippsland to inner-city professionals, to parents, grandparents, and lifelong philanthropists, the diversity of Groundswell's membership reflects the unifying nature of the challenge we face and the necessity of cross-generational investment in climate action.

Climate advocacy organisations with the power to create systems change require our investment to scale up their impactful work in the short window of time we have left.

We invite you to join us in powering climate action as a Groundswell member.

Oct. 07, 2020

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