"Benalla Sustainable Future Group (BSFG) wrote to Benalla Rural City Council last week, asking them to exercise their discretion to allow the image of Greta Thunberg to remain on the window of the Council Customer Service Centre.
The group wrote: "We view this painting as a powerful statement that here is a community that cares, not only about the present wellbeing of its citizens, but the future as well. Greta is a beacon of hope for millions of people, both young and old, around the world, and a hero for them as she challenges the world's leaders to take immediate and urgent action to mitigate climate change.
Climate change action is not a political issue, as some would have us believe. It is an environmental, social, economic and ethical issue, and we are right now experiencing one of the most devastating effects predicted long ago by climate scientists, as a result of the warming and drying of our part of the Earth.
We need to take a stand on the issue of climate change, and what better way can there be for Council to demonstrate their support for action, than to leave Greta's image on the window."
BSFG President, Peter Holmes, says the group is extremely disappointed with Council's response, in which they simply reiterated that the painting was part of the Window to Window Festival, and would be removed this week. He noted that none of the reasons BSFG offered in the letter to Council were addressed in their response, and hoped that this is not indicative of Council's attitude towards addressing the issue of mitigating climate change.
"Seven years ago, I was part of a community consultation group, organised by Council, to develop a Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Back then, we were probably thinking that the world had until about 2050 to make things right! Well, things have changed drastically, even in that short space of time, with temperature records being broken virtually every year, rainfall decreasing significantly, and now Australia is in the grip of a wildfire crisis that has cost at least 26 lives directly, burnt over 10 million hectares of forest and farmland, destroyed over 2000 homes and many more buildings, and killed an estimated 500 million creatures, many to the point of extinction," Mr Holmes said.
BSFG says that there is no longer room in our parliaments or local governments for debate about whether climate change is real. The discussion and the action must now be about urgently mitigating the causes of climate change, and not about "papering over the cracks" every time we experience another disaster. This discussion must be bipartisan, and above party political motives.
Mr Holmes indicated that BSFG believes, along with many others in the community, that an excellent way for Benalla Rural City to respond, is to declare that there is a Climate Emergency (as have 85 other local government councils in Australia). BRC should then convene a group of community leaders from business, health, energy, transport, environment, and most importantly, youth sectors, to work with Council officers to develop and implement initiatives that will rapidly make BRC a zero emissions community, and therefore make a major contribution to the mitigation of the worst effects of climate change."