For Ben Holt, an education officer with the NGO ErinEarth in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, the threat of climate change is as real and personal as it gets.
In 2019, some of his family members were caught inside of a house as a bushfire burned all around it. Everyone came out okay in the end, but the terror of the experience hasn’t left him.
“Now, as a result of recent events, if there’s a day in Wagga that’s over 35 degrees Celsius [95 degrees Fahrenheit], I mark it on my calendar,” he says. “And that means I’m not going anywhere on that day. I won’t be going to the pub, or meeting friends. I won’t be doing anything that will stop me from being called out to a fire . . . My level of alertness has gone up, and its influence on my lifestyle as well.”
Through his work with ErinEarth, Ben is turning alertness into action, educating young people on how to live sustainably and reduce their impact on the planet at a time when the reality of the crisis has never been clearer in Australia. He’s also been instrumental in helping build public support for action in New South Wales, working to organize a climate rally in March 2019 and the Global Climate Strike march in September.
All these efforts have not gone un-noticed, with Ben recently named Wagga Wagga’s Environmental Citizen of the Year during the city’s Australia Day Awards.