The Cairns Post

WE CAN ALL KICK GOALS TOGETHER

- TOM CAMPBELL

MOST AFL players are not known for being outspoken on environmen­tal issues, but that’s about to change as many of us have banded together to speak about one of the biggest challenges of our time.

The idea for AFL Players for Climate Action started back in the 2019/20 AFL preseason.

Pre-season is a gruelling time of year for any player. It is a relentless block of physical training aimed at priming us for one of the most physically demanding games on the planet.

As pre-season starts at the beginning of summer, players often check the weather forecast hoping training won’t fall on an extremely hot day.

But in the 2019/20 preseason, there was another forecast we were checking, the air quality index.

The Black Summer bushfires blanketed the eastern states with smoke and the air quality was so poor that health warnings were issued. It was even recommende­d people stay indoors in some places, or at least limit activity outdoors.

My teammates and I were in Melbourne, hundreds of kilometres from the fires raging across Gippsland and southern NSW. Yet in

January 2020, our club, and others, made the decision to move training indoors because of the hazardous air quality.

The smoke caused a minor disruption to our training but started a much bigger conversati­on with some of my teammates. We were shocked by the pictures of whole communitie­s evacuated and homes razed, and were devastated by the loss of life.

For the first time, I was hearing teammates talk about natural disasters and the role of global warming in these events.

The science is telling us that climate change, worsened by the burning of coal, oil and gas, will lead to more frequent and severe extreme weather events, including bushfires, heatwaves, droughts and floods.

Some of us were wondering what we could do as AFL players. My teammate Jasper Pittard and I decided to start learning more about climate change and how we could take action.

We were fortunate enough to be on a Zoom call with Emma Pocock, the founder and

CEO of Front Runners – a movement for Australian athletes from many sports who are passionate about tackling climate change.

We surveyed almost 600 AFL and AFLW players and found that more than 92 per cent are concerned about climate change.

We’re taking part in the solutions in our own lives and industry, from offsetting our carbon emissions from travel to encouragin­g our clubs to switch to renewable energy, and we are passionate about telling our stories.

We’re not climate experts but we listen to the experts, and they’re telling us the time to act to tackle global warming is now.

Not only do we want to help protect the people and places we love – from the city to the outback – we want future generation­s to be able to enjoy the game we’ve been lucky enough to play.

Tom Campbell played 54 AFL games for North Melbourne and Western Bulldogs and is the cofounder of AFL Players for Climate Action.

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