Alicia Hall:
 Tackling climate change from a place of love, compassion and care

Alicia Hall founded Parents for Climate Aotearoa in 2019 to empower parents to take action on climate change. She has a background in mental health and wellbeing, community and environmental work and a Postgrad Cert in Leading Change for Good. Alicia is a strong advocate for climate justice, recognising the interconnection between social, environmental and climate issues. She also mentors fellow parents on how to talk with friends, family and children about climate change. Alicia was an Our Kids’ Climate (OKC) Fellow in 2021 – 22.

I grew up in Invercargill, New Zealand close to National Parks, waterfalls and caves and a petrified forest that is over a millions of years old. Naturally, I developed an early understanding of how interconnected we are with nature. I became aware as a teenager in the 90s of global warming and while I felt concerned, there was a sense of people acting on it through the Kyoto Protocol. The Paris Agreement was signed the year my youngest was born and then when she turned three, the 2018 IPCC report was released.  That changed everything. The youth of the world rose up and said “Hey adults! You need to do better!” I felt a serious responsibility to be part of that stepping up to do better! 

The global youth strikes led me to speak to my friends about climate change. As parents, we felt that it wasn’t fair to put the burden on our young people to push for the change we need. This is what led me to start the Parents for Climate Aotearoa in 2019.

I am from a country whose consumption and ways of living have fueled the climate crisis. In February 2023, 11 people were killed and 10,000 displaced by Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealan’s North Island. Just a few weeks before this, Auckland experienced an entire summer’s rain in a single day, causing unprecedented floods. Research suggests that we are likely to experience such events and this is frightening considering that 55,000 homes in Auckland are prone to flooding and another 76,000 across NZ in coastal areas are vulnerable to sea level rise and erosion.

We need to remember that we are part of the wider Pacific family and have a responsibility to do everything we can to reduce our emissions nationally and globally to halt the devastating effects of climate change on Pacific Island nations. The Solomon Islands have lost 5 reef islands to the sea already and more have been gravely eroded. This is not just a loss of land – entire communities along with their way of life are at risk of being lost. Families must make the heartbreaking decision to uproot themselves and seek safer places to live.

Therefore all the solutions we work on or advocate here must be seen through a climate justice lens that improves lives globally.

In 2021-22, I received the Our Kids Climate Fellowship. This enabled me to connect with mums from around the world and I loved the sessions with Akaya Windwood. She opened my mind and heart to different ways of being and gave me a whole new perspective that helped me make positive change in not only my leadership practices but also in my everyday relationships. For the first time in my life, I felt like a leader and was able to work through imposter syndrome.

I feel very strongly about working on ways to support parents who are experiencing eco-anxiety and the challenges that go with parenting in a changing climate. I experience climate anxiety too. Every. Single. Day. We want to normalize talking about climate change in our daily lives – what does it mean for us? What are the local impacts? What do inclusive community-led solutions look like? How can we work together through psychological barriers to change? It is a very powerful thing to be able to tell your story, and really listen to someone else’s.

In late 2022 we received funding to develop and run workshops for parents and others to learn how to talk about climate change with their children, friends and communities in constructive, solution focused ways. One of the challenges we face in our workshops is ideology – people being stuck in binary thinking, or how they think things should be done, or they want to “get” people to do things. There’s a myth that people don’t care when actually 8 out of 10 people in New Zealand are concerned about climate change and less than half know what to do. 

The biggest challenge right now is we have recently had a change to a right wing government supported by far-right coalition partners. Many election promises were made to reverse our climate change policies and undo much of the good progress we have made. More roading, car tunnels, motorways and less accountability from the agricultural sector. Using the funding set aside for climate mitigation and adaptation to fund minimal tax cuts.  Making people already negatively impacted by climate change and other social issues, more vulnerable and at risk. It’s very worrying and depressing. 

Still, it is our hope that our leaders will actually step up and keep the momentum going for the good changes we need. To make sure this happens, parents must work together on climate change issues because we are our children’s first advocates. We are in the trenches with them and it is our job to protect them and ensure they grow into a thriving healthy world. 

We don’t know what the future will bring, however acting from fear isn’t sustainable, so I actively chose to do my climate work from a place of love, compassion and care.  I choose active hope grounded in a faith in humanity. That faith gets very shaky at times, but I know we will get there and I know we can make the changes we need. The momentum is building even if it feels like we are losing ground sometimes; more and more people are becoming aware, and what is happening at a community level around the world is awe inspiring. My youngest child is my biggest cheerleader and she has such faith in me and other parents working hard around the world – that’s what keeps me positive, her faith in our collective parent power. I’m human, I have my dark days when I want to just give up and I am also a mum who has a deep faith and belief that we can and will do what climate action is needed.