Tourists had some time to reflect on the future of Byron’s most popular attraction on Saturday afternoon, as Extinction Rebellion blocked the road leading to the lighthouse for just over ten minutes.
Brandishing a banner reading ‘Enjoy Byron while you can’, activists stopped traffic going in both directions and handed drivers flyers with information about Cape Byron or Walgun (‘The Shoulder’) as it was originally known.
Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Emma Briggs said reactions to the protest ranged from support to annoyance, with most motorists being patient, turning off their engines and waiting quietly until the road was cleared.
‘The Cape plays an important part in Arakwal Dreaming stories and was a special place for ceremony as well as providing precious food and shelter,’ said Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Emma Briggs.
‘Since 1828 when colonial cedar cutters first began setting up camps nearby, ecosystems have been decimated and burial sites, middens, scarred trees and ceremonial Bora rings have been destroyed by sand-mining and development.’
‘Thanks to the hard work of local Bundjalung people over the past decades, much of the cultural and natural heritage has been restored. ‘However now, along with every other ecosystem on Earth, Walgun faces its biggest ever threat as human-induced climate change brings rising sea levels, coastal erosion, extended droughts, lethal bushfires and devastating floods to our region.’
Ms Briggs said carbon dioxide concentrations were rising faster than at any other time in history and were at the highest level the Earth had experienced in three million years.
‘Together with pollution, land clearing and resource extraction, climate change has increased extinction rates by up to one thousand times,’ she said.
‘Governments are failing to stop the crisis from happening. Emissions keep rising and leaders are not hearing our demands for a serious and rapid response to this emergency.’
She said that, despite what opponents of XR might say, the movement was based on social science which had found that mass non-violent civil disobedience was the quickest and most effective way to achieve change on a large scale. ‘Like the Suffragettes and the Civil Rights movement, we resist our unjust systems and sacrifice our liberties in order to make ourselves heard,’ Ms Briggs said.