Extinction Rebellion

Trolley Trouble in Melbourne

Trolley Trouble in Melbourne

By Extinction Rebellion Australia, on 28 August 2022

A choreographed action with empty shopping trolleys drew attention to the impact of climate change on our food supply

Eight dollar lettuces are just the tip of the iceberg! This weekend’s action put the spotlight on increased risks of food insecurity as climate change brings on severe droughts, heatwaves, bushfires, floods and rapid changes to weather patterns.

Starting in Barkly Street Park, Brunswick, trolley drivers headed up Sydney Road, accompanied by music, percussionists (pots, pans and drums), banner holders and skeletons on bikes. Trolley formation dances at road intersections were followed by brief die-ins. Moving songs by the Climate Choir added a sombre note to what was otherwise an entertaining (though serious) protest. Sydney Road was blocked for 90 minutes in all.

Choreographed trolley dance

the photograph above and and all others in this news item are by Matt Hrkac

At the start of the action, Mischa from XR Northside welcomed everyone and acknowledged the ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for thousands of years, cared for the land, managed it, and cultivated crops like the Murnong or Yam Daisy.

Murnong was the main staple food for the Wurundjeri Aboriginal people until the mid-1840s, when the introduction of sheep almost wiped it out. Faced with starvation, Aboriginal people of the area were forced to hunt the sheep in order to survive.

Aboriginal peoples also managed populations of fish and eels and mammals. They cared for the land in sustainable ways that recognised the intersections between ecosystems and ensured the land and waters could continue to provide for future generations.

Mischa said “Today, our failure to take care of, and live in harmony with our environment is pushing all of us towards extinction, and we don’t have much time left.”

Die-in after trolley dance

Karin Xuereb, from Scientist Rebellion, talked about climate change and what it will mean for food prices. She said:

“The IPCC has warned that droughts, floods, and bushfires are expected to increase in frequency in a warmer climate and these events will impact on agriculture. Our food production and transport systems will get disrupted more often as extreme weather events increase in frequency.”

“The drought of 2018/2019 resulted in soaring prices of dairy and beef as farmers reduced stock of cattle. The floods this year contributed to high prices of vegetables. Trucks got stranded on the Pacific Highway in NSW leaving supermarket shelves empty. We have seen major disruptions to freight in South Australia, Western Australia and the NT due to floods in South Australia earlier this year.”

“Climate change is also affecting our oceans. Because as they absorb carbon dioxide, they become more acidic which means there is less oxygen for our marine life. This will affect the cost of seafood. A recent study in Nature Climate Change suggests that up to 90 % of marine species could become extinct if we do not limit warming due to greenhouse gases.”

Procession of trolleys in Sydney Road, Melbourne

“There are complex feedback loops in the global circulation systems that are practically irreversible. These feedback loops act such that when a part of the climate system gets triggered in one part of the world, it acts to heat up the earth’s atmosphere further which then continues to feed that trigger which will then lead to further warming. It is essential for our well-being that we put the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions and slow down these climate feedback loops.”

When the Trolley Trouble action halted at an intersection, Cat Macleod delivered a punchy rap on industrialised agriculture, including the lines:

Within our over-stocked shiny supermarket shelves
there are so many choices of one thing
Yet out in the fields there are so few varieties left
Where have the 6000 species of food gone
that we have cultivated over the centuries?
Down to just nine we have selected our way to a high noon of hell
The potato famines of old were not accidental
They were engineered by our speciesist selectivism
Our dangerous meddling and endless profiteering
If you are what you eat then we are beat
Not the best of the beets but definitely rooted
This menu of disaster is of our own making
when monopolies of agriculture just like any other
create profit out of over-cultivation.

Rebel banging a pan with a wooden spoon during the action

A little disruption of a busy shopping strip on a Saturday morning is minor compared with the disruption that will be caused by climate change. In their recent report on food security ‘Food Fight’ the Australian Security Leaders Climate Group describes climate disruption as an "existential risk to society". To mitigate this risk, they argue Australia must "prevent devastating climate impacts by mobilising all the resources necessary to reach zero emissions as fast as possible".


We also need investment in the right kind of development and food growing; in practices that regenerate our life support systems instead of destroying them.


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