Schoolgirl inspired by Laudato Si lobbies for environmental change

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Sophia Skarparis with her petition outside the NSW State Parliament. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Sophia Skarparis, a 14 year old schoolgirl from Monte Saint Angelo Mercy College, North Sydney, is petitioning the New South Wales state government to ban single use and heavy retail plastic bags.

Sophia told The Catholic Weekly she was inspired by the 2015 papal encyclical emphasising our responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation:
“I was inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si to create positive change for the environment,” she said.

The New South Wales state government is the only state in Australia that has yet to ban the use of single use plastic bags.

Sophia has already gathered over 1,000 signatures from students and staff from various Sydney high schools- as well as members of the public.
If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures, it will be read in parliament by her local representative, Gladys Berejiklian, the current Premier.

Sophia’s mother, Linda, said that the petition can be signed by people of all ages with a lot of support by Generation Z, who will be eligible to vote at the next state election:

“We have been receiving overwhelming support from participants especially from Generation Z who will be a significant voting base in a few years”
Sophia, a petition veteran, was already involved in a Federal Petition for climate change for the electorate of North Sydney to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 which has been tabled.

She is confident that her current petition will gather support in the New South Wales Parliament.

The Skarparis-Curtis family are parishioners at Our Lady of the Way Parish in North Sydney and active participants in the environment group which focuses on bringing the message of Laudato Si to life in parish activity.

Sophia’s petition will be circulating until the end of April and she will be present at the Northside Produce Markets April 7 (8am-12pm) to gather signatures from members of the public.

Sophia’s petition, as per New South Wales procedures, is paper only. For more information on the petition and to participate email [email protected]

Approximately 30 per cent of all plastic bag pollution comes from New South Wales, which is Australia’s most populous state.

Australia is home to some of the most diverse marine life in the world and the UNESCO heritage Great Barrier Reef.

Numerous scientists have warned that if the current use of plastic bags continues in Australia, the effect on marine life will be disastrous.