Refusing to profit from destroying the earth
On Thursday June 26th a group of eight Ministers and lay people from Uniting, Catholic, Anglican and Brethren Churches participated in civil disobedience in northern NSW. They included two grandmothers. Locking on to a device in the shape of a cross, they publicly prayed together and managed to stop mining equipment from entering the site for five hours. Four people were arrested including three Ministers.
This was the second such peaceful but direct action by religious people attempting to stall the development of a new open-cut coal-mine in the Leard State Forest. Similar actions by others at the site have led to over 200 arrests.
What prompts these actions, which some may see as extreme? And what might be the implication be for other people of faith?
The consensus among climate scientists is that the burning of coal and other fossil fuels is destabilizing the earth’s climate, yet there are plans to massively expand coal mining in Australia. Public concern has been increasing, especially since the month of May broke the previous record for days over 20 degrees. This comes after Australia’s hottest summer, breaking over 150 records.
Rev John Brentnall was one of the Ministers who was arrested, and is a Minister in the Uniting Church. He said, “Responsible people are trying to reduce their carbon footprint, but it doesn’t mean much if our coal is causing many times more emissions overseas than what we’re saving at home.”
“It’s the poor who suffer the most, through unpredictable weather, extreme weather-related events and rising sea levels. The rich are benefiting at the expense of the poor. This is an issue of social justice.”
Pastor John Carroll of the Brethren Church adds, “This is also a matter of intergenerational justice – will we not be judged harshly by future generations if we leave them infertile soil, poisoned water and irreversible destruction to our planet?”
Local people in Maules Creek have further concerns. Locals are upset about the loss of habitat for certain endangered species, loss of groundwater for farmers and the disrespect shown to indigenous rights of the Gomeroi Traditional Custodians. The Gomeroi have now had seven of their eleven sacred sites destroyed.
Whitehaven’s planned coal mine in the Leard State Forest is made possible by finance from the ANZ Bank among others. The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) is encouraging religious people holding accounts with the ANZ to write to the bank and ask them to stop investing in this project. If the answers are unsatisfying, perhaps it’s time to switch to banks which do not invest in the mining of fossil fuels.
This project is one of many coal, oil and gas mining projects causing similar destruction and similarly made possible by money invested by banks, super funds and other financial institutions. ARRCC encourages people of faith to move their money into banks and super funds which screen out investments in fossil fuel extraction. Small institutional trustees could also take steps, in phases, to divest from fossil fuels. Dozens of religious trustees have begun doing exactly that.
It’s time we align our money with our values and to refuse to profit from activities that are destroying the earth.
For more information, please see https://www.arrcc.org.au/go-fossil-free
Thea Ormerod, President, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change
Contact details for Thea Ormerod: email@example.com or 0405 293 466