Why I fight for Climate Justice

Why I fight for Climate Justice

To find out where your local Climate March is on 29 November visit the website

Uniting Church members wishing to march with like minded people visit the Uniting Church Uniting For Climate website

For Rev John Brentnall, protecting the environment is fundamentally about confronting injustice. And as a Christian, he sees a responsibility to do so.

“This is a social justice issue, as well as an ecological justice issue,” John says. “It’s a matter of justice for my neighbours – the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu, the farmers and residents –  and all other communities threatened by big, dirty coal.”

Inspired by Al Gore’s documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, John’s growing concern for the environment was transformed into action during his time as the Uniting Church minister in the Liverpool Plains. He witnessed first-hand the damaging impacts coal and coal seam gas (CSG) mining has on the environment, the local community and indigenous sacred sites.

In an area already spoiled by gas wells and coal mines, John says the proposed expansion of the Whitehaven mine spells destruction to the already devastated environment of Maules Creek and Leard State Forest. It will wipe out the last remnants of the White Box Forest and 70% of the Leard State Forest. It will destroy the habitat of nearly 500 species of flora and fauna, including around 28 endangered species. It also threatens our most precious life-giving commodity – water – by contaminating aquifers and lowering the water table from 2-7 metres.

If the environmental burden wasn’t bad enough, thousands of tonnes of toxic dust from the coal mine will blow across the surrounding land, contaminating farmland and homes. Local Gamilaroi elders claim that 10 of 11 sites have been bulldozed by Whitehaven and they have been denied access to sacred land, over which they have a native title claim for traditional ceremonies.

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(Pictured) John (second from left) and others from the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) protest outside one of the entrances to the Whitehaven Coal Limited mine site in the Leard State Forest at Maules Creek (June 2014)

In recent years, John has taken part in non-violent direct action with local groups to protest the Whitehaven mine and Santos’ CSG extraction in the Pilliga State Forest and surrounding farmland. He was arrested and charged in June 2014 when he locked on to three others during an overnight protest at the entrance to the Whitehaven mine with a group from the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change.

Underlying John’s commitment to fighting Whitehaven and Santos is his faith. “My Christianity accepts responsibility to tend the earth and its living creatures, both for our generation, and for generations to follow,” he says.

“Like many other Christians, I interpret the word ‘neighbour’ to include not just the people who live next door but all of humanity.  Not just the ones who are alive now, but the ones in the generations to follow.  I also include all living creatures and the environments in which they live, including the oceans and the forests.  By protesting about what is happening to the Leard Forest, I am ‘loving my neighbour’.”

Along with many other Uniting Church members and leaders, John will attend the People’s Climate March this Sunday to stand in solidarity with his neighbours, all living creatures, the oceans and the forests.

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(Pictured) John (left) and others protest outside the office of Santos Limited in Gunnedah (December 2013)

“This is our last chance to take action on a global scale to slow down the course of global warming,” John says.

“With a need to keep the rise to less than two degrees and having already reached one degree, this Paris conference must be successful. Hopefully the sight of millions of people marching all around the world will convince the politicians to have the courage to take real, meaningful action.”

Join John at the People’s Climate March this Sunday, 29 November, to stand up for creation and force meaningful, global action on climate change.

Kate Sharkey, Advocacy Officer, Uniting

To find out where your local Climate March is on 29 November visit the website

Uniting Church members wishing to march with like minded people visit the Uniting Church Uniting For Climate website

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