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HomeOpinionEditorialGuest Editorial – February 2013:Dr Miriam Pepper

Guest Editorial – February 2013:
Dr Miriam Pepper

It was predicted to be a hot summer. And hot it has been indeed. Temperature records have tumbled across Australia – including the hottest day, the longest heat-wave, and the hottest four-month period.

Bushfires blazed at the start of the year in multiple states. Later, while fires still burned in Gippsland, communities in southeast Queensland and northern NSW experienced severe flooding – some for the second time within as many years.

Australia is one of climate change’s frontlines, and also a major source of its primary cause – fossil fuels.

While the mercury soared and the fires roared, Jonathan Moylan issued a fake press release claiming that the ANZ bank, which is bankrolling a massive new coal project at Maules Creek in north-western NSW, had withdrawn its loan. Whitehaven Coal’s share price plummeted temporarily before the hoax was uncovered.

The scale of fossil fuel expansion in Australia is astonishing. Already the world’s biggest coal exporter, planned mine expansion could see this output double. The implications locally for farmland, forests, human health and aquatic life as well as globally for the climate are severe.

I have previously had the privilege of participating with Moylan at coal protests. And at around the time of his ANZ stunt, John the Baptist was in the Christian lectionary. For me, the parallels between John and Jonathan have been striking.

John the Baptist lived in the wilderness. Jono the Activist has been camping for some time in the Leard State Forest near Maules Creek, at a Front Line Action on Coal mine blockade.

John got himself locked up by criticising the behaviour of Herod, the then ruler of Galilee. For making the announcement that ANZ should have made, Jono could now face a potential 10-year gaol sentence or a fine of up to $500,000.

When followers suggested that John the Baptist might be the Messiah, he pointed away from himself and towards the Christ that was yet to come. When the spotlight has been shone onto Moylan, he has repeatedly deflected the attention towards the resistance of the Maules Creek community and towards the impacts if the project goes ahead – the loss of farmland and critically endangered forest, the drawdown and potential contamination of the aquifer, the coal dust, the impacts on the global climate.

In a recent opinion piece, Moylan urges us to act: “We are living in a dream world if we think that politicians and the business world are going to sort out the problem of coal expansion on their own. History shows us that when power relations are unevenly matched, change always comes from below. Every right we have has come from ordinary people doing extraordinary things and the time to act is rapidly running out.”

Whatever our age, ability or infirmity we can all play a part in such change from below.

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