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A Reflection on the Fires


I think there are two lots of people for whom the fires have impacted our lives so it won't be the same ever again. 

Those like me hit by overpowering blankets of smoke for days or weeks, and watching from distance as friends and towns faced fires up front. 

Then there are those whose lives and treasures and dreams were torn away as they lived the nightmare. I don't think those of us who were not there can ever appreciate what this is like.

A letter from Christian bushfire evacuees

To: The Hon. Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment (dated 11 January, 2020)

Dear Minister 

We are writing to you to express our opposition to the Adani Coal Mine and to urge the Federal Government to take action to halt its development, pursuant to the 1992 Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment. 

The current bushfires are, unquestionably, a tipping point for environmental policy in Australia.  We speak as bushfire evacuees, having driven first from Eden to Canberra, and then on to Frankston South in Victoria.  The impact on our immediate family is also extensive – between us we have homes in Eden, Boydtown, Wonboyn, Nowra, Cobungra and Canberra, all of which have been affected or are still threatened by the bushfires.

When the Drosera Blooms - A Call to Living the Change

This blog was originally published on January 12, 2019 on Religica. In it, Philippa Rowland beautifully reflects on what it might mean to act in hope in a country now devastated by unprecedented bush-fires and drought.

Elders of many First Nations still maintain their lineage of understanding the ebbs and flows of the natural world and the interconnected web of all living creatures. This time of climate urgency calls us to respect and relearn the deep rhythms that hold all life in balance.

Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis O’Brien shares a saying: “When the Drosera blooms, fires will follow.” The logic is simple: when this tiny insectivorous sundew flowers in a wet spring, the higher rainfall also increases the undergrowth that fuels summer wildfires.

Australia is capable of so much better

It was mid-afternoon on December 31, the last day of the decade, but it was dark with clouds of smoke on the New South Wales south coast, with an eerie red sun peering through them. On the evening before, Samuel McPaul, a 28-year-old fire-fighter whose wife is expecting their first-born child, died while fighting fires. Two other “Firies”, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O'Dwyer, died a few days before. We are very sad for their families, but also grateful for their heroism.

Australia is facing a drought and bush-fire emergency so severe that no-one has ever seen anything like it.

Photo per kind courtesy of the ABC.

ARRCC Conference: Faith in action on the climate emergency

As fires burn across NSW and Queensland, people from diverse faith traditions considered their role in the climate crisis at the inaugural national conference of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC). The conference theme was “Faith in Action: a religious response to the climate emergency”.

Early in the conference, Professor Lesley Hughes of the Climate Council presented the science behind describing the current situation as an “emergency”. She demonstrated that the observable data on rising average global temperatures leads scientists to conservatively predict the kinds of phenomena as the unprecedented drought and fires that our fellow Australians are suffering today.

Pictured L to R: Dr Miriam Pepper, Assoc Prof Mehmet Ozalp, Prof Lesley Hughes, Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black. Photo credit: Thea Ormerod

ARRCC celebrates Time for Living the Change

Hundreds of people of faith have celebrated Time for Living the Change (Sep - Dec) in various capital cities, at gatherings organised by ARRCC. People affirmed each other in the steps they had already been taking towards more climate-conserving lifestyles, and challenged each other to think about further steps they could take. It was heartening to see how much people are already doing to reduce their climate impacts, and these were celebrated.

Air travel was acknowledged as particularly complex, so people interested in exploring this in a supportive context are being invited to participate in Grounding in Faith. The first webinar is being offered during Time for Living the Change by Renee Lertzmann in the US, who is well-known as a psychotherapist and climate communicator. See https://livingthechange.net/grounding-in-faith

credit: Julian Meehan

People of faith arrested at Adani's Carmichael site

Three religious leaders and three lay people were arrested on Thursday, September 5th, at the site of Adani’s proposed Coal Mine in Central Queensland. Reverend Alex Sangster, Dharmacari Tejopala and Dharmacari Aryadharma refused a move on order by police, along with Christians, Mark Delaney, James Thom and Angela Merriam.

Six other Christians joined them blocking work at the site and called on Mr Gautam Adani to abandon the project. The group held a religious ritual of prayer and song in the direct route of Adani contractors preventing them from entering the workers’ camp.

credit: Olivia Rousset

#NoFaithInCoal Open letter to PM signed by 153 faith leaders

More than 150 religious leaders from across Australia have issued an open letter calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to recognise Australia’s moral responsibility to avoid climate catastrophe and halt all new coal and gas projects.

The religious leaders span the spectrum of faiths and include the heads of the National Council of Churches, Muslims Australia, the Uniting Church in Australia and the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils as well as the Grand Mufti of Australia, Bishops, senior Rabbis and leading theologians.

The letter was organised by Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC).

“Australia is facing an unprecedented climate crisis, and stopping new fossil fuel projects like the Adani mine is a moral imperative,” said Thea Ormerod, President, ARRCC.

"Don't talk about Politics"

At a family BBQ last weekend the conversation tentatively moved to politics. There were a few assertions about how deceptive various politicians were, but the conversation quickly moved to safer ground.

Some cultures talk a lot about politics, but Australians tend not to - it’s seen as a private matter and not good BBQ-time conversation.

But with an election around the corner, I’m going to break that taboo! I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I would suggest that climate change needs to be front and centre as we decide who’ll get our vote this Saturday. If climate matters to you, see this scorecard for the major Parties, put together by the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Being spiritual people and #VoteClimate scorecard

ARRCC is not offering a scorecard as such for the 2022 Election, but we have outlined the climate policies of the various major parties and groups of candidates. Here's the outline.

Here's an article in Eternity magazine which simplifies the picture further. It's not difficult to see that the policies of the Coalition on climate action are much weaker than those offered by other major groups of candidates.


The content below was written for the 2019 election.

With a federal election on the horizon, how we vote as people of faith is very much a part of living authentic spiritual lives. Being spiritual does not give us an exemption from being “political”. Indeed, we are political whether we speak out or not, because to be silent when faced with injustices is to quietly collude, and is equally a political position. That’s why ARRCC regards it as important to offer a scorecard for people who want to make climate the key issue on which they vote.