Issue 12 Editorial

A few weeks ago I was travelling to Lochinvar in the valley of the Hunter River in New South Wales. My driver had an encyclopaedic and absolutely fascinating knowledge of the geology, geography and history of the area. Expansive remnant sand dunes, weathered volcanic cones, ancient river flats, designated aboriginal country and indigenous plant species, including the woolami pine and native cedars, accompanied us. One of the recurring themes on our journey, in terms present day landmarks, was the 1955 ‘hundred year flood’ and its effects.

On arriving at my destination I couldn’t help but make connections between this woman’s love of her land, the numerous and huge bulk coal carrying vessels I had seen anchored off the port of Newcastle and the train lines along our route connecting these ships with the open cut coal mines to our north and west.

The juxtaposition of the natural rhythms of life in the ecosystem through which we had driven compared with the dangerous effects and implications of that gouging industry was stark. Huge machines heedlessly and in a comparative twinkling of an eye, extracting and destroying the work of Earth’s wisdom! Nature’s work of burying carbon eons ago to preserve an atmosphere for a flourishing biosphere in our time, was being undone in an instant. It seemed utter insanity. It felt like utter madness, especially as we know there are so many alternatives that mimic Earth’s ways and are totally renewable.

This is the issue being addressed in this edition of the journal – have humans gone mad? Are we so dislocated from our place of origin and belonging that we can participate in and perpetuate systems and practices that will bring about the destruction of that very place? Do we not understand that the whole planet is a commons: the water, the soil, the air are not commodities for privatisation and exploitation? They are the very source of life on the planet, for all species, and cannot be defiled for the profit of a very tiny minority of the human species.

In the feature article David Tacey explores the heart of the issue and questions Australian settlers’ dislocation from place in contrast to that of the first peoples of this land. He proposes that only a spiritual connection to land can bring about the moral conversion required to live in the presence of an indwelling mystery in whom all being exists and for whom Earth is sacred and the place of encounter with the Divine.

Australians are the highest greenhouse gas emitters on the planet and eminent thinkers and scientists including David Spratt, Graeme Pearman, Tim Flannery and Arnold Zable offer slightly varying approaches to the reality of Climate Change and the urgency of action on our part.

Caroline Smith calls for school based education to establish a high priority for ecospirituality as a means of enabling young people to fall in love with their home planet. Thus they will be unable to participate in its destruction. In the schools section we see the wonderful work already being done with students in this way. Similarly the Journey to the Murray pilgrims describes an interfaith appreciation of our land.

Peter Burdon begins our conversation on Wild Law and the need for us to extend the concept of rights beyond human societies to all beings in what Thomas Berry termed the ‘communion of subjects’. It is not only humans who will be facing extinction as a result of climate change! Indeed, as we read, species are becoming extinct at this very moment as a consequence of the impact on their habitats of western lifestyles.

Around the country, people like Lizette Salmon and Heather Marsh are exemplars of a deep commitment to initiatives that will bring about a transition from fossil fuel dependent economies to relocalization and revitalised communities.

As always we have interesting book reviews and other reflective pieces along with news of programs. In the Readers Forum you will find the results of the online survey in which readers of the last edition were invited to participate. You will see that we are facing some serious issues about the future of this journal and we very sincerely invite your responses and proposals.

Finally I feel the most poignant cry amongst these pages comes from Christina Ora, a young woman from the Solomon Islands where, like many other Pacific Islanders, she is facing the loss of her homeland to rising sea levels.  In her address at the closing session of the Copenhagen Assembly last year Christina said:

I am 17 years old. For my entire life, world leaders have been negotiating a climate agreement. They cannot tell me they need more time. There is no more time!