Category Archives: Editorial, Comments, Essays, Letters



Against Morrison government EPBC changes, urges letters to Minister Sussan Ley.

Dear resident of Eden-Monaro,

Thank you for contacting me to raise your concerns about the Morrison Government’s amendments to Australia’s environment law — the EPBC Act.

Labor continues to oppose the Morrison Government’s environment bill, which will harm Australia’s natural environment and put jobs and investment at risk and we cannot afford to allow the alarming environmental decline that we have seen under the Liberals and Nationals.

As you know, Australia and Eden-Monaro have just experienced a devastating bushfire crisis. People died, thousands of homes were destroyed, 3 billion animals died or were displaced, 12 million hectares burned and populations of Australian icons like the koala are on the brink. Australia was experiencing an extinction crisis even before the bushfires.

If the Morrison Government is serious about securing broad support and durable reform they should introduce strong national environmental standards and establish a genuinely independent enforcement agency.

Together with my Labor colleagues, we will continue to hold the Morrison Government to account.

You might be interested in reading Terri Butler’s recent speech in Parliament opposing the bill —

If you would like to add your voice, I encourage you to contact the Minister for the Environment, The Hon Sussan Ley at:

The Hon Sussan Ley MP
Minister for the Environment
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600


Thank you again for taking the time to raise this important issue with me and for your advocacy for environmental protection.  I received a large number of emails about this important issue and apologies if this standard response does not address all the issues you have raised.


Kristy McBain MP
Member for Eden-Monaro
1/21-25 Monaro Street | Queanbeyan NSW 2620  |  02 6284 2442
1/225 Carp Street  | Bega NSW 2550 | 02 6492 0542

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal, Wiradjuri, Ngarigo and Yuin people as Traditional Owners of Country in the Eden-Monaro Electorate.

We recognise their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities and pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.

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Threatened species don’t just live in national parks

ploughed-canefield_© Glenn Jenkinson_dreamstime_CROPPED2

Private landholders hold the key to retaining biodiversity

Environmental research across Australia underlies this commentary and analysis by  Stephen Kearney, The University of Queensland; April Reside, The University of Queensland; James Watson, The University of Queensland; Rebecca Louise Nelson, The University of Melbourne; Rebecca Spindler, UNSW Sydney, and Vanessa Adams, University of Tasmania

OVER THE LAST decade, the area protected for nature in Australia has shot up by almost half. Our national reserve system now covers 20% of the country.

That’s a positive step for the thousands of species teetering on the edge of extinction. But it’s only a step.

What we desperately need to help these species fully recover is to protect them across their range. And that means we have to get better at protecting them on private land.

Our recent research shows this clearly. We found almost half (48%) of all of our threatened species’ distributions occur on private freehold land, even though only 29% of Australia is owned in this way.

ABOVE: Glenn Jenkinson, Dreamstime.

By contrast, leasehold land — largely inland cattle grazing properties — covers a whopping 38% of the continent but overlaps with only 6% of threatened species’ distributions. And in our protected reserves? An average of 35% of species’ distribution.

Land tenure categories across Australia. Circle size represents the percentage covered by each land tenure. The figure inside or next to each circle is the number of threatened species with over 5% of their distribution overlapping with that land tenure.

Why do we need more? Aren’t our protected areas enough?

When most of us think of saving species, we think of national parks and other safe refuges.

This is the best known strategy, and efforts to expand our network are laudable. New additions include the Narriearra Caryapundy Swamp National Park in northwest New South Wales, Dryandra Woodland National Park in Western Australia, and several Indigenous Protected Areas around Australia, which will ensure greater protection for some species.

But relying on reserves is simply not enough. From the air, Australia is a patchwork quilt of farms, suburbs and fragmented forests. For many species, it has become difficult to find food sources and mates.

Since European colonisation began, we have lost at least 100 species, including three species since 2009.

Almost 2,000 plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, with dozens of reptile, frog, butterfly, fish and bird and mammal species set to be lost forever without a step change in resourcing and conservation effort.

What we do on our properties matters to nature

Freehold land is home to almost half our threatened species. Species like the pygmy blue-tongue lizard (Tiliqua adelaidensis) and giant Gippsland earthworm (Megascolides australis) occur almost entirely on privately owned lands.

The pygmy blue-tongue lizard.  Nick Volpe.
The giant Gippsland earthworm.  Beverley Van Praagh.

By contrast, leasehold land overlaps with only 6% of species’ distributions. Though that might sound low, species like the highly photogenic Carpentarian rock-rat (Zyzomys palatalis) rely entirely on leased land.

The Carpentarian rock-rat.  Michael J Barritt.

What about the 1.4% of Australia set aside for logging in state forests? These, too, provide the main habitat for threatened species such as Simson’s stag beetle (Hoplogonus simsoni), which has over two-thirds of its distribution in state forests in Tasmania’s northwest. Similarly, the Colquhoun Grevillea (Grevillea celata) is known only from a state forest in Victoria’s Gippsland region.

Simson’s stag beetle.  Simon Grove.
Colquhoun Grevillea.  Wikicommons/Melburnian, CC BY

Even defence lands — covering less than 1% of Australia — are the only home some species have. Take the Cape Range remipede (Kumonga exleyi), known only from an air force bombing range near Exmouth, Western Australia, or the Byfield Matchstick shrub (Comesperma oblongatum), which survives in Queensland’s highly biodiverse Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.

The Indigenous estate across Australia intersects with almost all of these tenure types, and also has critical importance for half of Australian threatened species distributions as shown by previous research.

We need all hands on deck to keep our threatened species persisting

It is late in the day to save Australia’s threatened species, as climate change multiplies the challenges they face. If we are to have any real chance at turning the tide, we must do much more.

To staunch the heartbreaking flow of species into extinction means we have to actively manage multiple threats to their existence across many different types of land tenure.

Logging of native forest and some methods of intensive farming continue to endanger many threatened species, particularly those which rely on these land types for their survival.

Over 380 threatened species have part of their range in land set aside for logging. It should be no surprise that logging is a key threat for 64 of these endangered species.

How can we achieve better conservation outside protected areas?

Many landholders are acutely aware of the species they share the land with, and are already taking action to protect them. One key method is the use of land partnerships, in which landowners and custodians work with conservationists.

Take Sue and Tom Shephard, who run a large cattle property on Cape York. Their station is home to some of the last remaining golden-shouldered parrots (Psephotus chrysopterygius). The Shephards are working to bring the species back from the brink through careful management of grazing, fire and feral animals.

Similarly, the work of hundreds of rice growers is helping save the endangered Australian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus). Every year, up to a third of the remaining population descends on New South Wales rice fields to breed. Rice farmers are accommodating these birds by ensuring there is early permanent water, reducing predator numbers and boosting their habitat.

We’re seeing successes even on defence force land. The Yampi Sound Training Area in the Kimberley is a biodiversity hotspot. A partnership between the Department of Defence and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy is helping protect these species alongside defence force use. This model could be rolled out across other areas of defence land.

What’s stopping more people taking action?

While many landowners may want to help, financial constraints, a lack of knowledge or concerns over implications for resale of the land can be barriers.

If we want to encourage more landowners to directly conserve species on their land, we must begin by understanding what they want. Only then can we design initiatives to help these species, as well as benefit and engage landowners.

What does this look like? Picture financial incentives to join conservation programs. Or workshops where landowners can see the very real benefit to their own land by reducing erosion, keeping rabbit numbers under control, protecting waterways from silt or water-sucking introduced trees, or reducing wind and dust through setting aside land for trees.

If a farmer or landowner can clearly see the benefit for wildlife and for their own use, they are much more likely to take part.

Incentives don’t have to be financially based, either. If landowners understand what works and feel capable of action after training, and have technical support and assistance to draw on, they’re more likely to start down the path of making their land more friendly to threatened species.

If we really want to protect our species, we must do more to bring in Australia’s farmers, landowners and other custodians of land. We cannot rely on protected areas alone. We need to make the land safer for our species most at risk, wherever they occur.

CSIRO’s Josie Carwardine and Anthea Coggan contributed to this research.

Stephen Kearney, PhD student, The University of Queensland; April Reside, Lecturer, The University of Queensland; James Watson, Professor, The University of Queensland; Rebecca Louise Nelson, Associate Professor in Law, The University of Melbourne; Rebecca Spindler, Adjunct Professor, UNSW Sydney, and Vanessa Adams, Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Geography and Spatial Sciences, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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We live in a time of climate breakdown with no moral leadership


But we can take action

“ While we’re stuck inside our homes, we can effect change by putting our money where our mouth is and ending the fossil fuel era.

SIX YEARS AGO I found myself trying to find shade from the mid-morning sun while having a chat with a farmer, Rick Laird. We were chained together, six metres above the ground, on the deck of an enormous super digger in a clearing in what would become Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine.

I had gone up to Maules Creek to show solidarity with the community protesting against the mine; to add my voice to the hundreds of others who joined the Leard blockade and had been arrested. From farmers to uni students, scientists and university professors, and the unforgettable 92-year-old second world war veteran, Bill Ryan. There I met Rick. A farmer, father and volunteer firefighter who had never taken part in any climate action before.

SEEN ABOVE: David Pocock with farmer Rick Laird. (District Bulletin archives, December 2014, p1; via

Rick is a fifth-generation farmer; Leard state forest, 8,000 hectares of box gum woodland between Narrabri and Boggabri in the north-west of New South Wales, was named after his forebears. The coalmine we were trying to stop is just a few kilometres from his property and 4km from his kids’ school. Rick grew up on and around the rugby field, so he swung past the blockade camp in the morning to satisfy his curiosity about me being there. We chatted about farming, life in the country, his family and their ties to the area. Then we talked about the mine. He explained how he thought it was going to affect his farm, his community and his kids’ lives. He came back later in the day and we talked over lunch. I could sense we were both grappling with how to respond to these challenges. How do you make decisions? What are you willing to do in the face of injustice? The next day we locked on together.   CONTINUE READING

RELATED STORY:  Destruction of the Leard and threat to the Pilliga concerns everyone.  Maria Taylor. The District Bulletin, March 2016. pp7–10.


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For some evangelical Christians, climate action is a God-given mandate


Does the Bible say to “subdue” the earth, or to care for creation?

THE FIRST TIME I interviewed Matt Humphrey, we were driving in his pickup truck through southern British Columbia, passing fields and forests, only three miles from the U.S. border. Humphrey, then 31 years old, is a father of three and an evangelical Christian with a keen appreciation for the Bible. He is also an environmentalist, one who believes fighting climate change is a moral duty.

FEATURE IMAGE: Amelia Bates / Grist

On the 18-acre property we were heading to, Humphrey and others from an evangelical Christian group called A Rocha (pronounced a-RAH-shah) were growing organic crops, running Bible workshops, and helping young people get out in nature to study species like salmon in a river that flowed through their land. It’s called the Brooksdale Environmental Centre, and Humphrey, 6-foot-3 with a broad smile, was its assistant director at the time. I’ve been in touch with Humphrey for a few years, and it was on our drive to Brooksdale that he first described his faith to me — and how it shaped his environmentalism.

“I don’t want to claim that Christianity gives the best understanding of the environment,” he said, “but for those who are claiming to be Christian, part of that discipleship involves a relationship with creation.”

Spend time with Christian environmentalists and you’ll hear the word “creation” a lot. It refers to the biblical story of Genesis, in which God created the world in seven days, forming the oceans and forests, plants and animals, before crafting the first humans. Evangelical Christians take the Bible more literally than most; yet they haven’t always been as serious about protecting what God made. Growing ranks of younger evangelicals, however, along with members of organizations like A Rocha, see themselves more as stewards, grounding their concern for nature and the planet in the Bible. They view their environmentalism as caring for creation. If God made the planet and all that’s in it, the reasoning goes, shouldn’t pains be taken to protect it?

For most American evangelicals, the answer is far from clear. Around a quarter of Americans — 84 million — call themselves evangelical Christians. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority lean Republican and don’t buy the science behind man-made climate change. White evangelicals in particular are among the least likely to accept the science: Only 28 percent believe humans cause global warming. This has vast implications for politics as well as getting policies in place to tackle the growing crisis. Some 81 percent of white evangelicals in 2016 voted for Donald Trump, who then spent four years in the White House trying to tear down a half-century of environmental protections. In last year’s election, 75 percent of them wanted to give him another four years.

Humphrey grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and moved to the coast to study at Christopher Newport University, a public, secular college in Newport News that drew many evangelical Christians from the region. “I went to college during the [George W.] Bush years,” he said, “when to be a Christian often meant having an American flag decal on your car.” Humphrey understood the evangelicals who doubted established science better than most, but when we caught up recently, he told me even he didn’t see 2016 coming. “I was frankly surprised by the success of Trump,” he said. Some friends back home expressed skepticism over his involvement with A Rocha and environmental issues. One told him that environmental groups were part of a sinister plot, led by Al Gore, to seize power.

Many younger evangelicals, however, are open to new ideas and appear to accept the scientific evidence. One Pew study found a majority of evangelical millennials support stricter environmental laws, and groups like Young Evangelicals for Climate Action are leading the charge.

Humphrey has straddled these two worlds — right-wing politics and evangelical environmentalism — and it provides him with a unique perspective, as well as a potential bridge. He’s part of a group of evangelicals who, with their embrace of mainstream science, conservation, and environmental protections, don’t fit the conservative stereotype.

THE DEFINITION OF of “evangelical” Christian isn’t always clear-cut. In popular usage,  it includes Protestants who take the Bible very seriously, as much more than a collection of parables and ancient history. But it may also encompass those who emphasize the redemption of Jesus’s crucifixion, believe non-Christians need to be converted, and that faith shouldn’t be divorced from politics.

One thing many American evangelicals share is a skepticism of climate science for reasons that include theology, politics, and a hostility to the theory of evolution. Darwin’s theory, of course, suggested that humans evolved over millennia through natural selection and shared ancestors with modern apes, an idea which can’t be easily squared with a belief that the Book of Genesis is a fact-based origin story.

In 1925, the Scopes “Monkey” Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, pitted a high-school teacher and football coach, John Thomas Scopes, against the state, which had a law on the books that prohibited him from teaching evolution. The media coverage of the case cast fundamentalist Christians as backward and anti-intellectual. The jury found Scopes guilty, but evangelicals lost in the court of public opinion: The stigma stuck, and many grew even more skeptical of science and scientists.

While Darwinism helps explain some American evangelicals’ aversion to science, it’s politics that best explains their aversion to climate science. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan promoted evangelical views in exchange for votes. In doing so, a decades-long alliance was formed. As evidence accumulated that humans were heating up the planet, that relationship meant evangelicals were in lockstep with Republicans when climate change became a charged partisan issue. In the early 2000s, a leading GOP strategist, Frank Luntz, wrote a now infamous memo advising the party and then-President George W. Bush to push the line that the consensus around climate change was still up for debate. “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled,” he wrote, “their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue.” For many evangelicals, a hostility to climate science became a badge of identity. (Luntz, however, would later make an about-face.)

How strong are these political influences? For a large segment of evangelicals, “their statement of faith is written primarily by their politics, and only secondarily by their faith,” said Katharine Hayhoe, the prominent climate scientist and herself an evangelical Christian, who was named one of Time Magazine’s most influential people for her work bridging divides. “If the two come in conflict, they will go with their politics over what they claim to believe.”

But there remains a large segment of “theological evangelicals,” she told me, “whose statement of faith is written by the Bible.” Those are the people Humphrey wants to reach.

IN 1967, the historian Lynn White Jr. published a short essay in the journal Science. “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis” argued that the Christian worldview could be blamed for the rapid pace of environmental destruction. White wrote that the biblical story of creation gave Christians an impetus to dominate the land. Genesis, after all, called on people to “subdue” the Earth and to have “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air.” It was God’s will. White wrote that this dogma entrenched the idea that the natural world served no purpose “save to serve man’s purposes,” which influenced the development of modern technology and the ecological crisis it wrought.

White already saw climate change as a consequence of this worldview. “Our present combustion of fossil fuels threatens to change the chemistry of the globe’s atmosphere as a whole, with consequences which we are only beginning to guess,” he wrote.

The essay set off a debate that still burns today. Reams of papers were written for and against, it remains a staple on university reading lists, and it helped shape the field of environmental ethics. The essay also prompted soul-searching among some Christians, leading them to ask how they could embrace the growing environmental movement. “It really is amazing how influential these five pages from the journal of Science were,” Humphrey said, “and I think that’s because many of White’s arguments struck a chord.”

Over the next half-century, many Christians imbued their faith with a concern for the natural world. To counter the idea of “dominion,” they went back to the book of Genesis. The same story, they said, asked people to “work and take care of” the land, and to “let the birds increase on the earth.” Rather than interpreting the story of creation as a license to dominate, these Christians consider it a call to protect and steward the landscape.

a garden scene with people bending down and tending to green plants

A Rocha volunteers plant native species as part of a restoration project along the Little Campbell River in Surrey, BC. Alyssa Schroeder

A Rocha was founded in Portugal by two British evangelicals, Peter and Miranda Harris, in the 1980s. (A Rocha means “the rock” in Portuguese.) Near the estuary of the Ria de Alvor on the southern coast, home to 150 bird species, the Harrises collected data, conducted research, and protected a variety of birds. Today the organization they started has projects in more than 20 countries, including the United States, Lebanon, Uganda, and Peru.

In his 2008 book Kingfisher’s Fire, Peter Harris laid out the connection between his faith and the organization’s conservation efforts, an explanation rooted in both science and caring for God’s creation. “We believe our data can contribute to the survival of the habitats and species we are studying,” he wrote. “Our work for the care of nonhuman creation is important to its Creator.” A Rocha’s moderate evangelical culture also stems, in part, from its British roots, where the atmosphere is less politically charged compared to the United States.

Hayhoe, who has spoken at A Rocha’s events and acted as an advisor to the organization, thinks the Bible makes this responsibility clear. “If we really take the Bible seriously, we would be at the front of the line demanding climate action,” she said. “For somebody who is, at least, even partially a theological evangelical, who actually takes the Bible seriously, that is a huge point of connection.”

OVER THE YEARS, Humphrey’s own environmental awareness increased through his work as a guide in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, and by reading stories of ecological destruction in magazines like Orion and Mother Jones. Theology and the Bible also later shaped his environmental worldview. And one day, not far from the Brooksdale Environmental Centre, I visited the Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford to watch Humphrey give a presentation on what’s known as ecotheology.

In front of students in their teens and 20s, Humphrey tried to provide what he rarely had when he was younger: a biblical perspective, free from partisan politics, that embraced the scientific consensus around climate change and other environmental issues. The room was packed, and I turned to a young couple behind me, Glenn and Katie, to chat. For two people at a weekend talk on ecotheology, they were pretty skeptical about the subject. “I wouldn’t want my faith to enter my activism, because I’m ashamed of the damage Christianity has caused over the centuries,” Katie said.

Humphrey also harbors his share of doubts. He would be the first to tell you that people have used the Bible to justify horrible acts. But he also thinks that Christians shouldn’t be bystanders to modern ecological calamities, and that the Bible might be used to inspire Christians to care for God’s creation. To illustrate this, he told the students about the story of Naboth’s vineyard.

In the Book of Kings, a man named Naboth was pressured by a wealthy king, Ahab, to sell his land. Naboth refused because the soil provided food for his family, and the land was an inheritance from his ancestors. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, then set up an elaborate ruse which wound up with Naboth being executed and King Ahab getting the vineyard.

Humphrey described this story as a struggle between a defiant farmer and a military ruler, and he believed this theme of resistance echoed through other biblical stories in which agrarian people, in tune with the land and the seasons, often had to fight powerful Ahabs to protect what they had. He then drew a parallel to modern times, describing how, around the world, land and natural resources are often degraded and commodified by powerful people who put profit before the needs of local communities. “We therefore need, now more than ever, to recover the deep sense of our membership within, and dependence upon, creation,” Humphrey said. “And we need to put this into practice with concrete social and ecological action.”

After he finished, the room buzzed with chatter, and I turned back to Glenn and Katie to get their reaction. This time Glenn chimed in: “You don’t often hear it said in this way, or with a call to action like that.” Similar to Katie, though, he was hesitant about mixing theology with environmental activism, and wondered if pointing to Bible passages for support was the best idea.

“It’s encouraging to know that there are parts of the tradition that can be helpfully appropriated, but you can’t paint the whole Bible with the same brush,” Glenn said. “I think some parts of the Bible are downright problematic. For example, Naboth’s vineyard is an awesome challenge to power, but there are many other instances where people acquiesce to power.”

SOME, LIKE KATIE and Glenn, might be wary of involving religion in environmental discussions. After all, Christianity and Islam famously battled with science, and deeply religious civilizations destroyed their natural environments. Yet the reality is that religions still shape how a majority of people view the world. Muslims, Christians, and Hindus together represent 5.2 billion people, or two-thirds of the world’s population.

For evangelicals concerned about climate change, questions of morality seem to weigh as heavily as those of science. Humphrey doesn’t only care about nature or creation — the scorched forests and the melting polar ice caps — but also about the human fallout from climate change in the decades ahead: Rising seas destroying the homes of millions around the world, devastating droughts causing millions more to go hungry. He often worries about how people will respond when confronted with this version of the future.

“What sort of people will we be if the CO2 in the atmosphere isn’t easy to fix? What sort of people will we be if things get hard, like scary hard?” Humphrey asked me. “What will hold us capable of living lives of justice and love and goodness for the vulnerable, once the illusion of safety and affluence slips?”

Humphrey, at least, thinks the Christian church can help answer these moral questions. For others, it could be Islam, Judaism, or another religion. As climate change inflames divisions in society, people like Humphrey believe the response requires not just solar power, electric cars, and mass transit, but also teachings of love, prayer, and forgiveness.

A woman in a red headband and shirt holds her hands under her chin while leaning forward on a table. She is listening to a man with graying hair and a plaid shirt as he gestures with his hand mid-sentence.An A Rocha volunteer takes notes during a brainstorm on religion and biodiversity at a leader’s forum in Portugal.


LEFT: A Rocha volunteers discuss ideas and strategies at a 2015 A Rocha Leader’s Forum held in Portugal.
RIGHT:  During the same forum, a volunteer takes notes during a brainstorm on religion and biodiversity (right).
Photos by Melissa One / A Rocha International.

It was in this spirit that more than 70 Christian leaders, climate scientists, and government officials gathered in 2002 at the University of Oxford to discuss the threat of global warming and how to reconcile their response with Christian imperatives, as Katharine Wilkinson described in her book, Between God and Green. Drawing on both science and ecotheology, they produced the “Oxford Declaration on Global Warming.” It urged Christians to confront climate change, for scientific reasons as well asmoral ones. After all, the effects of climate change, like severe drought, storms, and rising sea levels, disproportionately hurt the world’s poor. To “love thy neighbor as thyself,” they reasoned, should also mean to help them.

This shift in thinking and growing public concern for the environment opened the way for the Evangelical Climate Initiative and its 2006 “Call to Action.” Similar to the Oxford Declaration but with a focus on evangelicals, the “Call to Action” brought formerly reluctant evangelical leaders together over climate change. The statement acknowledged that they took a while to accept the seriousness of the crisis, but ultimately they were “convinced that evangelicals must engage this issue.”

Megachurch pastors with tens of thousands of followers, like Joel Hunter and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, soon signed on. This evangelical movement has faced a backlash from many congregations across the country, and it hasn’t broken the connection between climate-denying Republicans and most evangelicals, but new ways of thinking have taken root.

With an audience of billions, pastors like Hunter and Warren, along with priests, imams, and rabbis, could be powerful advocates for climate action. In a 2016 essay, two religious scholars at Yale University, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, considered the role of religious leaders in spurring social change over recent decades, whether in movements for civil rights or in advocating for the poor. “Although the world religions have been slow to respond to our current environmental crises, their moral authority and their institutional power may help effect a change in attitudes, practices, and public policies.” they wrote. Tucker and Grim, a married couple who founded the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale, then issued a challenge: “The individual religions must explain and transform themselves if they are willing to enter into this period of environmental engagement.” They concluded that, if this is done, religions could “empower humans to embrace values that sustain life and contribute to a vibrant Earth community.”

Part of this engagement, Hayhoe argues, involves nurturing a sense of hope. In 2017, the American Psychological Association first defined the term “eco-anxiety” as a “chronic fear of environmental doom,” and it’s on the rise. In a survey of British schoolchildren last year, one in five reported having nightmares about climate change. Many can relate: Just staring at charts of rising global temperatures can engender a sense of dread. In her 2018 TED talk, viewed 4 million times, Hayhoe described the consequences of giving in to despair, a gloom that leaves people paralyzed. “Fear is not what is going to motivate us for the long-term, sustained change that we need to fix this thing,” she said.

When I talked to her, Hayhoe was adamant that nurturing hope can be as simple as getting out and doing something. “We know that what gives us hope is action, whether it’s seeing others act, hearing about others acting, or acting ourselves.”

Humphrey, for instance, has continued working with A Rocha, focusing on theological education, but he has also, along the way, become an ordained minister. He now lives and preaches in Victoria, British Columbia, and with a group of friends, he founded the Wild Church Victoria. On weekends, members hike local mountains, through grasses and Garry oak forests; or they visit nearby beaches and walk along pebbled shores. Outside in nature, surrounded by creation, they read scripture and practice their eco-conscious faith.

IT WAS AT BROOKSDALE where I saw A Rocha’s efforts to put creation care into practice. Along the Little Campbell River, which runs through the property, the Salish Sucker, a small, freshwater fish once thought locally extinct, was rediscovered thanks to A Rocha’s watershed monitoring. This blend of science, conservation, and Christian faith seemed so at odds with the popular conception of anti-environment evangelicals.

“A Rocha beautifully embodies how we can care about people and places in a way that genuinely reflects God’s love,” Hayhoe told me. “I think that genuine reflection of love is what attracts people to them.”

Back when I first spent time with Humphrey, riding in his truck through forests near the U.S. border, he drove us to a lumber yard to buy slabs of wood for an outdoor shelter. When we returned to the Brooksdale farm, the cedar planks jutting from the back of the truck, the property’s large garden and grassy fields came into view, ringed by a forest of tall conifers and a gentle, meandering river.

A lush green garden scene with rows of vegetables planted on a green lawn and a wheelbarrow in the foreground.

A wheelbarrow stands in front of the gardens at Brooksdale Environmental Centre. Courtesy of A Rocha Canada

Perhaps this proximity to nature, along with the experience of growing food and protecting wild species, helps raise awareness about the threat of climate change and the destruction of the natural world. This is hardly a novel idea, as a growing body of evidence shows that connection with nature is linked to a desire to protect it. But in an era when our eyes are glued to the mini-computers in the palms of our hands, contact with nature, a fact of life for millennia, can seem radical.

For the next couple of hours at Brooksdale, I stuck around to help build the shelter for their outdoor oven. The sound of a radial saw slicing through beams of wood filled the air. We were soon drilling nails into rafters and attaching them to boards that ran along the shelter’s peak. By the fifth or sixth board, we had the hang of it, and fell into a routine of eye contact, head nods, and reassurances of “good enough.”

Humphrey told me that A Rocha didn’t have a church. But it seemed to me that here, at Brooksdale, the volunteers were constructing a place of significance surrounded by nature: a large wooden shelter around an oven hearth, where food grown in the fields would be cooked, in acknowledgment of Earth’s wonder, the fish and the birds. What they call creation.



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Wild lives and broken promises: Why are kangaroos deemed ‘killable’?


IT IS LIKELY that, since the beginnings of human time, people have known animals think, feel, and suffer. In 1789, Jeremy Bentham famously claimed, “The question is not, Can [animals] reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?”

Legislation, however, moves slowly. The EU recognised animal sentience only in 1997. Germany, the first European country to enshrine this recognition in its constitution, did so in 2002. Australian governments, so far, haven’t been keen to talk about it.

On the face of things, the ACT Legislative Assembly’s recognition of animal sentience in September 2019 would seem something much to be celebrated. Animals, it states, “are sentient beings … able to subjectively feel and perceive the world around them”; they “have intrinsic value and deserve to be treated with compassion and have a quality of life that reflects their intrinsic value”; “people have a duty to care” for their “physical and mental welfare.”

The Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Act does many good things — among them reducing the time within which one must report discovery of an injured (suffering) animal, such as an animal one’s had a collision with, from twenty-four hours (during which period most will have died) to two (giving some of them a chance), and the provision of a prison sentence of up to three years for wilfully killing an animal.

How, then, can it be that even as Australians reel from the death of nearly a billion wild lives in the fires that ravaged south east Australia just months ago, the ACT government has just signed a five year contract for the annual kangaroo cull? Last year a record 4,035 kangaroos were shot. There’s a target of 1,960 this year. The first shots were heard a little over a month ago, and the shooting will continue until August. In the ten years of these culls, some 20,000 kangaroos have been killed, not including pouch joeys (add one third more), or 14,000 kangaroos slaughtered by the Department of Defence, under licence from the ACT.

The ACT justifies these culls as maintenance of biodiversity, protection of endangered species (of plants, birds, small reptiles), and protection of biomass from overgrazing. These justifications don’t hold up well to scrutiny: endangered species have been safely sequestered; biomass has survived — so well, sometimes, that cattle have been brought in to graze it down — and documents supposedly supporting the culling have not really done so. In evidence to a 2013 hearing of the ACT Civil and Administrative Services Tribunal, an expert witness previously engaged by the ACT suggested the biodiversity justification was a public relations exercise. In a 2015 letter to The Canberra Times, the minister then responsible conceded the real reason for the cull was Canberra’s relentless expansion into kangaroo habitat. Even the CSIRO has expressed qualms.


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Australian govt earns tick for stance on wildlife consumption


But there is a question back home.

YOU MAY OR may not have kept up with the recent Foreign Affairs uproar that merged into current Chinese tariff barriers on Australian agricultural imports? Well at the baseline of what became an Australian, US and Chinese bunfight, was a simple request for an independent enquiry into the biological source of the current coronavirus pandemic.

That was articulated by the NSW Agriculture Minister David Littleproud in the first instance back in March/April. He went on radio programs and sent press releases with statements like this:

“There are risks with wildlife wet markets and they could be as big a risk to our agricultural industries as they can be to public health so we have to understand them better.

“The G20 of Agriculture Ministers have a responsibility to lead the way and draw on global experts and engage international organisations to rationally and methodically look at the many significant risks of wildlife wet markets.

“Our people should have confidence that the food they eat is safe. We owe it to our domestic population and our international markets.”


The wet (meat) market at Langfang near Beijing. Photo: Giuolia Marchi, for The New York Times.

Indeed, more on that in a moment.

While Australia got mired in trying to define what a ‘wet market’ is; and whether coronaviruses are weaponised in shady biological laboratories; and whether the World Health Organisation was an accessory to this devious plot, the Australian Agriculture Minister was in no doubt of what to look at.

It was the wildlife trade adjunct to fish and meat markets at the epicentre of the problem. Here was a conduit for zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 jumping from animals, say bats, sometimes via an intermediary host, possibly civet cats [our feature image above, photo by Weerapat Kiatdumrong, on Dreamstime] or pangolin sold at the markets, to humans who consumed or even just handled them. It has happened before in recent times from HIV to Ebola, to other forms of coronaviruses in countries that consume bushmeat. And domesticated animals could be infected. Think bird flu and swine flu epidemics in recent times.

Simple question: the source of the current pandemic

Littlepround called for the World Health Organisation (as is now happening) to investigate wildlife trade and consumption as the source of the most recent pandemic. A pandemic that has brought the global economy to its knees along with causing three million human infections and counting. And focused laser-like media attention on the human death toll, leaving little room for other investigations.

While this outbreak started in China, other South-east Asian countries have similar trades. The point is to look at the underlying risks and stop them.

From the perspective of humane and compassionate people everywhere, the massive and lucrative trade in the world’s diminishing and endangered wildlife (for food, traditional medicines, clothing, or amusement) is evil, in and of itself, even before a pandemic risk is attached.

Littleproud told Samantha Armytage of Channel 7’s breakfast show Sunrise:

“We’re looking at the cause of this and I’m asking the World Organisation of Animal Health to be the lead agency on that. We’ve got to understand not all wet markets are bad, it’s when wildlife, exotic wildlife is added to them, which is what’s happened in this case, as the Chinese officials have identified and reported to the World Organisation of Animal Health.

“So there are many of these around the world. It only makes sense. The world’s got smaller; we’re part of a global community, that we come together and we do the right thing to protect one another but also protect our agricultural production systems that underpin our food security.”

It was recently reported that China had taken legislative steps to shut down the growing and selling of wildlife for these wet markets.

Farmers would be helped into vegetable production enterprises. While this is good, the same reports said China had taken no action on the rest of the domestic and international wildlife trade for traditional medicines, (bears and tigers come to mind) fur, other products, and amusement.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

And while Minister Littleproud and his government did well here, compassionate Australians might logically ask them (in the name of safe food for humans and pets), when Australia will finally end its own little-reported bushmeat trade — killing kangaroos — the nation’s emblem and a top global tourist draw.

The world’s biggest terrestrial wildlife slaughter is conducted nightly, unmonitored and accompanied by institutionalised cruelty to joeys, in unsanitary conditions in the bush. What is mainly an export trade and now a rekindled petfood trade in Victoria and South Australia, has shamed this country since the 1960s. Most Australians either don’t know or would rather not consider it. But it may be past time to do so.


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