#FindYourRole: The soil champion, the climate activists and the coal miner

The Sustainable Hour no. 389

Our guests in The Sustainable Hour on 17 November 2021 are:

[13:29] Soil champion Bev Middleton regales us enthusiastically with how much is happening in this field, so to speak. She acknowledges all the work that different groups are already doing but often in isolation. Her ambition is to encourage these groups to connect and in doing so, become a stronger force for change.

From 5 to 12 December, Soil Week Australia, organised by Healthy Soils Australia, will be highligthing and creating awareness about the benefits of “Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants, Healthy People”.

The event is created in connection with World Soil Day – a United Nations initiative, which is held annually on 5 December to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and to advocate for better soil management practices. You can find out more about the International Soil Day and the Australian Soil Week, as well as about Bev’s work, at www.soilweekaustralia.com.au

[24:49] Marco and Rilka from Blockade Australia are in the largest coal port in the world – in Newcastle, New South Wales – in the middle of a concerted non-violent direct action campaign to disrupt coal from being delivered to the port. They describe their motives in doing that as they put their bodies on the line on train tracks, in tree sits and on huge coal loading equipment.

This is a live Facebook feed by Emily as she lay on train tracks – it will give you a picture of the situation.
It leaves us with the question: Who are the real criminals in this situation? More on this can be found at www.blockadeaustralia.com.

[35:58] Grant Howard is a coal miner from central Queensland. You may be asking why a coal miner would want to come on The Sustainable Hour, a podcast dedicated to closing down his industry. You don’t have to listen long to realise that Grant is not only a very intelligent and courageous man, but also a coal miner who has set his mind to be the difference.

[01:12] We go back in time today as we hear a clip from arch conservative English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from 32 years ago. This poses the question – how did we go so far backwards in that time? Following this we have the leader of COP26 Alok Sharma fighting back tears as he ended the proceedings in Glasgow. Mik Aidt then gives a very measured assessment of the disappointing COP-flop as well as encouragement to join the climate revolution. This includes a comment from US Climate Envoy John Kerry about what we need to achieve in the next eight years.

[23:13] We also play the soundtrack from a video about the #FossilFreePolitics campaign letter, which was handed over to COP26 leaders in Glasgow. More than 130 civil society organisations called for UK, UN and EU leaders to address the elephant in the room which is holding back global climate ambition: the fossil fuel industry and its lobbying. And at 34:30 we play an excerpt of Ruth Mundy’s ‘Love in the Time of Coral Reefs’.

[06:32] Colin Mockett‘s Global Outlook centres predictably in Glasgow where all the global action is concentrated and COP26 talks ended after a marathon session where negotiators argued about nitpicking wording on the ending of the coal industry.

Amid this, the BBC reported that the largest lobby group at the talks came from the coal and fossil fuel industries. This wasn’t true, because the largest lobby group in Glasgow was the young protestors led by Greta Thunberg who kept a constant visual and noisy presence outside.

The irony was that they were shouting at delegates who were themselves struggling against a few nations determined to stop any progress in decarbonising the planet. Leading them was Australia, which was awarded the Colossal Fossil award by the Climate Action Network as the nation most obstructive to progress. Our prime minister arrived in Glasgow with a brochure full of empty words and a stand in the COP pavilion sponsored by global gas giant Santos. According to the organisers, Australia won the Colossal Fossil by a street.

Which brings us to the good news which comes from our favourite – and the world’s only – carbon-neutral vegan football team, Forest Green Rovers, who won 2-0 away from home at Walsall in the Football League Trophy group stage. They now top that group after three games. Next Saturday they’re back in their Football League two, where once again they are the top team.

It’s a fascinating time to be living. Inside the halls of power we have fossil fuel dominated discussions which are focused on prolonging this toxic industry’s demise. Each additional day means billions of dollars to them. Outside the halls, both in Glasgow and all over the world, we have millions of grassroots campaigning climate revolutionaries whose main concern is justice and a safe future for life on our planet.

In the process, unprecedented connections are being made between First Nations people and others fighting tirelessly for a safer, more just, inclusive and healthy world.

The big question remains how many people have to die before the people who are leading the delay are held to account for the death and destruction they are causing. One day ecocide will be considered a crime against humanity. Have a listen to how Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, put it as she spoke at the opening of the COP26 World Leaders Summit.

Until next week, keep working at channeling your inner climate revolutionary. If non-violent direct action isn’t for you, perhaps you can help those who are prepared to undertake it by helping to pay fines.

Today we were able to bring you a unique contribution to the climate issue. It was so good to hear a coal miner’s perspective from Grant. That doesn’t diminish the contributions from Marco and Rilka from Blockade Australia in the trenches at the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle as well as Bev championing soil as a vital part of the solution. All strands in the ever entwining campaign for a better world.

We hope that you got as much from The Sustainable Hour no. 389 as we did in presenting it to you. If you liked it, please share it far and wide. Be the difference.
~ Anthony Gleeson

“I am angry with politicians. I’m angry with politicians for lying to coal miners because I’m a coal miner and I want young coal miners to have the truth so they can plan their own lives. I know these guys and given the truth, they’ll plan their lives accordingly, but at the moment, they are being led up the garden path by the current government and those people associated with the industry.”
~ Grant Howard, coal miner from Mackay in Queensland

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We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millenia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceeded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that…

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”

The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore the climate emergency are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How disrespectful and unfair is that?

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“We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe.”
~ Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General

Only levers are public pressure

“The biggest climate summit since the Paris agreement was forged in 2015 ended on Saturday night, with substantial progress on greenhouse gas emissions cuts, climate finance and international cooperation – but not enough to ensure that the world can meet the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Although the world’s biggest emitters came forward with plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, taken together the current commitments would still lead to temperature rises of about 2.4C. So nations agreed to return next year to revise their targets upwards – a difficult task to manage when the only levers are public pressure.”
~ Fiona Harvey, The Guardian

“Clearly some world leaders think they aren’t living on the same planet as the rest of us. It seems no amount of fires, rising sea levels or droughts will bring them to their senses to stop increasing emissions at the expense of humanity.”
~ Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam International Executive Director

“The rallying cry of COP26 was to keep 1.5 alive. But the G20 leaders have left it to die, and instead breathed new life into the fossil fuel industry. The human cost of their negligence is terrifying to contemplate. These so-called leaders do not just have blood on their hands, they have it up to their waists. They wade through it. If they are not stopped, they will drown in it. For the good of all life, we must somehow wrestle power away from them.”
~ Extinction Rebellion, Global Newsletter 58: The End of The World As We Know It

“The rich countries failed when it became the hour of truth in Glasgow. The climate and the environment are not secured at the UN summits. It is all the concrete decisions and actions in the local reality that shape the future of the world and our children. We have the freedom to act responsibly when we vote in local elections.”
~ Jørgen Steen Nielsen, journalist at the Danish newspaper Information

“The dust has settled on COP26, and as delegates leave Glasgow the real work begins: putting the agreements into action. World leaders yesterday agreed to a watered-down, but significant milestone: for the first time in 26 years of climate summits, the Glasgow Climate Pact includes references to “phasing down” coal and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a start.

And in case you missed it, on Friday afternoon the Morrison Government sneakily released its modelling for the net zero ‘plan’ – and as suspected, it’s a fizzer, leans heavily on private sector investment and doesn’t even get us to net-zero emissions by 2050. It also allocates vast tracts of Australia to “underground carbon capture and storage”, which may come as news to the people living in these areas.”
~ The Canopy, Greenpeace Australia Pacific

The Bar vs. the Stakes

By Mary Annaïse Heglar

“The first time I remember paying attention to COP was in 2015 with the passage of the Paris Agreement. It was also right around the same time that I realized that climate change no longer sat on a horizon somewhere, and that the Earth had actually warmed—about a degree at that point. I was horrified and confused to see the level of celebration from the diplomats, given  how very, very dire the straits were.

The Paris Agreement was an effort to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, and to make “best efforts” to limit it to 1.5 degrees. This was before the groundbreaking 2018 IPCC report that made it painfully clear to the general public how dangerous 1.5 degrees of warming is, but the negotiators at the conference knew that many island nations had declared 2 degrees a death sentence for them. Still, the hall erupted with cheers after negotiations wrapped up.

Why? Because as inadequate as the Paris Agreement was, it did more than any other global treaty in the 2000s. Now what in the low-expectations-having-ass hell? It’s something we hear a LOT when it comes to climate policy: yeah, this isn’t going to solve the problem, but it’s more than we’ve ever done before. As though expecting your government to solve the problem and, um, save the planet, is just youthful idealism and not your will to fucking live!

I am so sick of being told to buck up and get crunk about pussyfooting and half measures. There’s no such thing as half a planet, or half a future. It’s the eternal mismatch of climate policy: the bar could not be lower and the stakes could not be higher. And don’t give me this “long-game,” we’ll use this momentum to go bigger and harder next time. Just because the political math resets does not mean the climate math does. Politics is a game and climate change isn’t playing.”

→ The Guardian – 10 November 2021:
COP26: World on track for disastrous heating of more than 2.4C, says key report
“Research from world’s top climate analysis coalition contrasts sharply with last week’s optimism.”

→ The Conversation – 12 November 2021:
‘The Australian way’: how Morrison trashed brand Australia at COP26
“The Morrison government’s great refusal to take action on climate may come back to haunt Australia when we seek the cooperation of other countries.”

“The next time someone says ‘fossil fuel subsidies’, remember they are talking about our so-called ‘leaders’ using working people’s taxes to invest in the deaths of children and the planet.”
~ Kumi Naidoo, at COP26 – on why it’s a crucial necessity to stop funding fossil fuels immediately

“It’s nowhere near enough. Glasgow could and should have done much, much more. People are already dying in climate disasters, and beautiful habitats are already being lost. Right now, we’re on track for at least 2.4°C of warming, enough to create a global catastrophe that will be measured in extinctions of amazing plants and animals, forced displacements, and unimaginable human suffering. We need an utter transformation in the scale and ambition of climate action.“
~ Bert Wander, Avaaz

“140 countries lifted their game on climate action at COP26, while Australia cemented its reputation as a laggard and blocker.”
~ Dr Simon Bradshaw, Climate Council Head of Research

Parliamentarians’ call for a fossil fuel free future

Earlier this month, 20 parliamentarians from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific initiated their call to other parliamentarians to join them in calling for a global just transition away from the production of fossil fuels. Since the launch, 90 parliamentarians have signed the call – from 30 different countries: www.fossilfuelfreefuture.org/#signatories

* In Australia, the following 11 parliamentarians have signed so far: Adam Bandt, Member of Parliament – Andrew Wilkie, Member of Parliament – Janet Rice, Senator – Jordon Steele-John, Senator – Larissa Waters, Senator – Lidia Thorpe, Senator – Mehreen Faruqi, Senator – Nick McKim, Senator – Peter Wish-Wilson, Senator – Rachel Siewert, Senator – Sarah Hanson-Young, Senator

This call demonstrates the serious political momentum behind our shared vision for a global approach to a transition from the production of fossil fuels. It’s inspiring to see so many elected representatives from different political backgrounds and different countries join.

The launch event was hosted by the initiators of the project from across the Global South. It can be viewed online. Both Juanita Goebertus Estrada, Member of the House of Representatives of Colombia, and Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament of Malaysia, were interviewed by BBC World News to discuss the call. See: www.facebook.com

The initiators were hoping to reach 300 signatories by COP26 to increase pressure on world leaders to put fossil fuel production on the international agenda. You can invite MPs, Senators, Congresspeople and other nationally-elected representatives from your country or region to join the initiative. The letter, list of signatories and a form to endorse is available at www.fossilfuelfreefuture.org


“Appearing on Today with a screen behind him displaying the slogan “Glasgow: A huge win for coal”, Senator Canavan said there had “never been stronger demand” for the industry. 

“Given the fact that the agreement did not say that coal needs to be phased down or taken out, it is a green light for us to build more coal mines,” he said.

The Glasgow agreement reached by 197 countries did in fact include a commitment to “phase down” the use of coal, but the phrase was changed from “phase out” after an intervention by India.”
~ 9 News

“When the coal price is high and the mines are doing well, everything in town is doing well.”
~ Mayor Sue Moore, Singleton, in Australia’s coal country

Protesters disrupt the world’s largest coal port:
‘This is us responding to the climate crisis’

Two young women rappelled off coal-handling machinery in protest of what they say is Australia’s climate inaction. Read more

Sergeio, 22, sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, 6 months no parole, for taking nonviolent direct action as part of the Blockade Australia mobilisation in Newcastle. Read more

→ ABC News – 17 November 2021:
A sweet future: Welcome to the city powered by sugar in the heart of coal country
“Mackay is a well-known hub for the nearby central highlands coal mining industry. But for all the political posturing over the local resources sector, this Queensland coal town’s electricity is already 30 per cent powered by renewables.”


Coal protesters face 25 years jail

Two anti-coal protesters face up to 25 years in jail for blocking railways to the world’s largest coal port. Claire Tobin, 28, and Emily Wood-Trounce, 24, have been charged with a range of offences that include acting with intent to kill or injure person on railway, and to cause obstruction to railway locomotive or rolling stock and endangering safety of person on railway. (The Daily Telegraph

Court documents allege Tobin suspended herself with a rope to a tree across railway lines, while Wood-Trounce locked herself on to a steel pipe concreted into the edge of the railway. At a hearing at Newcastle Court the pair was granted conditional bail, ordered to return to Victoria and banned from re-entering NSW. “The allegations are a result of calculated disruption to coal in the rail corridor,” said police prosecutor Rebecca Witherspoon.

Since November five officers have arrested 18 people including the two women in relation to protests by Blockade Australia.

A Blockade Australia spokesperson said “threatening protesters with 25-year prison sentences for blocking coal trains without causing physical harm to anyone is a draconian overreach of police power”. (The New Daily)

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“For Geelong, the Viva Energy plan for a floating gas terminal is a key plank in developing a sustainable future for the refinery. (…) It will be a poor result for Victorian manufacturers and the economy if this gas terminal project does not proceed.”
~ Jennifer Conley, CEO of the Geelong Manufacturing Council in Geelong Advertiser on 12 November 2021, ‘Making the case for gas’

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Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley delivers strong speech calling for urgent leadership and action on climate
Professor Kevin Anderson COP26 wrapup on the Friday is powerful

Another view from Christiana Figueres and Michael Mann: 
CNN: Climate scientist: COP26 somewhere in between ‘blah, blah, blah and a total success’
Climatologist Michael Mann and former UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres review the successes and failures of the COP26 summit in Glasgow.Source: CNN (17:21)
Shorter version on Twitter (3:41)

International climate-blogger John Englart’s COP26 outcomes blog

Progress despite the headwinds

“1. After pledges from India and other nations at COP26, 90% of the world has now committed to net zero.

2. The Paris Rulebook was completed, including the creation of an international carbon market and stricter emissions disclosures

3. The parties aligned on a “phase down” of coal and phaseout of fossil fuel subsidies, the first time fossil fuels were highlighted in a COP final agreement.

4. We saw joint policy commitments on deforestation, methane, and international coal financing.

5. International collaboration was reinvigorated, from the announcement of the joint US-China declaration on climate to the $8.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership for South Africa.

6. The private sector mobilized, with more than 5,200 businesses and around 450 financial institutions—representing 40% of global financial assets—committing to science-based net-zero targets.

7. We saw growing private-public collaboration, including global initiatives to develop, scale, and deploy the technologies required to address hard-to-abate sectors.

8. Leaders agreed on steps toward robust and transparent disclosure and reporting of private sector plans.

9. Leaders agreed on a new plan for developed countries to double collective funds aimed at climate change adaptation by 2025.

While this progress was meaningful, COP26 came up short in some areas as well. The conference must be viewed not as an endpoint but the beginning of a crucial decade of action.

To keep the momentum going, this means:
• Revisiting national ambitions on mitigation more frequently and boldly
• Rapidly developing and implementing just and effective policies to translate commitments into action
• Creating robust and transparent private-sector abatement plans that span value chains
• Coming up with strong adaptation and resilience plans, with more support for the countries that will feel the greatest impact and are least able to afford the needed solutions

COP26 sent a strong signal of hope that action-focused collaboration can address this crisis, but we still face the enormous challenge of aligning 200 countries, the private sector, and the rest of society. Today, 1.5°C remains barely within reach—our work to get there, or to get as close as we can, is our collective mission for this decade and beyond.” 
~ Rich Lesser, Global Chair, Boston Consulting Group

Nearing the point of no return

“I have to admit, sometimes I lose hope that we can turn things around. We’re facing such massive problems. The mental health crisis has only worsened in the pandemic. Our planet is nearing the point of no return in carbon emissions and species loss. And polarization in our society is escalating when we most need to be coming together.

My 9-year-old daughter is just beginning to wrap her head around our world and what her role in it might be. I desperately want the future to be brighter for her and her peers, and the generations that follow. I often find myself wondering how we got here and feel powerless to help.”
~ Maggie Guggenheimer, Director of Advancement, Mind & Life Institute

Can kicked down the road

“After all the fanfare, COP26 has failed. Not one of the G20 nations, the richest and most culpable for this crisis, will cut emissions to keep global heating even close to 1.5C.

Global South nations have not been given the promised funds to rebuild from and defend against the extreme weather that already devastates their lands and people.

Fossil fuel infrastructure will continue to expand and governments will continue to rig markets to encourage it.

On all fronts, yet again, the can has been kicked down the road. Next year, we are promised, will be different. Next year real progress will be made…”
~ Excerpt from Extinction Rebellion’s Global Newsletter 58: ‘The End of The World As We Know It’

Eco warriors slash tyres of SUVs

Activists deflated the tyres of cars in one of Glasgow’s wealthiest districts as part of direct action against the rich and the “destruction they wreak” on the environment. Campaigners claim they targeted 60 Range Rovers and other SUV-type vehicles in the city’s West End.
~ The Times

COP26 made net zero a core principle for business. Here’s how leaders can act

“Momentum has shifted: net-zero commitments are the norm. But demand for solutions and systems to meet them outstrips the supply. To respond, businesses should focus on five fundamentals.”
~ McKinsey Sustainability

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Goal-line pact sparks new waves for climate partnerships

“The 26th edition in Scotland rose to the occasion with pleas and pledges from the first whistle. Greenland joined the Paris Agreement, while Nordic and UK pension funds committed US$130 billion in collective climate investments by 2030. More than 130 nations pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030, and above 100 countries representing 70 per cent of the global economy joined the Global Methane Pledge. Halfway in, about 100.000 protesters marching the streets made sure that no Glaswegian forgot what the gathering was all about.

The scene was set, and week two continued to startle with the joining of hands between China and the U.S. Amongst other, 11 national and subnational governments later launched the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance co-chaired by Costa Rica and Denmark. Known as BOGA, the alliance seeks to deliver a managed and just transition away from oil and gas production.

Following two weeks of pleas, protests and pledges, the political negotiations came to a crunch. As COP26 ran against the clock, the Scottish affair culminated at the goal line with the Glasgow Climate Pact. The 1.5-degree lifeline marks the first ever climate deal explicitly planning to reduce coal. The new pact also obliges countries to pledge further carbon cuts as they meet again in Egypt next year.

While the political content and commitments of the pact is being contested, COP26 was in many ways a strong message to investors and executives that the march to net zero is accelerating. COP26 was in all regards a reinforcement of the private sectors role in turning commitments into craft.”
~ Magnus Højberg Mernild, Editor, State of Green Weekly

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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.



List of running petitions where we encourage you to add your name

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Live-streaming: on pause


The Sustainable Hour is normally streamed live on the Internet every Wednesday from 11am to 12pm (Melbourne time), but due to the corona lockdown, the radio station has been closed.

» To listen to the program on your computer or phone, click here – or go to www.947thepulse.com where you then click on ‘Listen Live’ on the right.

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