Cultivating Earth from soil to soul: Regenerative farming meets deep ecology

The Sustainable Hour no. 508 | Transcript | Podcast notes


Our guests in The Sustainable Hour no. 508 are Celia Leverton from Regenerative Agriculture Network Tasmania, and John Seed – a long time rainforest activist and deep ecology trainer, who is giving a series of talks and workshops in Melbourne next week.

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The Sustainable Hour’s 508th episode covers topics such as the impact of fossil fuel and Big Ag executives on the planet, the need for a Community Independents movement, global disasters and climate denial as well as positive news about renewable energy in Saudi Arabia and Telstra’s commitment to reducing emissions.

We hear about regenerative agriculture and the work of the Regenerative Agriculture Network Tasmania (RANT) via their founder Celia Leverton, and about deep ecology and its connection to permaculture and political activism via John Seed.

This Hour highlights the battle between truth and lies in the climate crisis, but at the same time, it reminds us of the importance of community and kindness in creating a sustainable future.

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Celia Leverton is a lifelong farmer who has a deep passion for producing food and fibre, while at the same time, building land health and biodiversity, farm viability, and farmer and community wellbeing. Celia co-founded a farmer centric, not for profit organisation, Regenerative Agriculture Network Tasmania, RANT. They gather evidence through trials and share how to increase landscape function, farm profitability and farmer wellbeing. More information about RANT can be found here: www.regenagtas.org.au

An informative video with Celia interviewing a couple of their farmers about how they survived the drought on their farm can be viewed on Youtube.com.

. . .

John Seed is founder of the Rainforest Information Centre who has been involved in the direct actions to protect the Australian rainforests since 1979 and received the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 1995 for services to conservation.  

He co-authored ‘Thinking Like a Mountain – Towards a Council of All Beings’ with Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming and Arne Naess, has written and lectured extensively on deep ecology and has been conducting Councils of All Beings and other re-earthing workshops around the world for 35 years to help us strengthen our felt sense of connection with the living Earth. In 2023, he was one of 109 arrested in the Rising Tide kayak blockade of the world’s largest coal port, Newcastle, which exports fully 1 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gasses.

Deep ecology dispels the illusion of separation between ourselves and the more-than-human world and allows the experience of rootedness in the living Earth. John believes that this is a key to preventing our slide to oblivion.

John has organised six free presentations and discussions on different topics to help move deep ecology towards the mainstream:

21-23 June 2024: DEEPENING weekend – for deep ecology workshop alumni only. Camp Eureka.

24 June Monday at 7pm at Black Spark Cultural Centre, Northcote: The Religion of Economics

25 June Tuesday at 10:30am in Coburg: John Seed & Tejopala Rawles: Inner & Outer Transformation, Dharma & Deep Ecology

25 June Tuesday at 6:30pm at Climate Action Merri-bek, Pascoe Vale: Climate change – despair to empowerment

26 June Wednesday at 6:30pm at Reynard Street Neighbourhood House: Deep Ecology and the Conservation of Nature

27 June Thursday at 10am in Coburg: Invocation to Gaia

27 June Thursday at 5:30pm in South Melbourne: John Seed & Gilbert Rochecouste: Radical Regeneration and Deep Ecology 

28-30 June from 6pm on Friday at Moora Moora near Healesville: John Seed, Alana Ward & Stephanie Campbell: Deep Ecology Immersion

If you’re in the mood to help spread deep ecology further into Naarm/Melbourne, please share the links to these events in your networks. John has created a Facebook event page – “John Seed Deep Ecology in Melbourne June 21-30” – to help spread the word. If you tick “going” or “interested”, you can then click on ”invite” in order to notify your Melbourne Facebook friends about this program.

John is currently looking for someone who’d like to volunteer to help with the shopping and cooking in exchange for a free workshop. If this could be something for you, send John an email. The menu and schedule are designed so that the cooks are able to fully participate in the whole weekend.

These talks will be hybrid – broadcast via zoom as well as face to face – and this requires some help from people with a tripod and camera or phone. If you’re up for filming one or more of these events, please email John. So far THE RELIGION OF ECONOMICS and RADICAL REGENERATION AND DEEP ECOLOGY are covered. Can you help with any of the others? John’s email address is: johnseed127@gmail.com

John Seed’s home page can be found at: www.johnseed.net

. . .

That’s it for episode 508. Fascinating. We hear the reality of the terrible impacts of salmon farming in Tasmania but also the nuances of the situation, where that industry is supplying employment for locals and how this situation is splitting communities in our Apple Isle.

We learn about deep ecology from a veteran environmental activist and end up with understanding the importance of engaging with the spiritual connection to nature.

Themes we continually emphasise on The Sustainable Hour. A huge thanks to our listeners who have been providing feedback. We always appreciate this and our shows are all the better for this. 

We are always open for suggestions for topics to cover as well as suggestions for future guests. Sustainability is a very wide topic and we are keen to explore it in all its nuances. We delight in shining extra lumens on people who are turning their concerns about the climate crisis we face into meaningful action. We all need to be connected on this and work together on solutions. 

#BeKind #BeGrateful #BeConnected #BeTheDifference

“To the tune of $800 million a year, the Atlas Foundation sets up these phony think tanks, what George Monbiot calls ‘junk tanks’, in order to pollute the information landscape and to employing the same companies that kept tobacco going for 20 or 30 years in order to change public opinion about things like wind farms, but also about Indigenous resurgence. And so the same playbook was used to suppress Indigenous people in Canada as in Australia. You can see the same phrases on the public posts in social media and so on, where there was this just deliberate and concerted campaign to, you know, because the yes vote was in the majority until a few months before the actual vote. And so I’ve just been starting to realise that we need to unmask these scumbags that are manipulating us and that are manipulating the truth. And it’s kind of one of the things that’s on my agenda in coming months.”
~ John Seed, founder of Rainforest Information Centre and deep ecology trainer


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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 millennia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceded. 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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Australia institute: Fossil fuel subsidies cost Australian governments $14.5 billion

Climate 200: Climate proof politics for good

Celia Leverton interviews Michael and Anna Coghlan

Leith Hill Community Blues Band: ‘Gruffalo Blues (Save Leith Hill)’

Rita Sahatçiu Ora: ‘Grateful’



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Transcript of The Sustainable Hour no. 508

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson – excerpt from New York Times’ ‘The Interview’ podcast:
There are actual fossil fuel and big ag and advertising executives and politicians who are enabling all of this. There are individual humans, actually a quite small group of them, who are making these decisions that are impacting life on this planet for the eight million or so species that share it. And that should make you mad, because who are they to decide the future of life on Earth?

Jingle:
The Sustainable Hour. For a green, clean, sustainable Geelong. The Sustainable Hour.

Anthony Gleeson:
Welcome to The Sustainable Hour. We’d like to acknowledge that we’re broadcasting from the land of the Wadawurrung people. We pay tribute to the elders – past, present and those that earn that great honour in the future. We’re broadcasting from stolen land, land that was never ceded, always was and always will be Aboriginal land. By doing these shows, we hope that we learn to acquire some of the ancient wisdom that was honed from nurturing First Nations land and their communities for millennia before it was stolen.

Mik Aidt:
Last year, in 2023, the world experienced almost 400… – 398 – global disasters that created a bill of $380 billion in losses. That’s the highest on record. And meanwhile, the reinsurance companies have raised their prices by nearly 40 per cent in the last two years. That’s the facts. And you’d think miserable facts like that would put all these climate deniers out there to shame long ago – all this calamity that we’re seeing, $380 billion in losses. Well, I blame the climate deniers for spreading the lie that ‘There’s nothing going on’, ‘There’s no problem’. They are the reasons we’re not getting on with the job of fixing this problem. The fossil fools on Sky News and Twitter and even in our Parliament continue to be spewing out lies and BS. As if it wasn’t reality that we are seeing losses of $380 billion in one year.

Luckily, little by little, the story is changing. There’s a new thing here in Australia called the Community Independents movement. It’s a political movement of people who are telling the truth about what’s going on with the climate. We have people like David Pocock, a senator in Parliament, telling truth to power.

David Pocock:
What we’re seeing in Australia is state capture by the fossil fuel companies.

Mik Aidt:
And this Saturday, the 22nd of June, starting from 9am in the morning, you’ll see a little group of people here in Geelong who believe that we need a Community Independents movement here in our region, in the Corangamite and in the Corio electorates. So if you want to be part of that, all you have to do is show up this Saturday, 9am in the morning, and be a part of the National Community Independents Convention. It’s happening online, but here in Geelong we’ll be meeting in front of a screen at the Deakin University, and following the convention together.

I think that’s exciting, and I think that’s really something I hope more people who hear this will consider taking part in. You can send an email if you want to sign up for it to: info@voicesofcorangamite.org. That’s what I had to say.

Now over to Colin Mockett OAM – ready? You’ve been scanning the news from around the world and it’s important to know what’s been going on. Do you have any good news for us today, Colin?

Colin Mockett:
Believe it or not, yes I do, Mik, I have quite a bit of good news. But first of all I want to ask you where the screen is at Deakin University on Saturday: Is it at the Waterfront or the Waurn Ponds campus?

Mik Aidt:
It’s at the waterfront, so it’s right in the middle of the city. And there’s room for 60 people. So please, if you’re thinking of coming, please do.

Colin Mockett OAM’s Global Outlook:
Okay. Well look, our World Roundup this week begins in Pakistan with a couple more disasters hitting that nation. It’s experiencing extreme storms and rain events while it’s in the grip of yet another heat wave. Schools in Punjab were forced to close last week because temperatures rose above 50° degrees Celsius. The country has yet to recover from the catastrophic floods of 2022.

And right now Pakistan is, well… it’s extremely hot in the middle of what’s now called the Asian heat wave or the South Asian heat wave of 2024 that affects most of South Asia. Temperatures have been hovering around 50-60 degrees since the middle of May. And the interesting thing is that along with this heat, April was the wettest April in all of Pakistan’s recorded history. There have been torrential rains in the northern and western parts of Pakistan, and so far this year they’ve experienced 120 deaths.

That just about cements what you were saying about the climate disasters that are occurring, and they’re mostly occurring unreported in our media, which is fixated on the Middle East and Ukraine.

But meanwhile, here in Australia, one of our biggest companies, Telstra, announced at the weekend that it was dumping its carbon credit offset program and adopting a direct investment model while significantly lifting its 2030 emissions reductions targets. While at no time admitting that its previous carbon reduction policies were greenwashing, Telstra effectively switched from fudged figures and dodgy policies adopted during the previous coalition government to direct action on emissions reductions.

Telstra is one of Australia’s largest electricity users and it will no longer seek certification from federal government’s suspect climate action program for its operations or products and it will no longer purchase carbon credits. The company’s chief sustainability officer, Justine Rowe, said the biggest impact we can have on climate change, especially in the short to medium term, is to emit less carbon.

As part of the changes, Telstra is lifting its emissions reduction target from 50 to 70 per cent by 2030 in absolute terms rather than a net figure derived from offsetting.

The telco’s head of environment, whose name is Tom Penny, said, much has changed in the four years since Telstra last set its emissions targets. We have a lot of levers we can pull, he said. We’re largely an energy using business and we can do a huge amount to reduce our energy consumption ourselves and keep investing in renewable energy. Now that’s a big surprise as far as I’m concerned because they’ve been greenwashing from day one. Now suddenly they’ve become responsible.

And following that surprise, I have another positive article from, of all places, Saudi Arabia. Despite having almost limitless reserves of oil, the Kingdom is embracing solar and wind power. It’s aiming to meet 50 per cent of its electricity generation from renewable sources by 2030. Now that’s bigger than Australia’s 45 per cent target, which indeed we are unlikely to meet.

So far, Saudi Arabia has installed 3.3 million solar panels covering 36 square kilometers of desert. That’s according to Faisal Al Omari, the CEO of the recently completed solar project called Sudair. He said that he would tell his children and grandchildren about contributing to Saudi Arabia’s energy transition. ‘I’m really proud to be part of it,’ he said.

Sudair can power up to 185,000 homes. It’s the first of what is likely to meet that 50 per cent target by 2030. Currently, renewable energy accounts for a negligible amount, it’s not even countable, of the Saudi electricity generation. It’s reported that pressure to accelerate the energy transition is growing in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. That’s a region that has young, environmentally aware populations that could be especially vulnerable to climate change.

‘Countries from the region, including Saudi Arabia, will face the impacts of climate change and extreme temperatures with water scarcity,’ said Shady Khalil, who is the lead campaigner for Greenpeace Middle East and North Africa, the environment group.

Although it insists that petroleum has a long future, Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, seems also to be trying to signal that it is not locked in a pollution belching past, but is more like a Silicon Valley company focused on innovation. We will be watching with interest along with other environmental groups, but the signs are highly positive and they end my roundup for this week.

Jingle:
Listen to our Sustainable Hour – for the future.

Anthony Gleeson:
Our first guest today is Celia Leverton, who is from Tasmania. Now Celia is a ranter, right? RANT stands for Regenerative Agriculture Network of Tasmania. So Celia, thank you very much for coming on today. Tell us all about RANT and yourself.

Celia Leverton:
Thanks, Tony. We’ve been under a bit of pressure actually to change our name to avoid this acronym. It doesn’t sort of float the boat of some of our collaborators. We like it, but anyway. Yeah, it tickled us too in the early days. We actually formed in 2018 as a response to a desire by community to take action on climate change at a community level, at a local level. So we actually formed a group down in the Huon Valley in southern Tasmania on Malakati country.

The issue that we had as a small not-for-profit farmer-centric group was that we needed to have the biggest impact we could for our effort, as you’d all understand with volunteer groups, that it can take a lot out of people and the people care side of it needed to be looked after. So we went to a statewide organisation and it became the Regen Ag Network of the entire state of Tassie. So… That was our humble beginnings.

We started off organising a conference for a couple of hundred people in 2019. That was a huge success and really got our name out there. And from there we went on and did… We’ve applied for a lot of federal government funding and state government funding to actually run projects to gather evidence and data about what actually increases landscape function while we’re providing food and fibre, while we’re producing food and fibre, to avoid that greenwashing that you mentioned earlier on. So that, you know, even if farmers are saying, ‘Well, if I’m not regenerative, am I degrading?’ Well, we need to have systems of measuring that. So we actually know what the impact is of our management because we all eat, you know, we all eat food. We all drink water. We all wear clothes, whether it’s cotton or woolen, whatever natural fiber. And we need to know what the impact of producing that is.

So that’s been the main driver behind RANT – I’ll say it! – It has been to actually take the speculation out and to actually know for sure what the impact of our management is.

Anthony Gleeson:
What motivated you initially to start this group?

Celia Leverton:
I came in through… I mean, I’ve farmed conventionally all my life, you know, 45 odd years of my working life. I came in through permaculture, because conventional farming… the impacts of it on people really concerned me. You know, I was watching my peers struggling their relationships with their children, with their parents, with their in-laws, within their marriages. There was a lot of mental health issues. There’s a massive self-harm issue within rural communities and on farms. There’s a lot of mental health, a lot of depression, anxiety issues. So that was what brought me in because the ethics of permaculture, care for the land, care of people and a fair share for everyone.

So it was a people care aspect of it, but my heart was in farming, and it was very hard to get farmers to take permaculture seriously. And there hadn’t been a lot of action in mainstream permaculture as far as scaling up. So, regenerative agriculture to me felt like a natural fit – to tie in the people care aspect of it, the profitability, the getting a yield, whether it’s financial or production, and also to be looking after the land.

And one of the pieces that was missing within permaculture is the landscape function of actually the eco-literacy of actually knowing how a landscape functions as in what a functioning landscape looks like and how to create it.

And I don’t say this lightly because I’ve been involved for over 20 years in permaculture. I do a lot of consulting still within it and I do a lot of teaching within permaculture and designing. But the aspect that was missing was the water infiltration, the nutrient cycling, and the soil surface stability. And doing that with a low input from people and from machinery. So low fossil fuel use. It needs to be kind to the people and it needs to be done affordably. So, you know, add a profit, because we can’t keep producing food and fibre at scale unless we’re profitable.

Colin Mockett:
Celia, I’d like to start by saying that Tasmania has a long history of successful environmental action, going right back to Bob Brown and the Franklin Dam, changing government policy, and then Gun’s logging throughout the end of the 20th century. But right now, the big problem that’s coming out of Tasmania, that I’m aware of is of salmon fishing or salmon farming. And that’s degrading a lot of farmland as well as upsetting the balance of waters. Could you tell us… Well, this is your chance now to rant. Tell us what your group thinks about the current state of salmon farming in Tasmania.

Celia Leverton:
Well, we are apolitical. We don’t actually have a stance on salmon farming because we’re land-based on the whole, but we’re also engaged with healthy country planning, which does include waterways, of course. Personally, I live in the Huan and our waterways are full of fish farms. It’s a very, very divisive issue down here. It’s a major employer. I’ve got very good friends who are employed by it. And I’ve got very good friends who are massively impacted by it. You know, fish farm boats sitting outside their houses with their lights shining up into their houses because they’ve been upset enough and brave enough to actually complain about it.

There’s a lot of waterways down here that are just filthy. If the practices were put onto land… – my children are dairy farmers, if they created the pollution on the land that is being created in the waterways, they’d be shut down. There seems to be conflicted standards.

I personally don’t eat it, but from our network, our organisation’s point of view, we don’t have a stance. So that is my personal opinion.

From looking at it, I live at Franklin in a wooden boat building town, and all of our nearby communities have been impacted. But once again, it’s the employment side of it. You know, people-care is a huge aspect. The cars that go backwards and forwards up and down that highway every day with the fish farm workers. It needs a whole of system redesign. I think we have to be careful not to vilify an industry, while I’m not saying I support it. I don’t support the environmental outcomes one iota. But we need to redesign away from it so that there’s not the social impact, there’s not the economic impact. But we need to design away from the massive environmental impacts. But we need to look at the whole-of.

I really feel grief when I see these divisive things breaking up communities and the social impact of them. As I said, we need to look at the whole of it and redesign it rather than pulling it apart and breaking it down into silos, which is a major part why we have a lot of these issues that we just don’t look at the whole of systems when making decisions to stop or start.

Mik Aidt:
In the business community, there’s a new word in town. It’s called ‘ESG’. I mean, it’s three letters, and they stand for Environment, Social and Governance. And it’s something that started back 20 years ago with a UN report, which was called ‘Who Cares Wins’. And I actually just heard about that report recently because I started working with some companies and we started talking about, ‘Where does ESG actually come from?’ I think that’s such a powerful title, ‘Who Cares Wins’. And that’s what I hear you talk about all the time, Celia: you are caring. You’re caring for people. And the ‘S’ in ESG is very much what you’re on about. So is the farming community actually aware of this ESG movement that is happening very big time in Europe now, because it’s now becoming EU legislation that all major companies need to report on their ESG outcomes?

Celia Leverton:
I don’t know, Mik, I haven’t actually heard of it myself. But it’s been, I mean, it’s very entrenched in things like holistic management. The organisation, the movement that was started by Alan Savory, a Zimbabwean ecologist, farmer, activist, 50 plus years ago. And he very much designed the framework, the holistic management framework around the economic, the environment, the social, the cultural, and working with those things together so that we can have it all. There’s no reason why we can’t.

And it’s another issue… I went on Churchill Fellowship last year to the UK, Europe, and the US. And that was one thing that very much came out – all the way through – was the passion that everybody had to regenerate our environment and our farm businesses and our communities while producing food and fibre. The vilification against farmers that they are environmental vandals, which is a growing thought, it has to stop because we all eat food. We need to support farmers to build their environmental health and to build their own personal health and their community health – and be profitable. Farmers are under enormous pressure to do all those things, to keep all those balls in the air.

I look around at my peers that… you know, they’re in their 60s now, and they’re absolutely beyond exhausted. They’re not just running their own businesses, self-employed, but they also have all these other layers of pressure on them. Yeah, it’s a hard one and it needs a whole of system redesign, as I said before.

As Professor Stuart Hill, he spoke of this. The first step is increasing efficiency in what we’re doing. The second step is substituting. You know, that might be taking out artificial inputs and putting in biological inputs. But the highest step of all, the next step is actually redesigning our systems, so that we can cover the social, the cultural, the environmental and the economic so that we can all flourish while doing no harm.

(23:05) One of the things that’s jumped out in recent times is the emphasis on production is a big thing that needs changing, that we actually have to be moving towards profitability. And we need inefficiency in our systems so that when things go wrong, we’ve actually got time to act without environmental and social and economic damage.

You know, having everything wound so tight that if something goes wrong, like it stops raining, that the whole system doesn’t fall apart. We need time to act, whether that be reducing stock numbers or not putting in a crop or adding more water storage or building processing systems to be able to reduce the stock numbers. That’s a big thing in Tasmania – that’s happened this year – that we’ve had very dry periods in areas that have never had dry before. Since records began, like in the Huon Valley where I’m living, 120 years of records, it’s been the driest year. But people couldn’t reduce stock numbers when they needed to because there’s no processing facilities or there’s a bottleneck of them in them. You know, animals couldn’t be got off the farm. And so there was a lot of land degradation because of that. King Island had the same problem and the Northwest Coast also did. There’s lambs being sent to Geelong for heaven’s sakes, put on boats, gone across Bass Strait to be processed in Geelong. You know, and that’s just heartbreaking for, you know… I mean, farmers are very, very animal welfare savvy. You know, the last thing that we want to do is put our animals on boats to go to get processed. It makes no sense. There’s … yeah, there’s so many layers, isn’t there? So many layers to take into account.

SONG (25:29)
Leith Hill Community Blues Band: ‘Gruffalo Blues (Save Leith Hill)’

I’m gonna tell you a story about a beautiful old hill
coming but it’s dirty all the way.
Sit in the water and poison in the li
For the sake of a couple of extra grand

Hello we’re asking have nothing more
to do with the forestry commission
Please we’re begging you
Cause they sold our hills to the bad man
and couldn’t give to hooch
Please spread the word to all your friends
tell Julia and Axel too

Hey Mr. Gruffalo, have nothing more to do
with the Forestry Commission.
Bleed! Help us Mr. Gruffalo!
Cause they sold our hill to the bad man,
with his dirty oil drill.
Help us Mr. Gruffalo, save love and lead them!
Help us Mr. Gruffalo!
Help us Mr. Gruffalo, save love and lead them!

Hey, Mr. Gruffalo, have nothing more to do.
With his filthy oil drip
We’ve got to stop him now
before our kids all end up in hell
Help us Mr. Grogmullo, sing love to me,
yeah
Cause the forest speaks our vision
Please live like you knew
Cause the bad man is kind
We’ve got to stop it now before our kids are mad.

Help us, Mr. Gruffalo
Help us, Mr. Gruffalo
Help us, Mr. Gruffalo
Save our hill

[Music] (28:41)
Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison:
This is coal. Don’t be afraid.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General:
Climate change is the mother of all stealth taxes paid by everyday people and vulnerable countries and communities. Meanwhile, the godfathers of climate chaos, the fossil fuel industry, rake in record profits and fist off trillions in taxpayer-funded subsidies.


Australia Institute video: (29:17)
$14.5 billion dollars. That’s how much fossil fuel subsidies cost Australian governments over the last financial year. That’s $27,581 dollars for every minute of every day over the last financial year. Using public money to fuel climate change is a choice, not one that I’d make, but it is a choice. But that’s not even the craziest part. As climate change gets worse and as the need to reduce emissions gets more urgent, the world needs to use and produce less fossil fuels, not more.

So you’d think that the subsidies would be decreasing, but no, actually the subsidies are increasing. They’ve risen by over $3 billion dollars since last year with no signs of slowing down. Australian governments are predicting that fossil fuel subsidies will cost $65 billion dollars over the next five years. I’ll say that again, $65 billion dollars. That estimate has also increased from last year’s $57 billion dollars.

To put these numbers into context, the federal government is planning on spending over five times more on fossil fuel subsidies than its key housing policy, the Housing Australia Future Fund. The biggest individual subsidy coming in at a whopping $9.6 billion dollars is the fuel tax credit scheme. It’s a tax break that mainly benefits the mining industry and about a billion dollars of it goes to the coal industry. There’s also billions for gas in the NT, half a billion for coal mines in Queensland and 27 million spent by the Coal Innovation Fund in New South Wales, to name a few. Budgets are about choices.

It’s a great time to be a fossil fuel company in Australia. Not so much if you’re on Jobseeker and trying to find an affordable place to rent.

Australia is a wealthy country and we can afford to do anything we want, but not everything we want. It’s time to stop funding climate change and instead invest in policies that make Australia a better place to live.

Visit australiainstitute.org.au for all our latest research, commentary and analysis, as well as details for upcoming events and webinars.

Anthony Gleeson (31:09):
Our next guest is John Seed. John started the Rainforest Information Centre many years ago. He’s also involved in teaching, taking workshops on deep ecology worldwide. So John, thanks for coming on. What’s up going for you at the moment? I understand you’re coming down to Melbourne?

John Seed:
Yeah, that’s right, Tony. Nice to see you again. We’ve known each other for a lot of years now. Yes I’m coming down to Melbourne next weekend, and I’ve got a deep ecology workshop at the Moora Moora community near Hillsville the weekend after that. But in between, I’ve got six presentations about different aspects of deep ecology and they will all be hybrid. So there’ll be… the participants at the venue, but they’ll also be on Zoom. And so perhaps we can put a link in the show notes, so that your listeners can join in any of them.

The ones that I think will be of most interest to listeners interested in sustainability are… There’s one called ‘Climate change, despair and empowerment’, which is about how we can take the despair that all of us are feeling about what’s happening to our world, what’s happening to our climate and oceans and forests and all the rest, and turn that despair into empowerment. There’s one called ‘Radical Regeneration and Deep Ecology’, where I’ll be joined by others who have just returned from a conference called Radical Regeneration in South Africa, and we’ll be talking about how deep ecology speaks to that.

And finally, there’s one that’s called ‘The religion of economics’, which looks at the tremendous audacity with which economics, which I propose is the most pious religion that the world has ever known, has disguised itself as being a science. So I’ll be tearing into economics and advertising and associated phenomena.

Mik Aidt (33:34):
What’s the difference between ecology and deep ecology?

John Seed:
Well, deep ecology is a philosophy of nature. The term was coined by the late Arne Naess, who was the professor of philosophy from Oslo University. And according to Naess, underlying all of the symptoms of the environmental crisis is the illusion of separation, the illusion of separation between human beings and the rest of the natural world. And Naess claimed that this illusion of separation was the result of anthropocentrism or human centeredness, the idea that human beings are the center of everything. So he says that many ecologists, he would call it resource-based environmentalism, that we maintain the idea that the world is a resource, that human beings are here to consume the world.

But the problem is that we’re doing it in such an unintelligent way that we’re destroying the very world that we live in. And so resource-based environmentalists, he says, are trying to make incremental improvements and increase efficiencies in the way that we’re doing this. Whereas deep ecology suggests that we’re on the wrong boat, that the world isn’t best understood as a pyramid with human beings on the top, but rather that the world is a web and we humans are just one strand in that web, and by destroying the other strands we destroy ourselves.

Anthony Gleeson:
John, I understand one of the people that you’re going to be working with next week is Gilbert Rochecouste. How did that come about?

John Seed:
It’s a little bit lost in the mists of time, Tony, but I’ve known him for a long time. He’s been part of the DP College movement decades ago, and now he’s working in something called the Village Well in Melbourne and doing some amazing networking among people and groups that are working towards a sustainable future.

Anthony Gleeson:
Fortunately, there’s more and more of that happening as the situation becomes more and more dire for us. He’s very much a friend of the show. He’s been on a number of times and will no doubt be on again.

John Seed:
Well, there’s more and more, as you say, and it’s interesting for me because I’ve been doing the Deep Ecology workshops for more than 35 years now. And for the longest time, there was a tremendous popular enthusiasm, but it was mainly hippies, pagans and witches. And, you know, they’re my tribe, I’m really happy to see them and to be part of the empowerment of groups like that, but what I’ve noticed the last year or two is that it’s more like IT professionals and public servants. And then last month, an Australian senator was part of my Melbourne workshop. And now there’s a professor of environmental management from the University of New South Wales who’s co-facilitating with me. And I just feel like my work’s finally moving into the mainstream.

I think that’s because things have got so desperate that no one is able to hide behind the illusion that business as usual is even a possibility any longer.

Colin Mockett:
It’s been my experience that the drive towards clean energy and environmental policies is coming from youth, it’s coming from schools. The children these days are far more aware. Have you noticed this or is it just your hippies and witches that you’re dealing with?

John Seed:
No, there’s more and more young people coming to the workshops as well. And in particular, I was one of 109 arrested at the November kayak blockade in Newcastle, organised by Rising Tide. And I was so moved by this huge crowd of young people that were stepping forward that I found myself arrested for the first time in 25 years. And I’m offering free participation in the workshops to those activists.

And there’s another group of activists up on the North Coast of New South Wales called Save Wallum – protecting a beautiful, beautiful natural area in Brunswick Heads, and they’re mostly school kids and people in their teens and young twenties, and I’m just finding myself enormously uplifted and supported by… It’s like the cavalry coming over the hill.

[MUSIC]
Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison:
This is coal. Don’t be afraid.

Byron Fay, Climate 200:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QR7DIJDJTMc&ab_channel=Climate200

Hey Byron, Climate 200’s job is done right? You helped all those indies get elected and now Australia is a climate leader, yeah?

Hmm, not exactly. While good progress has been made, we’re not there yet. And if we’re not careful, all our good work could easily be undone. Let me explain. The fossil fuel industry’s grip on Australian politics is as tight as ever. In fact, they’re having a ball. Peter Dutton and the Liberal National Party coalition are determined to take the country backwards on climate action. And if we’re not careful, he could be the next Prime Minister. And the Labor Party, while on improvement, are no climate angels. The new government has expressed support for massive new fossil fuel projects and they’ve released 10 new sites for oil and gas exploration.

So here’s our plan to climate-proof our democracy. Every week we’re getting requests from communities who are inspired and ready to go. They’re seeing the impact of Community Independents in Parliament and want their own. They’re asking for help, for resources, for training, for small grants to help them kick-start their community campaigns. And with the right support, many of them can win.

We’ve identified at least a dozen that have the right fundamentals, including six that came close to winning at the last election. Kaz Heiss on the New South Wales North Coast came within two per cent, while Nicolette Boele on the North Shore of Sydney came within a few thousand votes of winning. But to succeed, these groups need to start now. They need time to do deep community engagement and mobilisation. Let’s not turn them away. Let’s not miss this opportunity to climate-proof our Parliament. Become a recurring donor to Climate 200 today and help us climate-proof the Parliament for good.

Anthony Gleeson (40:25):
Why after 25 years, no… 35 years ago, you were very active and very much arrested, if I remember correctly. Why the change? Why did you get involved so actively and risk arrest and actually were arrested?

John Seed:
Well, just because as I say, there’s young people rising tide. They’re a brilliant organisation and mostly young people. And they managed to bring 3,000 people to Newcastle for this event. It’s the biggest thing I’ve been part of for a long time. And I just got swept away by the general enthusiasm, I suppose. You know, like a bit unseemly for a fellow of my age, but there you go.

Celia Leverton:
I think you’re in good company, John.

Colin Mockett:
Well, look, you can’t leave it there though, John. You have to tell us. Were you fined or are you talking to us from jail?

John Seed:
Well, as a matter of fact, I wasn’t even fine. When I found out who my magistrate was, I received all of these texts of commiseration because this particular magistrate had been really harsh on everybody. But I gave this passionate statement about climate and she must have been moved because she found the charges were proved, but there was no conviction and no penalty, which means that I’m free to get arrested again this coming November when Rising Tide hopes to have 10,000 people in Newcastle on kayaks doing the blockade, and I’ll certainly be there. And because there were no bail conditions set, I’m free to get arrested once more.

Celia Leverton:
John, how does food production fit with deep ecology and vice versa?

John Seed:
Well, I’ve been a great fan of permaculture for a long, long time. And indeed, back in the 1980s, I had this exchange with a teacher of permaculture whose name slips my mind for the moment, but hopefully will come back to me, where she invited me to do a day of deep ecology as part of her PDC, Permaculture Design Certificate courses. And in exchange, she invited one or two of the volunteers from the Rainforest Information Centre, who were about to go overseas on rainforest conservation missions to attend the permaculture workshops for free because we understood by then that wherever rainforests were being destroyed, one of the engines of the destruction was unsustainable agriculture and that we included training in permaculture in Ecuador, in India, in other countries as part of the solutions that we were trying to offer.

So I feel like there’s a huge overlap. And just last year, I co-facilitated a workshop on the Sunshine Coast with Robin Clayfield, who’s one of the permaculture teachers who I admire the most.

Celia Leverton:
Do you see that the deep ecology work, being as equally as applicable in the brutal environments, the environments like the non-tropical, the non-subtropical, where we don’t have even distribution of rainfall and dew and humidity. The environment behaves very differently, doesn’t it, in those areas?

John Seed:
It sure does. What I found is the deep ecology seems to work best with people who have already got the right ideas. Like Arne Naess, who coined the term deep ecology said that ecological ideas won’t save us. What we need is ecological identity, ecological self. We need to experience ourselves as part of the planet rather than merely know this intellectually. And so that it’s people who have understood this intellectually are the only ones who bothered to show up at the workshops that anybody who still disagrees with this is never not going to find themselves at a deep ecology workshop. And so in a way, one might be accused of preaching to the converted. But what I’m delighted to notice is that the ranks of the converted are growing and growing and growing.

And my teacher Joanna Macy called her workshops ‘Despair and empowerment’. And so to be able to offer technology, techniques, for creating empowerment and for transmuting despair into empowerment among the converted, I just feel very privileged to be in a position to be able to offer this.

Celia Leverton:
So do your workshops go into the realm of how to do these things, how to integrate the deep ecology principles and into action? Is that the focus?

John Seed:
I think the focus is more just creating a change that many of us are stuck in a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness and what can one person do anyway, and it’s all too late, and so on. And so the experiences that we share at a deep ecology workshop, just sort of blow that away, and people just feel very uplifted and empowered. And then everyone comes up with their own solutions, depending upon their background and their economics and where they find themselves. It’s not like I know what somebody else ought to be doing. Everybody knows what they ought to be doing, but they just need to feel confident and empowered that they can then take the next step in their life.

You know, it’s not like I have any idea of what solutions are for other people. It’s hard enough to know for yourself.

Mik Aidt:
John, is that then separated from becoming a ‘political animal’ and actually engaging with what’s going on in our parliaments?

John Seed:
Not at all. No, it’s… when you asked that, I’m reminded of the workshop that I did in Canberra where one of the processes that we use is called the Council of All Beings, where each participant finds themselves an ally from the non-human world and speaks on behalf of that ally, so that each person just begins to explore what they might be talking about if they were a blade of grass or if they were the Milky Way galaxy or so on.

And it’s a very powerful… You don’t have to believe anything, but it’s just by the end of it, everybody is stunned because we’ve heard things that we’ve never heard before. Anyway, this one in Canberra, in the Council of All Beings, one of the conversations that developed was, ‘Hey, we’re Australians too, we koalas and goannas and gum trees and so on. How come nobody in that parliament speaks for us? We’re Australians.’

And so, anyway, the Council decided to meet the next day, Monday, outside parliament with some 44 gallon drums in their masks, beating on the drums as the politicians walked in, calling out, ‘Come on, who speaks for us in this building? Is it only the humans that get represented here?’ And so it was just a bit of street theater, but it grew out of the deep ecology.

Anthony Gleeson:
John, I’ve done a number of the… the Deep Ecology workshops and I can attest just how powerful they are. And the lessons, like it’s been some time, but those lessons stay.

John Seed:
Thank you, Anthony.

Anthony Gleeson:

They don’t go away and the connections as well are just as invaluable, the connections that are made at the workshops. So I highly recommend them.

Thank you so much, mate.

Colin Mockett:
Our First Nations people have a very good opportunity here of saying, well, look, we asked the same question. Why aren’t people listening to us? We would like a voice to parliament and the Australian people very much turn their backs on them. So they’re not interested in other humans. You can judge an area of just how interested they are in letting the non-human inhabitants of Australia in on their decision making.

John Seed:
Yeah, that’s right. But it’s interesting to watch how the support for the Yes Vote declined precipitously in the months leading up to the event. And I’ve been studying recently a nefarious group called the Atlas Foundation, who are made up of the oil companies, the Koch brothers, all of the scumbags from the fossil fuel mafia. And they fund the Atlas Foundation to the tune of $800 million dollars a year to set up these phony think tanks, what George Monbiot calls ‘junk tanks’, in order to pollute the information landscape and employing the same companies that kept tobacco going for 20 or 30 years in order to change public opinion about things like wind farms, but also about Indigenous resurgence.

And so, the same playbook was used to suppress Indigenous people in Canada as in Australia. You can see the same phrases on the public posts in social media and so on, where there was this just deliberate and concerted campaign to… you know, because the Yes vote was in the majority until a few months before the actual vote. And so I’ve just been starting to realise that we need to unmask these scumbags that are manipulating us and that are manipulating the truth. And it’s kind of one of the things that’s on my agenda in coming months.

Colin Mockett:
Yes. And it’s easy to draw the line and say that the fossil fuel industry is the tobacco industry of the 1970s. But the truth of the matter that you and I both know, John, is that the tobacco industry still exists today. It’s still hooking our children onto nicotine, only they’ve given it all kinds of new names. Started with e-cigarettes and now it’s vaping and it’s got all different flavors and stuff, but they’re still there. And I think that if anything, the fossil fuel industry is going to be even more tenacious than the tobacco industry.

Mik Aidt:
I think we’re paying a price, a high price, for this protection that we have of… ‘oh, freedom of speech is very important in society and our democracy’ and so on, which it is, it’s true. But how do we balance the right to free speech with the responsibility to prevent harm, which we’ve talked a lot about in the hour today? You know, the kind of lies that actually fuel the climate catastrophe are circulated freely everywhere under the name of free speech. Because no one of the big groups, even the lawyers, want to interfere here because, ‘Oh no, no, we can’t touch the free speech. They have to be allowed to say whatever they want.’ So they are allowed to spread lies that lead directly to harm to us and to life on planet Earth.

John Seed:
Indeed.

Anthony Gleeson:
I guess that’s one of our responsibilities, Mik, and other alternative media sectors shine lots and lots of extra lumens on the Atlas network. And there’s an academic from one of the universities in Sydney who has blown their cover very much over the last six, probably 12 months. And, yeah, I think more and more people are knowing about it and saying, ‘Well, okay, who are these people? And let’s look at… Do the maths around the damage they’re causing.’

Mik Aidt:
Can I repeat? $380 billion in losses last year.

Anthony Gleeson:
They’re committed to making that worse next year because that’s what business as usual is.

[MUSIC]
Scott Morrison, former Prime Minister:
This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.

Senator Whitehouse:
At the heart of this conflict is a battle between truth and science – and power and lies.

Mik Aidt (53:55):
That’s all we could fit in one Hour. Last quick comment from both of you, Celia first, then John.

Celia Leverton:
Well, I’m very excited about the future of agriculture and how we can produce food and fiber in a way that actually will rebuild, will regenerate our landscape function, you know, water infiltration, our nutrient cycling. It will feed the world and we can do it. It’s very hopeful and it’s sequestering a lot of carbon at the same time. So addressing that legacy load that’s already in the atmosphere, reducing fossil fuel use, reducing risk to farmers, whether that be climate, market price or weather risk or debt risk. So I see a very positive future, but there just needs to be a significant behavior change. And I think that’s where the attention needs to be put.

John Seed:
Beautifully said, Celia. So, I guess I’ll just round off by mentioning, which I haven’t mentioned, that I’m living now at the Nerara Eco-village near Gosford, north of Sydney, and that there’s 150 of us living here together in community, building a sustainable future here together. And I believe that community is the solution. That we’ve been torn away from each other to live in the suburbs where no one knows their neighbour and that this wave pushing people back towards each other, back towards community is an important part of the solution.

Anthony Gleeson:
And much more awareness of our similarities rather than focusing on our differences, and we all share the atmosphere, so that’s not a bad motivator to protect that together.

Mik Aidt:
Be regenerative and be community!

Celia Leverton:
And be kind. Be kind to the earth, be kind to each other, be kind to yourselves.

John Seed:
Be grateful for this beautiful world.

SONG (56:01)
Rita Sahatçiu Ora: ‘Grateful’

There were a lot of tears I had to cry through
A lot of battles left me battered and bruised
And I was shattered, had my heart ripped in two
I was broken, I was broken
There were a lot of times I stumbled and crashed
When I was on the edge, down to my last chance
So many times when I was so convinced that
I was over, I was over
But I had to fall, yeah
To rise above it all

[Chorus]
I’m grateful for the storm
Made me appreciate the sun
I’m grateful for the wrong ones
Made me appreciate the right ones
I’m grateful for the pain
For everything that made me break
I’m thankful for all my scars
‘Cause they only made my heart
Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful
Grateful

[Verse 2]
I was sinking, I was drowning in doubt
The weight of all the pain was weighing me down
Pulled it together and I pulled myself out
Learned a lesson, learned a lesson
That there’s a lot you gotta go through, hell yes
But that’s what got me strong, I got no regrets
And I’ve got only love, got no bitterness
Count my blessings, count my blessings, yeah
I’m proud of every tear, yeah
‘Cause they got me here

[Chorus]
I’m grateful for the storm
Made me appreciate the sun
I’m grateful for the wrong ones
Made me appreciate the right ones
I’m grateful for the pain
For everything that made me break
I’m thankful for all my scars
‘Cause they only made my heart
Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful
Grateful

[Bridge]
There is nothing I would change
Not even one mistake I made
I got lost, found myself, found my way

[Chorus]
I’m grateful for the storm
Made me appreciate the sun
I’m grateful for the wrong ones
Made me appreciate the right ones
I’m grateful for the pain
For everything that made me break (Oh, oh-oh, oh)
I’m thankful for all my scars
‘Cause they only made my heart
Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful
Grateful

[Outro]
You know that I’m grateful (Grateful)
You know that I care (Grateful)
No, time for the wrong ones (Grateful)
I’ll always be there (Grateful)
Grateful
Grateful (Oh, oh-oh, oh), grateful, grateful
I’m grateful
Grateful, grateful (Oh, yeah)
Oh-I, I-I, I’m
Grateful, yeah



. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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.

Petitions

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

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Live-streaming on Wednesdays

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The Sustainable Hour is streamed live on the Internet and broadcasted on FM airwaves in the Geelong region every Wednesday from 11am to 12pm (Melbourne time).

» 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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