Why the Amazon fires strike dread in our hearts.

Bruce Duncan

The extraordinary fires in the Amazon in August 2019 struck dread into the hearts of climate specialists and observers worldwide, since the Amazon forests remain one of the great bulwarks against global warming. They cool Latin America, and generate 20% of the world’s oxygen. Smoke from the fires darkened the sky over Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, almost 2000 miles away.

Speaking from the G7 Summit in Biarritz France, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on 25 August that the ‘dramatic climate emergency’ came as the World Meteorological Organization reported that years 2015 to 2019 were on track as the five hottest years on record.

Guterres warned that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made clear that ‘we absolutely need to keep the rise of temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius to the end of the century, and to be carbon neutral in 2050’, plus reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. The commitments of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference were not enough to do this, and countries will have to reduce their carbon emissions substantially to become carbon neutral. Guterres said taxes had to be shifted from people to carbon, subsidies for fossil fuels ended, and no further coal plants could be built after 2020.

Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Combined Cycle Thermo-Solar Power Plant

Australia can be powered 100% by renewables by early 2030s, says Garnaut

Giles Parkinson

Leading economist and climate change policy expert, Professor Ross Garnaut, says that Australia could be powered 100 percent by ‘intermittent’ renewables by the early 2030s, and have a grid that is more reliable, secure, and cost-effective than it is now.

‘I now have no doubt that intermittent renewables could meet 100 percent of Australia’s electricity requirements by the 2030s, with high degrees of security and reliability, and at wholesale prices much lower than any experienced in Australia over the past decade’, Garnaut says in his talk in April 2019 at the University of Melbourne. ‘More importantly than this, I now have no doubt that, with well-designed policy support, firm power in globally transformative quantities could be supplied to industrial locations in each State at globally competitive prices.’

Is Pine Gap for arms control, or the US fighting machine?

Brian Toohey

Faced with the evidence that Pine Gap had become fully integrated with the US military’s kill chain, [Desmond] Ball told the ABC 7.30 program on 13 August 2014, ‘I’ve reached the point now where I can no longer stand up and provide the verbal, conceptual justification for the facility… We’re now linked in to this global network where intelligence and operations have become essentially fused, and Pine Gap is a key node in that whole network, that war machine…’

He was even blunter than this in an interview with journalist friend Hamish McDonald in the Saturday Paper on 1 October 2016, just before his death. He said, ‘The base now has nothing much to do with our requirements… it’s about finding individuals, and targeting them for killing by drone and air strikes… in places that are not designated war zones’. In his subsequent obituary in Fairfax Media on 19 October 2016, McDonald said that, in his last email to him, Ball had said, ‘It’s not my PG [Pine Gap] any more. That means that if it is the strategic essence of the alliance, I now have to question my overall support for that, too!’ It was never Ball’s Pine Gap. It always belonged to those who controlled the US military/ industrial/intelligence complex to do with as they wished.

‘Mungo Man found him!’ Dr Jim Bowler & his astonishing discovery

Helen Praetz Daffey

Dr Jim Bowler is well known as the scientist who discovered Mungo Lady and Mungo Man, ancient remains buried on the dried-up shores of Lake Mungo in outback New South Wales, subsequently dated at 42,000 years old. Their discovery changed our understanding of how and when Australia was occupied. It also profoundly changed the course of Jim Bowler’s life.

Early estimates suggested Aboriginal people occupied Australia around 20,000 years ago, a fiction exposed by the discoveries at Lake Mungo. However, in new research published this year after a decade-long investigation at Point Ritchie near Warrnambool, Jim Bowler and colleagues found evidence of human activity dating back 120,000 years. These people were possibly the first humans to walk on this pristine land.

Want to beat climate change? Protect our natural forests

Kate Dooley & Brendan Mackey

Land degradation, deforestation, and the expansion of our deserts, along with agriculture and the other ways people shape land, are all major contributors to global climate change.

Conversely, trees remove carbon dioxide and store it safely in their trunks, roots, and branches. Research published in July estimated that planting a trillion trees could be a powerful tool against climate change. However, planting new trees as a climate action pales in comparison to protecting existing forests. Restoring degraded forests and expanding them by 350 million hectares will store an amount of carbon comparable to 900 million hectares of new trees.

It’ll be hard, but we can feed the world with plant protein

Richard Trethowen

A UN report in August found a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions come from the food chain, particularly meat farming. This has prompted calls to reduce emissions from agriculture sharply, and to feed the world on plant protein.

Can we feed a growing global population without increasing the amount of farmland? It’s tough, but certainly possible. There might still be a place for meat animals in the many parts of the world unsuitable for growing crops. But governments around the world must turn away from heavily subsidised but protein-poor cereals, and pursue legume production aggressively.

SPC Forum

Dr John D’Arcy May
World religions: a force for war or global peace?

Tuesday 17 September 7:30-9pm
Yarra Theological Union Study Centre 34 Bedford Street Box Hill

Entry free. Donations welcome. Refreshments afterwards. Download the flyer.

In collaboration with the University of Divinity and the Centre for Religion & Social Policy RASP.

Religiously fuelled violence is afflicting many countries, just as important democracies are threatened by rising nationalist movements and populism. How can world religions work together to oppose the misuse of religion to justify violence?

John D’Arcy May has drawn on half a century of debate and dialogue about the ways in which world religions can help maintain human rights, overcome economic inequality, and prevent ecological destruction. In his new book, Pluralism & Peace: The Religions in Global Civil Society, May explores how the great traditions of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, along with the various religious traditions in the Pacific Islands, can forge societies of mutual respect and tolerance to advance the wellbeing of everyone.

Born in Melbourne, Dr John D’Arcy May has a distinguished academic career, which includes teaching at the Catholic Ecumenical Institute at the University of Münster, and undertaking the role of Ecumenical Research Officer with the Melanesian Council of Churches in PNG. He became Director of the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin, later becoming Associate Professor of Interfaith Dialogue.

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